Just about anyone is capable of violence. Even in its smallest forms, violence is ever-present. People will squash bugs in their houses. They watch violent Television shows and movies. They read about violence on the news. It seems that we all have an obsession for violence with the amount of it we observe.
We are constantly exposed to violence in all parts of our lives. We even glorify it in many forms. For instance, in Television shows like “The Walking Dead,” the audience cheers whenever the protagonist kills one of the horrifying zombies. In “I Am Legend,” we cheer on Dr. Neville as he fights the “monsters of the night” and conducts gruesome experiments on them when he is truly the monster, killing the creatures even when unnecessary. We are taught that, under the right circumstances, violence can be good. Because of this constant glorification of violence, everyone is equally capable of it. People are disconnected from the consequences of violence which can cause them to resort to violence under certain circumstances.
Most of us, even though we recognize violence as bad, are capable of mundane forms of violence. Throughout my two quarter of taking Critical Thinking and Writing at Santa Clara University, I learned about the environments that foster violence. Over the first quarter, I learned about the factory farming system, an intrinsically violent system. The system focuses on the slaughter of billions of animals a year at a high-efficiency (“Factory Farming”). Because of this, the system has become a process. This process has devalued the lives of the animals involved at every step.
Workers in factory farms treat the animals like objects. They torture the animals and mutilate them beyond what their job requires them to do. Many workers, who are average people subjected to violent conditions, are observed beating and mutilating the animals (Foer). We must question what leads to this unnecessary violence in factory farms? The environment, being hostile simply by the need to kill animals to get their meat, makes it violent. The workers need a way to justify the mass murder of these animals and the violent conditions in these factories. A way many of them do this is by devaluing the life of the animals. They see each animal they kill as meaningless; they create a disconnect between the violence and the taking of a life.
David Foster Wallace takes note of the distance created between violence and food in his essay “Consider the Lobster:”
“The intimacy of the whole thing is maximized at home, which of course is where most lobster gets prepared and eaten (although note already the semiconscious euphemism “prepared,” which in the case of lobsters really means killing them right there in our kitchens).”
With the food industry, we amount killing the animals as a necessity. We accept this necessity by hardly recognizing the fact the food placed on our table requires the death of an animal or even multiple animals. Instead, we create a disconnect between death and our food. Even in the naming of food, this disconnect between the living animal it came from and the food exists; Normally, we don’t call meat by the name of the animal, instead we use euphemisms like “poultry” or “beef.”
This phenomenon of reducing the significance of violence is noted in Burying the Living with the Dead, an essay analyzing “The Walking Dead” and the justifications the characters use to kill others. With the essay we learn how life can be reduced to “bare life,” or meaningless forms of life. The lives of the zombies are seen as meaningless because of the constant necessity to kill them to stay alive. The zombies are seen as a form of “bare,” meaningless life and people are lead to kill them. They connect the killing of zombies to a form of necessity. They no longer see it as the taking of a life but instead see it as a part of their daily lives (Keetley). They create a disconnect between the violence towards the zombies and its impact of taking a life away from a living being.
The news media plays a large roll in creating a disconnect between violence in the forms of harming or taking the lives of others. Whenever the news reports a murder or some act of violence, they shift the focus away from the victims. They focus on reporting violent events like murders and war to pull in more views (Paskova). Following the Columbine massacre, the news coverage focused on Eric and Dylan, the two responsible for the killings, rather than the impact the massacre had on families and the community (Cullen). Rarely does the media report on the victims of violence and the impact it has on them. Instead they focus on covering the perpetrators of violence.
This focus on covering those responsible for the violence takes away the consequence of the violence. It fails to cover the impact violence has on people.
In wars, the news media connects killing hostiles to a necessity. As portrayed in the film “American Sniper,” we idolize who kill as many enemies as possible in the name of our country. We don’t focus on considering the lives of the enemies. Instead movies, television, and the news reduce them to a form of “bare life” like the zombies in the “The Walking Dead.”
As we learn to find excuses that make killing “necessary,” we begin to disconnect life from death. We learn to find ways to treat killing almost as if it is something different. We take away the weight and impact of killing to justify it. We treat the victims of murder and violence as though their life was worthless. Action movies often portray the protagonists killing enemies with little worry about the impact the violence may have on others. With this disconnect of violence from its consequences on its victims, we are lead to believe violence is acceptable in some cases where it is “necessary.”
Because of the distance from violence and its impact, many will resort to violence immediately as they believe it to be necessary to solve their problems. After all many movies and Television shows feature the main characters resorting to violence right away to solve their problems, so why wouldn’t it work for the viewers? We often immediately resort to violence to solve our problems. For instance, we hardly consider the life of the spider “invading” our home when we squash it to death. We hardly value the lives of the animals given up to produce our daily meals.
We often fail to think about the consequences of our actions. Instead of considering alternatives to violence, we will immediately accept our actions as being “necessary” and “justified” for our safety. Even though non-violence still exists, most immediately resort to violence to as it is the “easiest” and most familiar way for people to deal with issues. However, rarely do action movies or shows portray characters considering non-violent ways to confront their problems. Because of this, we are often narrow-minded in thinking of solutions to our problems. Instead of thinking through our options, we usually resort to the simplest solution, which often involves violence. Instead of focusing on the “need” for violence to solve problems, we should consider our alternatives., but first we need to learn to connect violence with its consequences.
Cullen, David. Columbine. New York: Twelve. 2009. Print.
“Factory Farming.” Last Chance for Animals. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
Keetley, Dawn. “We’re All Infected”: Essays on AMC’s The Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Paskova, Yana. “Humans Drawn to Violent News.” The Badger Herald. 17 Nov. 2004. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.