How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this! -Hamlet
As I look around, I marvel at how far the human species has come. Depending on how you see it, we have evolved from primates foraging in the forest, to hurtling metal objects around the universe after first figuring out how to understand that there was metal, and fossil fuels in the ground to make said objects. This would have been after first figuring out how to refine these things and discover their uses. How did man first cast iron? Surely you would need a mould capable of sustaining the heat required to get the metal to a liquid state. How did they get the fire hot enough? If they used coal, how did they get the coal? Was it that it used to just be lying around in heaps on the earth’s surface, and it wasn’t until they exhausted these that they had to start mining? How did they eventually figure out that metal can be used to send audio and video waves through the air, to be received and understood on the other end? Now we have computers that fit in our pockets and enable face to face conversations from one side of the world to another, all while sitting in an empty room with no electricity readily apparent save for the battery power of your phone. All this via an orbiting collection of metal in space! Stunning. Right now, I am comforting my daughter, who is in tears because she can’t listen to Uptown Funk-you up, on her mom's phone (which had been streaming on youtube) because the battery died. (#4yearoldproblems) How far we have come...
Yet with all of this advancement, the miracle of higher human thinking, I am more taken aback by the social world at large that I see presented to me in the media, and I weep for humanity. Because, the gravity of the nastiness of the world in which we live in is overwhelming if you stop to give it more than the time it takes to scroll past a headline, or a cat video, in your news feed. The fact that many don’t, and remain oblivious, is going to be a cause for greater concern as the years tick by and the world of adolescent dystopian fiction comes to fruition. I wouldn't even say that these people are choosing to be oblivious, because that would imply that they were aware of the misery that exists beyond their bubble of ignorance.
It may not be healthy to dwell on all of the negativity in the world, but if we don’t think about it even a little, what is going to change it? It is quite easy to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, and yes, I am a hypocrite, because aside from this rant, I am not doing a damned thing, but at least I am registering my disgust throughout the world, and that counts for something right?
Take the events of the last few days. Yesterday, two people were murdered on live television. The fiancee of the one of these people watched at home in abject horror as his bride to be was blown away on live tv. Her screams of absolute terror and her frantically running for her life is the last image he and her family will have of her. I ask you to think deeply and give this more than the five minutes it might have taken you to read an article on this story, or watch a news clip. How would you react to this horror? What if her parents had seen? What if it was your child, sister, partner? I am not sure why this unsettles me so? Things like this happen all of the time, people are murdered everyday. But this is as close as we have come to the Hunger Games yet.
I watched the video, unedited. I don’t know why I did. I am not sure what I was expecting. I wish that I hadn’t. Like thousands of others yesterday I clicked a link in my news feed, and despite the sensitive material warning I watched as two peoples lives were erased before my very eyes. I watched as the news anchors fumbled to process what happened. I watched again as whoever posted the video edited the murder to run for a second time. I watched because I felt a desensitised compulsion to do so, and I wish I hadn’t. I cannot unsee these images, nor unhear the screams and I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be those two people, and I cannot imagine what it must be like to be their friends and family right now.
This is not just because of what happened and the manner in which it did. But, also what has happened since. The comments on the video are a shocking view into cavalier attitudes of people protected by the relative anonymity of the internet, as calls for genocide, gun control and racial retribution ring out. Lost amid the empty condolences of total strangers drawn to the video, as was I, out of morbid curiosity. I am now ashamed to admit that I have seen this video. What is the fascination? This goes beyond gun control and racism. Our society has become desensitised to mass violence. Whether we want to admit it or not media surely must bear some responsibility. The old adage, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, applies here. Why must it be first person shooters, war films and action movies that garner our attention when it comes to entertainment? I know its not real, most “normal” people do to. But we have been desensitised, and without mounting some ten year psychological study, I would wager it is having an impact on those who can’t differentiate, or do, but don’t care, I dare see we are all affected by this over-consumption of violence. That guy who murdered these two reporters yesterday, I dare say he has probably killed thousands of soldiers, and Nazi zombies before pulling the real trigger on these two.
So this story will be in the headlines for a few days, people will think oh what a shame. I can’t believe it. Yet, it is happening so often now, it isn’t that hard to believe. It is no longer, “oh my God, did you hear about what happened in Columbine?!” but rather, “20 dead in school shooting, man kills ex-girlfriend, 40 insurgents dead in Syria, tonight cloudy with a forty percent chance of precipitation, and after the break Diane talks to Taylor Swift about her upcoming charity concert.” No one bats an eye anymore. How did we get here, and how can we stop? I chose this moment, because it has had a profound effect on me. I have given it some serious reflective time, and it has truly shaken me. I wonder, if everyone did the same, dwell on the various degrees of misery that surround us on a daily basis, it would be maybe enough to truly appreciate the good that does exist in the world, of which there is plenty. Maybe if everyone actually thought about the consequences of the things they do, good and bad long and hard, and marvelled at the magical way we have been able to turn dirt into future colonies on Mars, and video conversations to grandma on the other side of the world, then the misery would eventually be overwhelmed by the actions of truly thoughtful people, and we would go back to realising the true potential of what brought us here in the first place.
Happily married to my beautiful wife Stephanie, and proud father of three beautiful girls, Aurora, Brynn and Clara. Master student, working in South America as a Social and English teacher: writing when I find time.