A shooting like that in Newtown shakes us to the core – all the more when it comes after a spate of recent shootings this past year. Here in Colorado, we’ve experienced the horror of Aurora; just a few short weeks later came the Wisconsin shooting at a Sikh temple. Now Newtown, which left 26 people – among them 20 children – dead.
Like so many others in America and indeed across the world, we are soul-searching: Why does this keep happening? There is no doubt that we are experiencing a growing culture of violence, which is tragically finding its outlet in these horrible shootings. But why? Is it, as many argue, access to weapons that have, with the technological advances over time, become more powerful – and more deadly? Many argue that America’s staunch adherence to the Second Amendment with its right to bear arms is backwards and no longer consistent with our society.
The explanations don’t stop there. Some cite mental illness or deteriorating educational standards. Others talk about how modern Americans lack a sense of responsibility or duty toward country resulting in a lackadaisical population. Still others rant against the plethora of violent video games that children are exposed to, and that have all too often replaced active parenting.
It’s likely a combination of all those factors.
But one in particular that stands out for us is a growing insensitivity toward violence, which we believe stems in part – ironically – from living in a fairly peaceful time, but combined with advances in modern technology and communications.
Take the World War II generation for example. These people knew what conflict looked like. Their fathers may have fought in the first world war, and they themselves – or friends, brothers, colleagues – fought in Europe and/or the Pacific. The images of death they saw at night were not from films or games, but from their own traumatic experiences.
Luckily most of us live in peaceful surroundings, where the violence we’re exposed to is broadcast on television or through video games. We’re removed. And being removed makes the violence we see less real – even when we’re watching live footage.
Any of you who play video games know that the current technology creates an environment that is unbelievably realistic, so gamers are made to feel like they are in the moment, shooting that RPG, assault rifle, missile etc. But unlike in real life, gamers never feel the consequences.
And that’s just the games. Think about all the videos available today of real murders, shootings and assassinations. We recently blogged about the IDF’s targeted shooting of Hamas military leader Al-Jabari. The video of the assassination is on YouTube for all to see. Same with the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Last week Ha’aretz ran an article with a video of an IDF shooting in Hebron.
Do we fully comprehend that when we watch these videos we’re watching someone’s life being extinguished, regardless of whether it’s a “good guy” or “bad guy”? Or is it simply another form of entertainment?
We haven’t undertaken any scientific research on the matter, but our gut is telling us that this insensitivity to violent imagery is morphing, for some people, into an insensitivity to violence itself. What do you think are the overriding factors contributing to this troubling trend?