Have We Grown Numb?

Imminent threats of terrorism are currently at the heart of concern in both the western and third world. In Britain, we are still mourning the loss of innocent lives, close to home in Paris.

Imminent threats of terrorism are currently at the heart of concern in both the western and third world. In Britain, we are still mourning the loss of innocent lives, close to home in Paris.

But to justify the bombing of Syria and the taking innocent lives in our name, as a necessary evil is perverse. Not only that, but to continue restricting numbers of refugees, whilst we bomb their homes, gives innocent people a choice between torture at the hands of extremists or inevitable death. Merely disassociating ourselves with these blameless, unsuspecting civilians surely only draws parallels with the very terrorists we are trying to stop.

Distancing ourselves from death, however is no foreign concept in our society. If you read the news, you will have a hard job remembering the last time you went a whole day without the mention of a murder or slaughter.

We hear about death so often, that we sit through the news, sometimes without so much as batting an eyelid, because the graphic images, and reports from war zones, is what we prepare ourselves for when we sit down at ten o'clock.

Adult video games for the over eighteens, are dominated by children talking about AK-47s, machine guns and lethal grenades. If you're lucky enough to join a game featuring players with headsets, a lot of them sound like 10 year old kids excitedly talking about virtual assassinations and gang tactics against their peers. It's impossible to deny that video games desensitise violence, not only are they directly used to train drone pilots, but in the US, it is legal to own a gun, and consequently gun culture is rife. So far in 2015 48,658 incidents of gun violence and 24,878 deaths have been recorded in the US.

Chris Kyle, posthumously gained hero status after the release of Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, played by an emotive Bradley Cooper and based on Kyle's own book. But his motives 'If you see anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and they're male, shoot 'em. Kill every male you see,' raised no question of morality, despite his admittance that such instructions for annihilation were never given, he assumed them himself. Leaving some more uncomfortable with his exemplar SEAL image, than convinced by it.

Our daily blindness to violence cannot be ignored. Adverts asking for donations for water pumps in Ethiopia, watched by millions, are switched channels as the potentially poisoned child cries on screen. In growing up with images of emancipated children and pregnant mothers with flies crawling into their ears and eyes, somewhere along the way we stopped questioning it; these aren't shocking images anymore they are an accepted reality.

This numbness to sympathy continues at home. Our grandparents gasp at the terror of films as mild as Jaws, while we watch Lady GaGa slit people's throats in weekly graphic instalments of American Horror Story, and still call it our favourite show.

Everyday hundreds of us will walk past the homeless without so much as a glance. It's easier for our conscience to believe the old man on the street corner is a drug addict. Those in power cut funding for food banks and order metal spikes on the sides of buildings and shelters, the old man cannot hide from the weather, or abusive youths. It's these vulnerable people that are dying cold and alone.

Even in passing conversation, we forget the magnitude of death. Yesterday a supermarket cashier apologised for the man before me chatting in the queue; his mother had just died; this cashier was a family friend who wanted to see how he was. Although I assured her I didn't mind, it wasn't until walking home that I questioned why I accepted so quickly that this woman, who I will never know, had died. I didn't offer condolences or look shocked, it raised no more of a response than if she'd said he was talking about goggle box. I felt awful.

This is not an excuse, but an explanation to why children don't scream at Quentin Tarantino anymore, let alone at Scooby Doo. The news, social media, our favourite game consoles and TV shows bombard us with images of bloody massacres and violent misdeeds. We are separated from these gory realities by the looking glass, or TV screen, that we safely sit behind. Is it really any wonder that the magnitude of violence only truly hits us when it becomes our own reality; a charity worker aboard, a terrorist attack in our neighbouring capital city and God forbid, someone that we know or love.

Living in this world so inundated with violence, our minds are so attuned to horror that we see but don't know how to feel the pain of others anymore.


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