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Shell-Shocked By Society: What Have We Become?
The first, and only time, that I watched Jerry Springer, I was treated to a woman confronting her adulterous husband. There was profanity, there were chairs thrown, and eventually there were security guards subduing the woman before she could commit any serious physical damage.
The audience loved it! The cheering from the studio must have lasted a solid five minutes. I remember thinking that what I had just witnessed must have been what the Roman crowds were like when the Christians were fed to the lions.
It was demoralizing….disheartening….embarrassing….and an interesting look into the collective psyche of my countrymen.
I am told that the show I watched was not an aberration, that it was a wildly popular show, and that many clones of the show have appeared over the years, and they, too, were wildly popular.
Am I the only one bothered by that?
A writer friend of mine, MelChi, recently mentioned something that she had seen on Facebook. Someone had posted a picture of a baby seal being clubbed. There was no caption to the picture, and truly, no caption was needed. Mel was outraged because she could not understand what the point of it all was. Why would someone just randomly post a horrific picture that depicts cruelty at its worst?
Her example is not an isolated one. As a member of Facebook, I see quite a few shocking pictures that seem to be posted with no other purpose than to shock viewers. Sometimes the picture is accompanied by some smart-ass comment that is supposed to be humorous. Any compassionate and humane person would have to ask what is the point of it all?
I do not own a television, but when I did several years ago I tuned in once to a reality tv show. Now mind you, calling this show “reality” is a bit of a stretch, since it resembles no reality I have ever lived. Anyway, in this show, several people lived together in the same house. Cameras followed them around, and there were the inevitable personality clashes, and name-calling, and chairs thrown, and quite a bit of mayhem. I am told that the show was quite popular, and of course, that bothered me.
Since that show appeared there have been a great many others on tv, and they all seem to be popular, and oftentimes their popularity is directly related to the amount of angst that is demonstrated by the participants.
Evidently, judging by the popularity of those shows, I AM the only one bothered by that as well.
IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY
I remember all too well a video I saw on YouTube recently. Someone had filmed a disturbance in one of the major cities in the United States. Three men were beating up another man, and it was captured on camera. This video lasted several minutes, and the beating was quite graphic and horrifying, but what I remember the most….what disturbed me the most…was the crowd of people standing nearby cheering on the men who were beating this defenseless victim. They were cheering a beating!
An isolated incident you say? Perhaps you had the opportunity to watch the videos of people looting homes and businesses after Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast last month. Perhaps you saw videos of looters ravaging New Orleans after Katrina had rendered that city helpless. I saw people hooting and hollering in joy as windows were smashed and goods taken from storefronts.
So I need to ask this: when did misery become a source of entertainment in this country?
THE COLD, HARD TRUTH
Not one of you reading this is surprised by what I have just written, are you? You know it to be true, don’t you? You have all seen similar shows and videos, so I’m quite certain you are as aware of this as I am. Where does this come from? Why are seemingly intelligent people entertained by misery, suffering, and violence?
I asked that question to a friend recently and she told me that they were just “fun to watch.”
I’m sorry, I don’t understand, but I’m going to do my best to dissect this and try to gain some insight.
MISERY LOVES COMPANY
Make no mistake about it, there are a great many miserable people in the world today. The economy has tanked, unemployment is an ugly thing, prices are rising, jobs are being lost, and smiles are in diminishing supply.
I believe a significant amount of this “shock and awe” that we see lately is a result of people feeling better about themselves when they see others being miserable. How is that for a testimony about modern living? One can watch a couple on television, their relationship imploding, and think, “well, at least I’m not that bad off.”
Well, yes, you are!
THE PACK ANIMAL SYNDROME
I watched a boxing match a very long time ago on the Friday Night Fights. This was back on March 24, 1962, and it was between Benny Kid Paret and Emile Griffith, for the welterweight championship of the world. Boxing was huge back in the 60’s, and this fight was televised live on ABC.
In the 12th Round, Griffith hit Paret a total of twenty-nine times while Paret was helpless against the ropes. Paret lapsed into a coma after the fight and died shortly thereafter.
I was fourteen at the time, and I was interested in boxing as it gave me a chance to bond with my dad, who was a huge boxing fan. I remember being interested in the fight, which indeed was a good one, but in the 12th Round my interest turned to disgust as it became obvious that there was something very horrible happening.
My memory, though, is much more focused when I think of the crowd I saw on the tube that night. With each undefended blow to Paret’s head, the crowd rose to their feet and cheered, as if there were a feeding frenzy in a shark tank.
No, my friends, we are not that far removed from ancient Rome.
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?
There is nothing entertaining about a baby seal getting its head bashed in by a man wielding a club.
There is nothing entertaining about an estranged couple throwing chairs at each other and screaming obscenities.
There is nothing entertaining about looting and mayhem during a natural catastrophe.
Where has our compassion gone to? Where has our love for our fellow man gone to? Why must we witness suffering in order to feel better about ourselves?
I do not for a second believe that these are isolated incidents. What concerns me, what really gives this writer the heebie-jeebies, is that this is a growing disease in society.
I can tell you with no hesitation that this is not the way I was raised. My mother and father were defenders of the weak, and they would give the shirts off their backs to those in need. If they saw an injustice they acted against it. I saw the joy of boxing leave my dad the night Paret died in the ring, and my dad was a rough-and-tumble guy who fought his way through childhood and early adulthood. He was no stranger to violence, but that night something happened to him. That night, March 24, 1962, I think my dad felt that the Romans had arrived, and there simply was no joy in watching the Christians being torn limb from limb.
Sit With Me Awhile
We are better than this! We were born with a higher purpose! We have evolved from our brutal origins to a more humane level, or so I would hope. Yes, times are tough, and yes, there is pain and misery in the lives of many, but seriously, does no one feel as I do, that we were born with angel’s wings, and to go back now, slithering in the primordial ooze of our ancestors, is to forfeit those wings?
We cannot ignore our higher calling. Where there is suffering, we must be the instrument of relief. Where there is turmoil, we must be the calming waters of peace. Where there is injustice, we must be the messengers of compassion and righteousness.
To do less is beneath us!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)