Desensitized Nation

by Stephanie Casher on May 5, 2006

So I’m still reeling from the last five minutes of this week’s LOST. Five minutes that unnerved me and disturbed me to the point that I had difficulty sleeping that night. Shocking as it was, the scene itself wasn’t terribly graphic. But the imprint that violence and violent imagery leaves on my psyche these days has got me meditating seriously about my hypersensitivity to violence in relationship to the general desensitization to violence in society at large.

I admit it, I don’t watch the news. Not because I don’t care to be informed about what’s going on in my world/community, but because of the sensationalist tone of most network news. They always focus on the most horrible aspects of society, as if crime is the only thing newsworthy. I prefer to find my news online, via links to articles, where I have a measure of control over the information I choose to consume. I can skip over the tales of double homicides or murder-suicides, the endless stream of rapes and robberies… I know it exists — I don’t need a play by play of the horror with graphic pictures thrown in for dramatic effect…

Some would accuse me of “hiding” from the “real” world with my method of selective consumption. That I’m succumbing to a false sense of security, that I don’t CARE about what’s going on in the world. But see, that’s my problem — I care too much! When I hear about something utterly horrible that has happened in the world, I literally feel sick to my stomach sometimes. I can’t watch. I think it’s my Pisces moon that makes me a natural empath, but I feel everything. And when I hear about another 30 soldiers killed in Iraq, or a senseless killing in an inner city, etc., I feel it. It affects and depresses me. There is nothing I personally can do to stop the horror from happening, but I can stop it from coming out of my television by changing the channel.

So while my hypersensitivity may be a problem, I think the overall desensitization of folks to violence and horror is an even bigger problem. Thanks to horror films, big-budget action flicks, and the proliferation of video games (where you too can be a killer!), our generation appears to be disturbingly comfortable with the amount of violence we encounter in our daily lives. Crime dramas such as CSI and Law & Order garner such high ratings that they spawn numerous spin-offs. The masses want more murder death kill and networks are happy to serve it up. We can see someone’s head get blown off on television and think nothing of it — hell the network doesn’t even bother censoring it half the time anymore! We can watch the death toll rise in Iraq and hear the horror stories of combat and we do nothing. What is wrong with this picture? What does it take to get our attention? Planes crashing into buildings and hurricanes/tsunamis wiping out entire cities, that’s what. Disaster of epic proportions is the only thing that wakes us up nowadays, and what does that say about the state of our world?

I’m proud to say that violence no longer “entertains” me. Not even in the context of LOST. There is nothing remotely cool about human suffering and killing is not okay – when are people going to wake up and see that? Or are we doomed wander along in apathy and self-absorbed oblivion until the next apocalyptic tragedy or natural disaster?

Yes people, I see the future… And I am very, very afraid…

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