Thursday, 11 September 2014

Watching people die.

So there's this footage of the Russian Civil War after 1917 that demonstrates an example of the Bolshevik's ruthless reactions and these two guys' heads are just blown off on camera and you see them die. Oh and if you look it up there's this photo of two black men hanging in the wind at a lynch mob whilst the white people cheer for the death of these men. They're both kind of gross, I guess, but it was a long time ago and I need to look at it for my history GCSE. Also did you know that in the video game Grand Theft Auto 5 you can just beat up a prostitute to death if you don't feel like paying her. How HILARIOUS is that?

It's not hilarious. It's not hilarious at all. Nor is it 'kind of gross' to watch or see real men die in front of your eyes. But teachers at school will show you this without warning you. It's historical evidence therefore no one thinks about how inappropriate it is to use and reuse a visual medium of a civilian's violent death to the point where it begins to mean nothing. It is simply a source of information. The person dying in the image or video does not even become a martyr of any movement or revolution, they are simply a bit of information. People die every day, history is just a huge collection of stories from the dead, but you wouldn't watch a youtube video of your great grandpa being blown up on No Man's Land in WW1 to understand how he died, would you?

However, that prostitute in Grand Theft Auto 5 is just a fictional character made up of code. It's not even real, you never actually violently murder someone. You just initiate it within the game and watch it happen. It probably entertains you.

We have started to completely desensitise ourselves to these extreme images of brutality. They mean nothing to us now, not even a twinge of empathy can be felt for those who have died in an often undignified manner. It is just an image, just a video and just a game. But I don't need to see a beheading to know how it happens. In any reasonable situation I would not be entertained by an act of ferocity.

Fundamentally I find it disrespectful. It is disrespectful for a class of bored, young people to look at an image of totally unjustifiable murder and barely feel angry that it happened. The lack of emphasis on the reality of these images is the result of thousands of films and games like Grand Theft Auto 5 that make us feel indifferent to genuine violence and death. There is no benefit of being desensitised to violence. You gain nothing but a deficiency of human empathy. And whilst it is statistically very unlikely for young boys to be inspired to gun everyone down one day, or to justify violence towards women, the normalisation of severe and immoderate violence is essentially quite terrifying. It does mean that lines between the unacceptable and the 'ordinary' will blur and people's judgement will change.

Violence unfortunately occurs with or without watching films or playing video games with abusive themes, but at what point does it really become unfitting to regard it from the safety of our own homes for our own voyeuristic enjoyment?