Our Violent Culture

There are probably a server farm’s worth of bytes floating around out there now about the incident in Hollywood a week ago (for reference, see any news or gossip outlet).  The bottom-line fact of the matter is that a famous, wealthy man perpetrated violence on another man as the whole world looked on, and thus far, has pretty much gotten a pass, for all practical purposes.  That is, the backers of all of the various projects this man currently has on the books are waiting for the verdict of the opinion polls before they decide whether to pull their support.  The irony in all this is that the perpetrator works for and benefits from an industry that not only graphically portrays violence, but celebrates and glorifies it.

Meanwhile, out here in the hinterlands, violence continues apace.  In several upscale Cleveland suburbs, there have been drive-by “splat” gun shootings of random pedestrians lately, with no injuries yet, fortunately.  The shooters are kids from upper middle class families, bored and acting out because they can.  They have access to vehicles, they have money to spend on the guns.  And they think it’s fun.  Reports have come in from all over the country about similar incidents, sometimes involving paintball guns and BB guns; apparently, it’s a thing on social media.  It’s the privileged version of the gang violence that plagues inner cities, except the spoiled ’burb kids don’t have any kind of rationale for what they’re doing. 

Earlier this year, there was a series of reports nationwide about the increase in carjacking incidents, many of them being carried out by teenagers, some of them no older than 14, usually brandishing guns.  The purpose generally appears to be nothing other than joyriding.  Because they can. 

What in the name of all that’s holy is going on here?  In terms of public behavior, it wasn’t that long ago that a potential Democratic Presidential nominee tanked his career by “screaming” during a rally.  As it turned out, that scream wasn’t at all what it was made out to be.  But the explanation came after the fact, and changed nothing; the nationwide shock emanating from an instant captured on video was enough.  Fast-forward 18 years, and smacking and F-bombing on live TV are still surprising, but ultimately, won’t equate to career suicide.  The downward spiral has reached warp speed, seemingly inexplicably.

My take is that the factors behind this pivot to normalizing violence are threefold:  it’s an extrapolation of the “me” mindset that took hold in the ’80s; violence is no longer automatically seen as bad; and leaders of this country espouse mayhem in all forms. 

First, the miasma of narcissism that seems to have overtaken so much of the population.  It stands to reason that if I, me, mine are supremely important, it doesn’t matter how I get what I want.  If I want to be two lanes over on the expressway, and there isn’t a clear opening to merge, well, I can just shove my way in, cutting other people off, because, hey, I want to be over there.  If the other drivers won’t give way, that’s their fault.  Or if I show up at 6 AM on Black Friday to grab one of the hot toys for my kid, and somebody else is holding the last one in the store, I’m justified in snatching the toy and/or bashing the other customer.  Same reasoning applies to a convenience store hold-up:  the clerk was holding onto the cash I wanted, so, BOOM!  Problem solved.  Because, why should I not get the money if I want it?  Or, why shouldn’t I pull out my handy AR-15 and slaughter classmates/mall shoppers/church goers/party attendees if I think I have some grudge against them?

The second factor requires reams of analysis, but the short version is that vigilantes have been elevated to mythic status among large segments of our citizenry.  Militias with “righteous” causes have proliferated everywhere.  Watch a couple hours of primetime TV, and you see that it’s cool to “get” those who wrong you, legal processes be damned.  Back in the day, good guys had badges and only pulled their guns when absolutely necessary.  Now, war-zone-type shoot-outs on city streets are shown as common fare.  We don’t even think about the real-life toll and the carnage that would be the results.  Nope, we’re not horrified, we’re cool with it, because that’s how things work anymore.

Then there are the people in charge of the country.  TFG is the most notable culprit, of course.  He bragged about grabbing women and about being able to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue.  He led, “Lock her up!” chants, and urged supporters to punch people who dissed him, promising to pay their legal fees.  And, of course, there was 1/6/21, the culmination of over two months of inciting mob action. 

But TFG was certainly not the first to advocate brutality, even in our modern era.  There was John McCain with his singsong, “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran!”  Obama played “get tough” with hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and bragged about it:  “Turns out I’m really good at killing people. Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.”  Such heartlessness beggars description.  The drone program wasn’t headline news, but it wasn’t hidden, either.  And of course, there was the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal, Bush II with his daddy complex that had to be resolved at the cost of Shock and Awe, preceding the full-scale invasion of a nation which posed no threat to the U.S.  We saw a city being pounded in an air attack, nonchalantly reported by TV anchors as if they were watching fireworks.  Of course, Cheney and Rummy had their own agendas, but the point is that untold destruction was wreaked upon Iraq, with thousands of civilians killed, for no reason.  Apocalyptic violence, which today usually warrants a, “So, what?” response from a public that has become comfortably numb to it.

The other night, I was heading out of a store just before closing time, and a 20-something guy came rushing in toward me.  For just a split second, I pulled up short, because what if…?  After all, there was a shooting a few years ago at the Cracker Barrel right around the corner.  But then the guy hurried on into the store, and I relaxed and told myself I was being paranoid.  At least, I’d like to think I was.

22 thoughts on “Our Violent Culture

  1. ‘6 dead, at least 9 injured in Sacramento shooting’

    The US is the BIGGEST ARMS MERCHANT in the History of Nations, and the American People mirror that love of Weapons.

    Get ready for a long, hot murderous Summer when the Economic strait jacket tightens as a consequence of the US Tug of War With Russia over Ukraine

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sad times in America Denise.
    Maybe not quite so bad ‘over here’ but I listened to a brilliant talk yesterday (by a Welsh Quaker) which spoke of narcissism (and daffodils) and sick people living in a sick society on a sick planet.
    Times for change.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That Quaker spoke a fundamental truth. It’s to humans’ everlasting shame that the planet is sick because of our sick societies. Native Americans speak of “cleansings” that happen when the world becomes too evil. I think we’re way past due for one.

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  3. you are a much-needed pollyanna, trevor, nonetheless, if you entertain any possibility that times will change, this is a chimeric dream floating behind our eyes that will never be perceived in front of our eyes. it used to be that weapons were manufactured to wage war, but in the past 70 years wars have been manufactured to make weapons and keep the MIC flush w/ lucre. violence has always been endemic to the human species, and one way or another it will persist. even in our pacifist family of 5 sons and 2 daughters, w/ nary a toy weapon insight, nor a TV, nor a violent film, not EVER throughout their entire development, they would pick up tree branches from the forest floor and delight in their rat-a-tat games of stealthy pursuits of others. i fear for the future of our grandbairns and bantlings.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, our species has always been violent, but for untold millennia, there was at least some rationale, be it protecting each other or protecting resources. Or, on a personal level, jealousy or theft, for instance. Then societies organized, and violence happened on large scales in the name of politics: imaginary borders enclosing one area or another, or one person’s rule over others, or this or that principle.

      Now, we not only have violence for the sake of money, as you point out, Jeanie, but we also have violence for its own sake, and we revel in it. Mass insanity.

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      1. I don’t know if I’ve already stated something similar to this elsewhere on this blog, but general male aggression or “toxic masculinity” might be related to the same constraining societal idealization of the ‘real man’ (albeit perhaps more subtly than in the past)? He’s stiff-upper-lip physically and emotionally strong, financially successful, confidently fights and wins, assertively solves problems, and exemplifies sexual prowess.

        Shortly after Donald Trump was sworn-in as president, a 2016 survey of American women conducted not long after his abundant misogyny was exposed to the world revealed that a majority of respondents nonetheless found him appealing, presumably due to his alpha-male great financial success and confidence.

        Interestingly enough, I read a June 24, 2020 Toronto Now article headlined “Keep Cats Out of Your Dating Profile, Ridiculous Study Suggests” that was self-explanatorily sub-headlined “Men were deemed less masculine and less attractive when they held up cats in their dating pics, according to researchers”.

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  4. I agree totally with your “toxic masculinity” point.

    As for TFG, I find him revolting and personally repellent. Eewwww!

    And, as a lifelong cat lover, any potential date who appeared with a cat or expressed his affection for felines would immediately get my attention, in a very positive way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very glad to hear it! Some male cat fans may have taken too seriously first-season Seinfeld’s George Costanza: In a doubtful tone of voice while shaking his head, George says to Elaine Benes in regards to her new boyfriend’s affection for his two cats: “Guys with cats … I don’t know.”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “And of course, there was the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal, Bush II with his daddy complex that had to be resolved at the cost of Shock and Awe, preceding the full-scale invasion of a nation which posed no threat to the U.S. We saw a city being pounded in an air attack, nonchalantly reported by TV anchors as if they were watching fireworks. Of course, Cheney and Rummy had their own agendas, but the point is that untold destruction was wreaked upon Iraq, with thousands of civilians killed, for no reason. Apocalyptic violence, which today usually warrants a, ‘So, what?’ response from a public that has become comfortably numb to it.”
    _____

    … Which includes many faux Christians, who could only offer their thoughts and prayers for the massive innocent-civilian collateral damage (murder?), including numerous children, slaughtered by the gratuitous heavily-armed invasion. (Jesus must be spinning in heaven!)

    Every culture/nation has its own propaganda and core beliefs, true and false; though some culture/nations — usually the biggest, most powerful — are much more corrupt and brutal than the smaller, weaker ones. And western mainstream news-media are a significant part of this moral problem. Yet, the editors/journalists likely sleep well at night, nonetheless.

    One can still hear or read praise, or conservatives’ scorn, heaped upon The New York Times for their supposed uncompromised integrity when it comes to humanitarianism and ethical journalism. Yet, did they not help create the Iraq War, through then-U.S.-VP Dick Cheney’s self-citing via the Times’ website? That would be the same Cheney who monetarily benefitted from the war via Iraqi oil fields — a war I consider to have been much more like a turkey shoot, considering the massive military might attacking the relatively weak country.

    I recall reading that The Times had essentially claimed honest-ignorance innocence on the grounds that it was its blogger’s overzealousness that was/is at fault. But is it really plausible that The Times did/does not insist upon securing the non-publishable yet accurate identity of its writers’ anonymous information sources — in this case, a devious Cheney — especially considering that Cheney himself would then use that anonymous source’s (i.e. his own) total BS about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify a declaration of war that inevitably resulted in genuine gratuitous mass suffering and slaughter, both abroad and domestically?

    I believe that The Times jumped on this atrocity-prone Iraq-invasion bandwagon also because of their close proximity to the massive 9/11 blow the city took only a few years prior. There was plenty of that particularly bitter bandwagon going around in Western circles back then.

    Quite memorable was Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman’s appearance on Charlie Rose’s show (May 29, 2003), where he ranted about the war’s justification and supposed success. “… We needed to go to that part of the world; and what they needed to see [was that] American boys and girls going house to house, from Basrah to Baghdad, [and] simply saying, ‘suck on this’.”

    It’s as though they all decided: ‘Just to be on the safe side, let’s error in favor of militarily assaulting, invading and devastating Iraq’.

    P.S. I’d have much greater respect for Liz Cheney regarding the brutal January 6 political aftermath she’s suffered (though I’ve read that her Congressional-riding electorate have mostly remained behind her and therefore her seat essentially secure) — if only she’d come out and denounce her then-VP father’s part in fraudulently manufacturing American consent for the 2003-11 attack on Iraq.

    Not surprisingly, many people (including me) would place Dick ahead of D. Trump on the Mr. Evil scale. … And that’s without getting into 9/11 itself. …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “satan-spawn father”… exquisite, den! you have a remarkable, titillating gift for metaphoric concatenations. liz cheney’s lesbo status must be a craw in her father’s malfeasing, murderoous, graveolent, toxic throat. his hubris, racism, and esurience has transmogrified into the hideous deaths and refugee proliferations of more iraqis than than the decades of israeli slaughterings, demolitions, and land dispossessions of palestiinians.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, I rather liked that epithet myself!

        As for Liz, I was exceedingly gratified and amused when Cheney was forced to walk back his public scorn for the LBTQ community when his daughter was outed. He truly is the essence of Evil. Just look at his flat, lizard eyes. With apologies to lizards everywhere!

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      2. ah yes, our unfair scorn and diminution of lizards’ visual apparatus would be perceived as insulting to our resident tokay ghekkos, one of ‘whom’ [they are more civilized than most H.s.s.] is pictured below. she is battling w/ a black rat snake who was trying to purloin her eggs that were incubating in one of our retaining wall’s drain holes. mama prevailed. lizards are more noble than the human militarists and politicos; they only attack after they or their kin are directly, viscerally threatened. nor do they pollute our planet w/ their crapola.

        /Users/Jeanie/Desktop/_DSC8663 (1).jpg

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      3. George W. Bush Jr. had strong influencers in his inner circle, notably insidious-control-man VP Dick Cheney. … I see such figureheads as U.S. presidents and Canadian prime ministers as being mostly symbolically ‘in charge’, beneath the most power-entrenched and saturated national/corporate interests and institutions. The elected heads ‘lead’ a virtual corpocracy, i.e. “a society dominated by politically and economically large corporations”.

        Powerful business interests can debilitate high-level elected officials through implicit or explicit threats to transfer or eliminate jobs and capital investment, thus economic stability, if corporate ‘requests’ aren’t accommodated. (Does Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin affair/corruption come to mind?) It’s a political crippling that’s worsened by a blaring mainstream news-media that are permitted to be naturally critical of incumbent governments, especially in regards to job and capital transfers and economic weakening.

        And western mainstream news-media play a significant part in the morally/ethically corrupt war-mongering problem. Yet the editors and journalists likely sleep well at night, nonetheless.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Posted on behalf of Jeanie McEachern:

      a classic manifestation of ‘tragedy of the commons’, fgsjr2015. your sui-generis explication of corporate enshaklements of both congress and the media is no longer ‘terra incognita’ for even the nolens-volens masses, whose knowledge base finally includes the ‘reductio ad absurdam’ that US corporate-owned govt risks, in-extremis, nuclear holocaust for all life forms on this benighted planet.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So many good points here, fgs! Spot-on about supposed Christians and their lack of concern for all the death and mayhem wreaked on weaker nations by the U.S. That’s a particular sore point with me, as the uber-devout seem to look down on others quite sanctimoniously.

    It is plausible that the Times didn’t insist on knowing the sources for their writers’ stories. However, it’s my understanding that the rule in legitimate journalism is that anything presented as fact must be corroborated by three totally independent sources. Did the Times have those? We’ll never know.

    As for Tom Friedman, decades ago, he used to be fairly sensible, and occasionally, he still pens a rational column, but yeah, he’s way out there much of the time, IMO. His comments about Iraq put me totally off him for years.

    I’m still skeptical of Liz Cheney, if for no other reason than the “R” after her name. I think she took the stand she did after 1/6 because she gambled it would pay off in the long run. Who knows? She might be correct. And yes, she’d be much more credible if she denounced her Satan-spawn father.

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  7. it would appear the lizard/snake jpg foto cannot be opened on your site, den. any suggestions? it depicts an arresting battle unfolding/ w/ the snake [cheney] wrapped around our tokay ghekko.

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  8. Could not open the graphic file, Jeanie, but I do agree about lizards—they’re not given the respect they’re due. When threatened, they’re quite formidable, but otherwise, they’re at peace with the world. Like any other non-human creatures, for that matter.

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  9. Don’t know about opening the graphic, Jeanie. According to the extension, it’s the right type of file. The only thing I can think of would be to insert the pic into, say, a Word document, then copy and paste it into a comment.

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    1. even my comps-guru husband was unable to follow your suggestion, den. he claimed it was b/c we only have apple apps, no microsoft word app, which you must be using on your PC. as an alternative, i’ll email the foto to your private acct and commission you or your consociate experts to unravel the gordion knot.

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  10. Again, fgs, you’ve summarized the situation quite accurately and comprehensively. Not many Presidents have put the good of the people and the country over the will of the corporations. FDR comes to mind because, whatever he did to kowtow to big business, he also created our social safety net.

    As for Bush II, pressure from cronies, corporations, and the media aside, he nevertheless possesses all the characteristics normally attributed to weasels (sorry, weasels!). In short, he was cowardly and reprehensible long before he entered the White House.

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