Thursday, November 20, 2014

Society has run amok with violence

United States flag with peace sign canton
United States flag with peace sign canton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It seems that every day, headlines across the country scream about violence erupting in some small town, village, or hamlet. Without even mentioning the violence in major cities, or on foreign shores, our society must do something about the increasing abundance of violence that threatens to turn a peaceful life into chaos with ramifications beyond imagination. 

I've long been concerned about increasing violence throughout our society. It fills our televisions, movies, news, and satire. Graphic images, perfected through technology, make me cringe. I am increasingly concerned over what all this is doing to us, in the recesses of our brains. 

While I don't have any scientific evidence to back up theories about violence, it just seems logical that pounding gut-wrenching pictures and ideas into our brains will have some kind of effect, if not now, at some point in the future. 

As a more than middle-aged woman, I have seen the escalation of violent tendencies overall, complicated by a sense of immunity to it by young people. They not only accept violence, but they value it in their entertainment. 

The statistics about violence, are to me, staggering.

"The 20th century was one of the most violent periods in human history. An estimated 191 million people lost their lives directly or indirectly as a result of conflict, and well over half of them were civilians," according to the Peace Alliance, a non-profit that promotes peace. Some of the other statistics the group cites are as follows:
  •   In 2001, almost 21,000 homicides and 31,000 suicides occurred; and almost 1.8 million people were assaulted, while about 323,000 harmed themselves and were treated in hospital emergency departments. (Surveillance for Fatal and Nonfatal Injuries – 2001, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Vital Statistics System)
  •   Worldwide, an estimated 1.6 million people lost their lives to violence in 2000. About half were suicides, one-third were homicides, and one-fifth were casualties of armed conflict. [World Report on Violence and Health, World Health Organization, 2002]
  •   Homicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24 in 2001. Suicide was the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24 in 2002. [Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System – 2002, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]
  •   The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide committed by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year. Of that amount, nearly $4.1 billion are for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, April 2003.)
  •   A 1992 study in the United States put the annual cost of treating gunshot wounds at $126 billion. Cutting and stab wounds cost an additional $51 billion. (Miller TR, Cohen MA.,. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 1997, 29:329–341.)
I believe that as we age, we are an accumulation of all that has occurred in our lifetimes. We are like a computer whose hard drive runs continuously soaking up bytes of information to be stored for later use. The bytes consist of all that we have experienced in our lives. The longer we live, the more we store. Every image, thought, or memory remains filed away. It isn't always easy to retrieve. I believe our dreams are like defragmenting that hard drive. Haven't we all had violent dreams often times based on something we've seen or heard?

Recently, I experienced a picture on Facebook where Hannibal Lechter was digging a spoon into somebody's brain. I do not want to see such an image. I'm appalled by it because cannibalizing people is real and horrible. A picture like that doesn't belong among pictures of cute cats and babies.

Another one that got to me was a promotion for the television show, "The Walking Dead." A supposed human corpse, complete with hanging skin, bloody scalp, and tattered clothing advertised the series. Will we start seeing a rash of grave robberies now as people try to find a zombie they can call their own? Why does anyone watch this stuff?

A rest in peace sign.
A rest in peace sign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Murder is the #1 attraction at the box office and in television shows and video games. How many different ways can a person be snuffed out? And how often are these dramas played out in real life? Which came first, the attempt at a perfect murder or the TV show that portrayed it? 

Violence seems to be a never ending cycle. Where is the value of human life? I used to think it was obsessive to try to ban violent video games, and I still believe more strongly in the first amendment than any form of censorship, but where is the hue and cry that says enough is enough. Can't we see that we are harming human beings, especially our youth? Doesn't all this exposure to violence simply guarantee a screwed up, Xanax-riddled society? 

Then there is the gun issue
There seems to be a real romanticism about guns. We all want to be John Wayne or Marshall Dillon or the Rifleman, where justice was settled quickly and easily. That isn't the world in which we live today. It wasn't even the world of yesterday. It was all fiction. The whole ugly story of the violence that occurred when the west was settled wasn't shown on weekly TV shows. 

We are all capable of violence. Our hair-trigger emotions in today's overly-complicated society where induced anger is so often the result, do we really want to make it easier to kill people? An increasing number of people experience mental health issues. Their emotions are less stable, so it follows that they would be more likely to act upon their anger. Yet, our societal laws equally encourage them too, to own firearms. We have seen the hideous results. There can be no greater horror than sending your child to school one day only to learn they have been gunned down by a disturbed young man turned depraved killer. The horror of Sandy Hook Elementary has changed so many people, yet not enough apparently. How many more tragic events in the workplace, on college campuses, in public restaurants, or in a private residence are we going to allow before we decide to do something? Politically, we don't even talk about it. That's inexcusable! Must the violence reach inside our own individual homes and families before we wake up and realize the gravity of this situation? 

I don't have answers. No one person does, but it seems to me we need to start to change our thinking. Instead of the bottom line being about dollars and sense, perhaps the bottom line ought to be about common sense.