Showing posts with label peace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peace. Show all posts

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. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Peace must be built on truth nurtured by reality

Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial
Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial (Photo credit: AnubisAbyss)
Once again, life in our seemingly peaceful nation has been shattered. This has to stop. Perhaps it would if we could just start being honest with ourselves. Perhaps we aren't living in a peaceful nation after all. Perhaps life in 2013 America simply isn't what we perceive it to be. Just like the alcoholic, we must first recognize that we have a problem before we can ever begin to solve it.

One thing is for sure--our problems will not be solved by censorship--not by the media and certainly not by our elected officials. The notion that a few have the authority to 'protect' the rest of us is just, plain wrong. We are all in this together. Give us the information and we will make our own sense of things. 

People should have choices. If some want to live in a bubble where life is beautiful all the time, so be it. They have that option to simply turn off their television sets, not read newspapers, and not contribute anything to the life we all share on this planet. Personally, I think that is irresponsible, but that's just me.

It has been nearly two full weeks since the Boston Marathon bombing and I am still trying to sort out how I feel about it. I know I want my psyche to forget the images I've seen. I don't want to revisit them  uninvited in my sleep or during quiet moments. I don't want to close my eyes and see a person grimacing in pain, dazed by the horror of seeing his own legs ripped apart from a bomb blast. I don't want to see a bloody sidewalk where lives were lost on what began as a pleasant spring day. I don't want to witness the face of an attractive young man only to learn that his is the face of a terrorist bent on killing innocent people. I don't want to hear the deafening explosion that changed lives forever or the cries of the wounded. I don't want to hear the hail of gunfire on a suburban street in a seemingly civilized country. But that was the reality of April 15, 2013 in Boston. 

What I want is for these kinds of things to never happen again; I want no one to ever have to suffer. Reality has been much too ugly of late, but it doesn't have to stay that way if we all work together to change it.

As much as I deplore the raw scenes I hate seeing, I know they were necessary to convey the story--a story that must be told. If we are ever going to change today's reality, we have to be inspired to change. There is no denying that we were inspired to catch and punish the perpetrators. Like darkness brings light; our pain must bring about our peace. 

News isn't always pretty, but it is reflective of life, which isn't always pretty either. So just what kind of responsibility does the news media have to present information to the public? That question has been made much more difficult with the advent of cell phone cameras and social media where everyone thinks they are a journalist. The phenomenon has even been given a name--citizen journalism. I'm here to tell you that everybody isn't a journalist. Everybody isn't a photographer. Most of the people driven to play Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are more akin to the National Inquirer than the New York Times. Don't quit your day job folks--even good journalists are out of work these days.

How to handle graphic images are just one more topic for the staff in newsrooms across the media spectrum. Their decisions are compounded by knowing the images will be caught on somebody's cell phone and posted on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. Raw footage is hard to compete with, so some professionals don't bother trying. 

Some get around it by completely doctoring images to make them appear less violent. Isn't that dishonest? In my view, that is a cowardly and untrustworthy manipulation. It shows a complete lack responsibility and shows no respect for its audience.   

Other more professional journalists might consider cropping such images, artfully, while not taking away from the story that needs to be told. I believe that is honest. Even knowing that images are available, if I ran a newsroom, I would never try to compete with on-the-scene photographs. If professional journalism is ever going to stand above the online picture-takers, there is going to have to be an adherence to trust, accuracy, and all the other tenets of journalism that have earned credibility. 

I think we need to have it both ways. I believe the truth can be conveyed without quite so much shock value, yet this incident took place in full view of thousands of people who were horrified by them. Telling a news story is to convey that horror to viewers and readers. Often times the words can be just as telling as the pictures, as was evident during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012 when 20 first graders and six adults who worked at the school were assassinated by a crazed gunman. Pictures of the tiny bodies were not seen, but the horror was just as palpable. 

For me, the bottom line is that news must never be censored, even if photographs depicting the reality of a scene are considered offensive by some. 

The same is true for suggestive images or specific words. Network television is the worst. I am here to tell you there is no need to protect us from the things that we see and hear everyday. 

One thing that comes to my mind about censorship and the lengths the media will go, is the time delay on live television ever since Janet Jackson's 'wardrobe malfunction' during the half-time show at the Super Bowl a few years ago. The network went half crazy because Janet Jackson's boob was seen on television. Everybody has boobs. We've all seen them. What is the big deal? 

Then there are those seven dirty words http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbZhpf3sQxQ the late, great George Carlin talked about. Have you heard what kids say on the playground lately? We now use the term 'f-bomb.' Oh please, can we grow up now? 

I'm not sure just what it says about a society that will accept seeing a man's extremities blown to bits, but Janet Jackson's boob better not be out there for public consumption. Except that it is! Just google it. We cannot say 'fuck' on television, but we can sing it in songs? 

Our society needs to grow up. If we cannot solve these little things, how are we supposed to be able to keep ourselves safe from people who want to do us harm? 

I think our first task is to recognize there is indeed a problem. Before we start worrying about other people, we need to look to ourselves. The very least we can do is attempt to be honest with ourselves. And by all means, let's keep it real.
Enhanced by Zemanta