Sunday, December 23, 2012

Culture of Violence or Culture Sensing the Inevitable?


 Many people, pundits and politicians have blamed recent violent tragedies on the "culture of violence" in our country; movies, games, TV shows that glorify death, destruction and killing. But is it really about violence for violence's sake, or is their something deeper behind it?

Consider some of the biggest block buster movies, year after year. Although Hollywood is generally on the side of the touchy, feely, left, they continue to crank out shoot 'em ups and explosion ridden films. They have to because they produce the money that keeps them in the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. Why do these movies do so well, even when the directing and acting is often sub-par, to put it nicely?

There is a common theme among these movies, when you look past the gratuitous violence. It's almost always an individual or small group of individuals against an all powerful, authoritarian government or global organization. It's essentially the same in the video game world. The individual is put in a situation where they must overcome a seemingly invincible force. On the conscious level, maybe people think they just get a kick out of the virtual violence and the adrenaline rush. On the subconscious level, maybe they recognize that inevitably, there will be a showdown between the individual and the collective.

It is the nature of human beings to be individuals first, connecting with various collectives when and if it suits them. We oscillate between the role of individual and member of our collectives (family, work, church, town, state, country) on a moment by moment basis. The key is that the default setting is individual and the individual controls the switch. The State, on the other hand, would like to make the default setting be member of the collective. They would like to see a world where one's interests as an individual are irrelevant; where all anyone thinks about is what they can do for society, the state, the collective; like ants or bees.

But we are not ants or bees. As we watch government grow ever larger in size and scope, we must see a day coming when our very individuality will be challenged and perhaps crushed. Maybe this generation, maybe generations from now, but it seems inevitable, as the State's appetite for more power and more resources shows no sign of being satisfied. At some point, our base instincts as human beings to protect ourselves will kick in. We'll pick an issue, like taxes on tea or something, to rally around and the push/pull cycle between collective and individual will have come full circle. Neither side is going to back down lightly, which is why, throughout history, periods of ever expanding government have always ended in violent conflict. Maybe that's why people are drawn to films and games with these underlying themes. It rings true.

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