Thursday, September 19, 2013

violent bear it away

Rod Dreher raises a great point about escalating violent realism of American's video games, the games' culture, and their business success.

My students quickly grow sick of my banging on this drum, but I think Dreher is right on the money about this. Our hand-wringing over public shootings like Newtown CT and the Washington Navy Yard extent far beyond gun control legislation.  If that were it alone, transforming our common life would be easy.

But as the ancient Greek phrase--kalepa ta kala--run, "naught without labor" or, perhaps a bit more literally "good things are difficult."  They're also complex.  And the gut-punch truth is this:  some adults go on and on about gun control, but a huge chunk of America's vibrant youth--women as well as men--spend their free time recreating experiences of sexual violence, torture, and death.

This is why my students get sick of all this:  Aristotle warned us about friendship and the habituation of virtue long ago.  Basically the common excuse "he's a good person who just bad choices" is a non-answer.  We habituate the virtues we want to live. So, surround yourself with a fantasy world wherein you can kidnap young women, rape them at will, and take pleasure from their sobs (as Dreher's blogpost records), then don't be surprised when somebody actually goes and does it.

And, to put a cherry atop the sundae by infuriating as many as I can in one blog post, this passive video-gaming violent habituation obfuscates questions concerning the very real use of violence...and the arguments and reasoning behind the possible use of violence (just and restrained, but violent nonetheless) to stop greater injustice.  Yes, that means Syria.  My Augustinian side says intervention in Syria is a bad idea and won't end well.  That being said, that same Augustinianism tells me that we need to reserve the need to intervene--even preemptively so--when justice requires it and totalitarian powers indicate, as totalitarian powers are apt to do, they won't heed humanitarian concerns.  A "just war," though, is a different sort of violence than the repetitive, play-time, hyper-sexed, consequence-free violence our video game culture entices us to embrace.  And because our appetites drive us toward the one, we now have difficulties perceiving the circumstances in which we might need the other.

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