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Inured To Violence


There have been a series of advertisements for video games for the new XBox. These new games are more violent than ever and more realistic than ever. Shock shows like Jerry Springer every season go for ever more outrageousness, ever lower taste and ever more violence. Wrestling matches now don’t take place in the ring. The participants bash each other with objects and other props found outside the ring.

This reminds me of the escalation in public entertainments in the circuses of ancient Rome. To keep the audiences titillated, ever more violent ways of killing had to be devised. Ever larger numbers of exotic animals had to be killed. We are in a similar titillation spiral.


It is usually fundamentalist Christians who worry about the changes in values. They mostly worry about laxer sexual mores. Some of them, too, are concerned about the escalation in acceptable violence.

The violence that causes trouble is acceptable violence; the violence so ordinary it goes unnoticed; the violence so mundane it does not even make it to the evening news.

The violence we focus on is the violence of extreme hate and emotion. Only the freakish makes the headlines, yet it is the institutional ordinary violence and callousness that kills by the millions.

The level of acceptable violence continually escalates.

We now treat mass murder and nuclear war as light entertainment and suitable video game themes for toddlers. If you train children to accept murder as commonplace, why be surprised when they grow up to be murderers? People learn mainly my emulation. A child will see far more acts of murder than lovemaking or even likemaking on the television.

Afghan War

Most ordinary Americans have expressed the opinion that it was completely acceptable to kill thousands of Afghan civilians in the hunt for bin Laden. The victims were merely colateral damage, so their deaths did not count. They were not killed intentionally, merely as a side effect. You have to break eggs to make an omelette.

I wonder if thousands of white Americans were killed during a raid on Beverly Hills to catch a terrorist if it still would not matter. Americans are so used to Hollywood white-hat black-hat they refuse to assign any value to the life of non-Americans.


Ping pong retaliation keeps wars going endlessly in Ireland, India and Israel. Because each wicked deed must be punished by an even more wicked deed, the level of violence gradually escalates. Each side claims it is merely defending itself. Defense means blocking a blow, not giving one in retaliation.


This process of escalation of acceptable violence proceeds to an eventual almost orgasmic conclusion. Finally people are sick enough of it for a generation. Then the cycle repeats. Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

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