Sunday, October 21, 2007

To answer Russell Crowe's question: Yes. We are.

This appears in today's Los Angeles Daily News (which is, really, the perfect place for it, if not the Times. But the Times wouldn't run it). Though I've always felt that it sounds rather self-congratulatory to spend blog time urging people to read other things I write, I've been thinking a lot about the rash of shootings and other explosions of cultural violence—why they occur, what they say about us—and, well, read the News piece if you care to and see what you think. Remember, it's just one man's opinion, and you know what they say about opinions.

* Incidentally, I thought I'd written a much shorter "working version" of this for
SHAMblog, but I just did a search of previous posts and nothing came up.


10 comments:

gregory said...

that's pretty good... it is a human thing... in india, no guns, they use machetes, choppers, and every few days an article will be in the paper about some village gang member hacked to death.... it is what we some of us do, as humans, and have forever....

regarding the media, and their fixations... one can conclude that the only anti-war protests that will ever be fully covered, and possibly effective in creating change, will be violent ones...

The Crack Emcee said...

I think you've got it wrong, Steve: it's not the video games, movies, etc., that's causing this, as I said in the other post, it's the undermining of our values. A better movie to reference is "Office Space", which shows the evil "smiley" culture (and, yes, cultish-thinking) that normal people have to put up with to survive. "Indoctrinate U" is just coming out too.

Tim Goodman (of the SF Chronicle, and one of the best media columnists around) recently wrote "there's no group more intolerant than liberals" - an idea that, I think, gets no hearing when topics such as violence are discussed - because they posit themselves as peaceful and harmless. They (liberals) are making the box that so many feel they have to break out of - or destroy. While I wouldn't condone murder of any kind (of course) I'm still left thinking of Chris Rock's O.J. riff that ends with the punch line:

"I'm not saying he should've done it - but I understand."

Steve Salerno said...

Crack, I'm not saying that movies and video games cause the violence; that's a familiar argument that has been oversold, as I don't think the data are anywhere near "in" on that point. We need a lot more data and a lot more study. What I'm arguing in this essay is actually the other way around: that our movies, video games and overall cultural preferences show us to be a violent people. They show what "entertains" us. If we really hated violence, we would not get such a kick out of movies like Goodfellas and The Departed. We would not play video games like Hitman. And we would not be able to watch the endless coverage of the body count at places like Virginia Tech. We would be repulsed. And we are not repulsed; I know this because we keep watching. The ratings prove this. That's all I'm saying.

I don't know how we got/get to be violent; that's somebody else's bailiwick. I only know that it's like that old line: Show me what a man does and I'll tell you who he is. And one of the things we "do" best is violence.

The Crack Emcee said...

Gotcha. I misunderstood your point.

As a fan of (for instance) boxing, I don't see violence as a straight-up "negative" - it just is. So, no, violence doesn't repulse me. Bad ideas repulse me. I guess I would say, straighten out the thinking behind bad ideas and the level of violence would go down:

Eventually, something's got to give.

gregory said...

violence is going on at every level... nature is one big eating machine, the bacteria wars in our gut are relentless, creation and destruction go hand in hand, everything that is born, dies....

it is nearly a cliche to say that violence is part of life... if you believe in evolution, what is its purpose? to me it seems part of the process that leads to transformation and growth, and to the extent we haven't grown out of it, we need it, individually and collectively...

Steve Salerno said...

Gregory, for once I think I may even agree with you (which, of course, doesn't mean either of us is right). I might quibble with the part about how we "need" all this...but on a day when we finally found some common ground, I think I'll leave well enough alone.

a/good/lysstener said...

I'm amazed at the anger I see in many people I know, girls included, and maybe girls especially. How quick they are to use profanity in ways that would embarrass your average construction worker. Even if they're not cursing and throwing things (which they do often enough), there's that passive aggressive anger that comes out mostly in sarcasm and the overall ugliness of the way they see life. I often wonder where all this anger came from in people who seem to have had every advantage of a stable home life and good upbringing.

The Crack Emcee said...

Like Steve, I think Greg's close to the essence, but, as a compassionate being, I think we need to stop doing the things that lead to violence - like trying to disregard reality - which (unfortunately, I must say) Greg does. Still, he's "on point" with this one.

a/good/lysstener,

I see it all the time, too. It's just Americans, being ignorant, and taking it all for granted. They know no better than the best (which Americans have) and expecting more because the media says "you deserve it". They need to travel, or gain a respect for the sweep of history, to see how much better Americans have it than others - now or even in the (recent) past. I keep my distance, if they become too much, because they'll drag you down - sabotage you - trying to prove a point. I'd never abandon my friends, unless absolutely necessary, but becoming "a vic" ain't a part of friendship, y'know?

Nice photo, BTW.

Mike Cane said...

See, the problem with pointing to news articles is that they have a tendency to disappear. Just like this one did.

So, I need to you provide the question of Crowe's that you answered in the headline.

Or. I. Will. Never. Sleep. Again.

Steve Salerno said...

Sorry, Mike. At a point midway in the movie, Crowe is trying to demonstrate his displeasure with the gladiator lifestyle (in which he has been enslaved). Though his "boss" has told him to draw out the mayhem--to give the crowd the maximum bang for their entertainment buck--Crowe, a very gifted fighter and killer, decides that he's simply going to go out there and slash away. So he walks into the arena, dispatches a handful of hapless foes in about 10 seconds, then throws his weapons down and screams a taunt up at the crowd: "Are you not entertained!?"