Over the course of this year, I have studied numerous cases of neglect by the public. From food packaging to violent media to the prison system, most of modern society’s problems could be solved with a basic level of caring from just a few people.
Food branding is one of the most obvious examples of a lack of consideration of most people. The food industry, especially industries such as Gruber manufacture mass quantities of their incredibly sugary “Fruit Juice” that calls itself “one of a variety of nutritious Gerber Graduates foods and juices” and then claims that no reasonable adult could expect the juice to be nutritious (McKenzie).
Of course Gerber is at fault for intentionally mislabeling their products into deceiving parents and making their juice seem healthier, but how hard is it to check the back of the packaging. It only takes thirty seconds to turn over a juice box and say, “Wow, there is twenty grams of sugar in this. I shouldn’t give it to my child.” The part that astounds me the most is how we can blame these food manufacturers while simultaneously just letting them do it. If you visit any news site, you would have to dig deep before you found an article about the mislabeling of food packaging because no one cares. Food packaging does not sell. It’s not sexy. We all just allow big companies to take advantage of us while we sit around and hope for the best.
While food packaging is not sexy, violence definitely is. I challenge anyone to visit websites like CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC and be able to avoid an article about violence. There is not a day goes by that some article about violence is not one of the top stories on these sites. “The average American child will witness 200,000 acts of violence on television before his or her eighteenth birthday” (Dowshen). Even with the enormous amount of violence we ingest every day, an argument can be made that it doesn’t affect most people in a negative way. In fact, some people like Gerald Jones that argue that violent media allows kids to take out their aggression and negativity in a healthy way.
However, science is not on their side. Victor Cline, a research psychologist at University of California Berkeley, conducted a study comparing the response to real-life violence of teenage boys who are high-volume television consumers and low-volume television consumers. This response is measured in galvanic skin response — changes in the electrical properties of a person’s skin caused by an interaction between environmental events and the individual’s psychological state — and blood pressure. The boys who watched more television had a much lower GSR and blood pressure when shown real life violence as compared to the boys who were low-volume watchers.
Again, big companies are again taking advantage of normal people because we let them. In this case we almost encourage it. Activision has grossed an estimated 5.7 billion dollars from the Call of Duty franchise alone. There is science to support media violence harming our ability to process real violence in a healthy way, but we continue to buy these games and watch these movies. Nothing will stop or get better until people have spoken out and others are educated.
Some of this violence people may be desensitized to is prison violence. Throughout my research on prison violence, I could not stop thinking about how terrible conditions are for prisoners everywhere, and how few news articles I see about it. I bet very few people reading this know that according to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 9.5% of juvenile offenders in juvenile prison facilities are sexually assaulted per year. If that statistic does not sicken a person, I do not know what will. Children, often imprisoned for non-violent crimes, are being sexually assaulted at a tremendous rate, and of course the problem is not contained to juvenile facilities. Please take the time to read this letter written by a prison inmate, sentenced for shoplifting, who was brutally assaulted by members of a prison gang.
The abuse in the prison system is just another example of the complete lack of caring and empathy most people have for others. Most people know of the rampant physical and sexual abuse in the prison system, but it has become a kind of joke. A lot of people think prisoners deserve the punishment for committing the crime, but does a shoplifter really deserve that kind of sexual and physical assault? Does a teenager who made a stupid decision deserve to be sexually assaulted?
The prison system is just another institution in a long line of abuse of power in a lot of industries. There is only one way these systems can possibly be reformed, and that is through action. As of now, most people have gotten into the habit of letting things happen to them. Now is the time to make things happen. Go out, research a problem in your community, and try to help solve it or just make it a little bit better. There is only one way to make things better in this world, and it is simply through action.