Gunned Down

August 15, 2012


We live in a culture of violence. And then we are surprised when events like those in the movie theater in Colorado erupt onto the TV screen.

That the events in Colorado are a tragedy is beyond contention. Dozens of innocent people hurt and killed in a one-man rampage that didn’t happen for any reason. Now we’re all getting ready for the great debate about guns all over again. How many times does something like this have to happen before we wake up and do something about it?

Well, of course, the trouble is, what do you do about this? We could ban all handguns, rifles and shotguns, or we could close all the movie theaters, or we could prohibit all PG-13 movies. Would any of these make any real, substantive contribution toward curing whatever it was that made this awful thing happen? Some of these are debatable, others are just plain ridiculous, but they’re all blatant attempts to treat the symptoms, not the causes of this rampage.

A few months ago, I got a call at work asking me if I wanted to go to a movie. What movie, I asked. The Avengers, was the reply. Cool, thought I, Mrs Peel and Steed on the big screen.

OK, I know I am old. I am well and truly out of touch with popular culture. If truth be told, I never really had much of a desire to be on top of pop culture, not even when I was a teenager. But I saw the film and it was an enjoyable, humorous, flick. It probably had about the same amount of actual quality content as any 1960’s Avengers TV program, but it sure had a bucket load more action. By “action” we mean violence. And it was very well done violence (I loved the Hulk character).

The world is a violent place. We’re still at war in Afghanistan. Our surrogate troops (mercenaries and other special ops types) fight on in Iraq. We provide tactical and logistical support to dozens of other minor conflicts all over the globe. These are not usually wars of principle, wars of liberation, or political agendas. These are typically wars of command and control - commanding and controlling access to wealth, or potential wealth. These are conflicts over stuff. Stuff has gotten to be a lot more important than people in the modern world.

Violence has ceased to be a sin and has become a tactic, a pragmatic tool in the arsenal of the good and the bad. We lionize those who use violence for good, defined as such by ourselves, and we lambast those who use it for bad, but what is good violence exactly?

So many of our young people are being trained by the armed forces. The armed forces are by their very nature a culture of violence. With so many of our young people trained to be a part of that culture, it is not surprising that we have a violent society and that violence is on the rise. We eat, sleep and breathe violence. If you were to show any of a number of current violent films to an audience of 50 years ago, they would be profoundly shaken and many of them would be physically ill. Ben Hur was considered to be an extremely violent movie when it was new, as was Shane. Today we find them fairly tame compared to the current offerings from Hollywood. We are desensitized to this level of mayhem and we think we just shrug it off, but perhaps we do not.

Violence enters into the mind, heart and very soul of a person. It becomes a part of the person and when they are in situations that mimic those in our imaginary worlds, they act out what they have been accustomed to feel is appropriate.

So, once again, I am bracing myself for a long and earnest mainstream media gabfest about guns and gun control, where all the tired old arguments will get dragged out again. We will have panel after panel flailing these arguments about and in the end very little will change because when you spend all of your time pointing your finger at the symptom of the problem, instead of the problem itself, or, better yet, the actual causes of the problem, you get solutions that are irrelevant to the problem and solve nothing. As long as we believe that the answer to violence, is more violence, more violence is what we will continue to get.

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