Looking at the news in the last few weeks we have had nothing but hate: a blown up plane, bombing in Gaza where a frightened teenager, Farah Gazan, becomes internationally famous by giving an-up-to-the-minute account on Twitter of the relentless shelling. Her immortal line: "I might die tonight!" goes viral. All the love in the world seems to have died.
Human beings do terrible things to one another. The press is awash with the brutality of this world. Since I was a little girl the big topic has always been peace in the Middle East. Nothing has changed 50 years later. Or even 100, today being the WW1 Centenary. Hell is not below our feet but rather the reflection we see in the mirror. If you want to know why people do bad things ask yourself the same question. Hollywood conditions us to believe that bad people should get their just desserts and die. Violence in films is meant to be entertaining but I struggle to feel entertained or enlightened by watching others being killed. Recently a TV series was trending on Twitter, the subject of which was men murdering their girlfriends. The comments on Twitter were just as revealing with many thanking the show's producers for dealing with a topic that 'no one wants to talk about'. Is bringing the subject matter into the public domain going to transform the perpetrators of domestic violence or even murder, into better human beings?
There was much debate about Quentin Tarantino and his ultra-violent take on film making when he first came on the scene. Mr. Tarantino has been known to walk out of interviews when the subject is raised. It's a difficult debate. Cinema has become an outlet for frayed minds- senseless entertainment is even better. Overloaded brains need a way to switch off or 'zonk' out completely. The make-believe fantasy world of movies can alter our mood for the better or worse. For example, a frothy film can be a brilliant antidote to the blues. All visual arts alter our perspective on a subliminal level. When we become so inured to blood and gore and it fails to move us, there is the risk of being permanently desensitised. How many stories have we heard of young men who have turned into murderous robots by becoming addicted to violent video games? Losing one's humanity is already a reality: today on the news French tourists in the Grand Canyon coaxed a squirrel with food to the edge and then kicked it off to a certain death. A young man in the UK was filmed swinging a Chihuahua by its lead like a lasso. Mothers are frequently jailed for killing their children through extreme neglect or by physical violence. Should those people be allowed to watch violent films? Can those minds be transformed away from a proclivity towards violence?
I often write about the death of the soul life. Think about what passes for 'entertainment' and how one can be conditioned by it. Young children acting out the pornography they can readily access on the internet has resulted in many horrific and tragic stories. I would go so far as to argue that an addiction to pornography is a form of self-loathing.
In a world filled with hate, it is worth being reminded of what love is. Love as both verb and noun has many more connotations than just saying "I love you' to the man of our dreams as church bells ring. Offering to help someone in distress, inquiring after elderly neighbours, asking the question, "Is there anything I can do for you?" to those we are supposed to care about whether friends or relatives. The opposite of love is not necessarily hate but ignorance. Those who are ignorant of themselves flee from themselves and from a virtuous life. A wise man would not go around harming others. In The Republic, Plato studies the meaning of justice both on earth and beyond. Plato argues that only through education and study can one become wise and essentially good. Such an argument would infer that one learns to love and to hate. Therefore being a good or bad person is based on the choices we make.
Here's an example of life's choices (and which happened to me today at the supermarket). Two young boys barely 10 or 11 arrived at the check out just as I had finished emptying my basket. One of the boys pointed at my two items: "Move your things along, you're taking up too much space." I responded that the cashier would activate the system to bring the items towards her when she had finished with the person at the till. "Women, these days," remarked one of the boys, "I told you to move your things." "How dare you," I replied, "speak to someone who is clearly older than you with such disrespect." At which point the boys jumped the queue. "How dare you be so rude! Get back and wait your turn!" Both boys ignored me and it was the cashier who told them to return to their place in the queue or they would be thrown out of the shop. One boy snarled at me: "You're a posh dumb b***h." "Thank you," I replied. You couldn't make it up.
Love. At your own peril.
Photo copyright S. van Dalen