An Antidote to Violence
One thing that has increasingly contributed to my depression over the past few years is my fear that the world population is becoming addicted to violence. Movies, TV and video games become more and more barbaric in their depiction of cruelty. It is as though mere shootings and stabbings are no longer enough. Writers think up unspeakable types of torture and infuse our favorite movies and TV shows with them. I don’t dare describe the cruelties, the memories of which literally keep me up at night. I can mention some of the shows, though, and if you’ve seen them, you will know the scenes of which I speak.
Homeland, The Bridge, Scandal, Revenge, The Blacklist–all of these are programs that, as excellent as they are, I had to stop watching. The horrors just escalated and escalated to a point where it was torture even hearing the sound effects. (I have always had to close my eyes during scenes of violence. Now I have to plug my ears and hum as well.) Yet there must be many who watch, eyes wide, and wait to see how much more horrible the next torture will be. If this were not true, they wouldn’t be some of the most popular shows on television. And, like their parents, our children have become voyeurs of violence. No wonder they bully and bring guns to school to mow down their own friends.
Recently I saw a training film shown to military personnel who were sent to Japan following WWII. Written by the man whose real name you would not recognize but whom everyone knows as Dr. Seuss (yes, that Dr. Seuss) it showed how the Japanese were schooled and brainwashed in the years leading up to the war to train them to accept violence as a patriotic (and religious) duty. How often has religion been used in this way? The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem (and many other) witch trials and now ISIS are examples that trip easily from my memory, but I’m sure each person reading this could provide more examples.
If hate can be taught, why can we not devise an antidote to it? Art, writing, dance, volunteer activities, choir, music and some sports are all activities that fill minds and hopefully push out the fascination with (and time for) violence. (Unfortunately, wildly popular sports such as football and boxing contribute to the world’s obsession with violence.)
Kids need to be afforded a substitute for what now fills their minds. Is this being furnished? Is anyone creating non-violent video games that can engage young minds as completely as the violent ones do? Are books being written that are as alluring as series of books about werewolves and vampires and zombies where love and sex and romance are bonded to death and violence?
And kids are not the only ones. The 50 Shades of Gray series? What was it about those books (Oh my!) that appealed so universally that they outsold every other book in the history of the written language in Great Britain and are second only to a Harry Potter book world-wide? Is violence so much a part of every one of us that we cannot help but devour these books? What element of them other than the sadism and masochism created the draw?
Jung acquainted us with the different archetypes within us all and world-class villains such as Hitler, General Tojo, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot certainly brought out the dark sides of their legions of followers, but after all of these horrific periods of history, balance was restored. Whether this will be possible now that the weapons have become more cataclysmic in scope, it remains to be seen.
A few years ago, I was astonished to see one of the questions used to measure and define the personalities of members of the social introduction site OkCupid was, “In one respect, wouldn’t a nuclear war be kind of exciting?”. I don’t know the numbers of answerers who answered anything other than “No,” but I guess the very fact that the question was accepted (members were allowed and encouraged to submit their own questions) indicates that there are people in the world who would answer “Yes,” and brings up a further possibility that makes me shudder—that there is a possibility that such a person might someday (if not already) be in possession of the means by which to start such a war.
Impossible? How possible was it that a good portion of a nation would follow Hitler or Pol Pot or General Tojo? Idi Amin? Saddam Hussein? The fact is that fear drives us to do much that might be against our natural instincts—or at least the natural instincts we choose to follow.
The fact is that we are human, and as humans we do have a complicated goulash of emotions, needs, impulses, compulsions, fears, dreads and instincts. Events and necessity trigger these contrasting sides of us and one very strong instinct in the masses is mob mentality. It may be hard for most who have read this far in this post to believe that they would ever be so led, and it may be true that they would not; but history shows that time and time again, it has happened. The acts of a charismatic leader, supported by henchmen in sufficient numbers, backed up by fear, fueled by prejudices efficiently stirred up, have stained most societies on earth at some time or other.
All of the villains I have named share many common traits, including one you might have noticed. None of them are American! If someone from another country (or a Native American) were to make up a similar list, who from America might be included? Would it be Joseph McCarthy? J. Edgar Hoover? Charles Manson? Custer? Some high mucky muck of the K.K.K? It is harder to see one’s own mob instinct and in the U.S., the examples might be more limited in numbers or occult in practice, but it may be that in our blood lust for vampires, zombies, werewolves and violent computer games–added to our insistence that the right to own any kind of gun from a purse pistol to an assault rifle is a patriotic right if not an obligation—are all components of our own mob instinct.
How is it that ISIS can reach out and recruit followers from our midst? Could it possibly be because we have prepared a path for them? Schooled our young people so thoroughly in the appeal and glamour and blood lust of violence that we have made them easy targets for those who might appeal to such stirred-up instincts?
It is easy to blame every other country in the world for harboring violence, but when will we start to take responsibility for our own? How many countries are viewing the movies and TV shows we produce that spew out violence? How many buy our computer games and books and comic books that all send the same message? Have we, perhaps not knowingly and with no clear-cut agenda, somehow become the world’s instructors in war games and violence? And even if we have the niggling sense that this could perhaps have some gram of truth in it, would we have the bravery to admit it, let alone the intelligence to somehow stem the tide?
In the past few weeks, I have felt such a huge change in mood. I feel energized, excited about planned activities and more rounded out. It think it came about in a larger part from working with kids and young adults in Camp Estrella. That excitement in seeing their enthusiasm and growth has not waned. I am enthusiastic about ongoing and upcoming plans–the dance classes and sugar skull decorating coming up–but I think, also, that people I’ve met in the blogging world have given me such reassurance that there are good people everywhere who want to do right and want positive things for everyone–not just those of their own country or race or religion or sex. The hope for the world lies within people such as you who take the responsibility to foster in your own children and the children of others interests that will lead them away from the violence that is coming at them from so many directions.