Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Insular Worlds and School Shootings

A Facebook post, in which A. got annoyed with the amount of posts that seemed to show that people really just didn't care about the recent school shooting in Newtown, CT.  The postings I have seen have been basically pictures of angels, and of the children themselves, or posts supporting or being against (mostly against) gun control as a method of curbing future shooters from getting guns in the first place.  The feeling is more that if the rest of us have guns, those that want to use them for violence won't get very far.  Sort of a cold war Nuclear race type idea.  But most posts after this have been about life as it has gone for years, past and future, and A. is annoyed because it seems like no one cares.  My thoughts were to figure out if there was any support to this.  A.'s post in italics.

A: Y'know, MOST of my FB friends are thoughtful and considering in posting their comments during a time of seemingly unremitting bad news. And I'm hesitant to even post this, since the majority of those people are, allegedly, adults. There are a few, though, who seem to be living in their own little worlds, oblivious to anything and everything that falls outside of their self-contained insular nests. To those of you who fall into that latter category, here's a word of advice: when there is a mass murder, involving mostly innocent children, a crime so heinous that it throws the entire civilized world into shock and mourning, then no one gives a damn about the movie you just saw, your love of computers, the new color scheme of your bathroom, cutsie cards/posters, or your gaming passion. Not to be too preachy about it, but save that crap for another time. The rest of us will be OK without it.
I agree with you, to some extent. That's a complicated matter, as escapism is a tool people use to deal with circumstances such as this. And has the media made it so where, after the time they deemed necessary to talk about the CT shooting, it goes on to the next item, having trained us, on the evening news, to hear about the everyday shootings and fires and accidents and then move on, unmoved about the loss of human life. Is it that, the news that is reporting how monstrous mankind can be, is also training us to view it as normal, or overlook it as fringe happenings that deserve a ninety second story, and then on to the Weather, sports, and what happened on American Idol? Humans live in their compartmentalized, "insular" worlds and deal with issues even as they watch their football games and download apps. onto their Android phones. 

My mom retold the days following the Kennedy Assassination, where between news reports, the three channels played classical music for the entire weekend. She was shocked when, after the funeral and procession, when an advertisement actually came on. How far have we moved past those days, when commercials will be done no matter what is happening? Where there is always cable channels filled with escapist, entertaining, crap so that we would never have to face reality at all. And I do it too, as the Disney Channel stays on my TV most of the day. I play my Bejeweled Blitz and my Hidden Chronicles, and the world outside goes on unnoticed. It's unfortunate, but I don't believe that the majority of people who are on Facebook could *not* participate in mass escapism to deal with the Sandy Hook massacre, as the addiction of constant information gorging is far too powerful for them to watch one Television station, with no commercials, and classical music in between news of something that should bring us all together. Human beings are too busy being walled in by big screen TVs and tiny cell phones to deal with actual live human beings. We can reach out, and participate in world events just as instantly as they happen, yet that same ability keeps us even more distant from each other. It's the tragic irony of our times. As the politician on the Monkees movie "Head" said, "The tragedy of your times, my friends, is that you may get exactly what you want." How true that is.

It's also the fact that most people have a very limited attention span. No one, it seems, can focus on anything for more than a few moments. Thus the constant demand for digression: to the extent that television "news" rarely runs a story lasting more than thirty seconds. Absurd shows like "Good Morning America" intersperses tragedy with music, celebrity "news", weather, and so-called human interest stories. It's no wonder that the average American is misinformed about, well, everything. 

Yep.  How we communicate is as important as what we communicate (Postman), so we've been trained to communicate in 30 second sound bytes, 140 characters, get it out, make it known, no thinking, just instant response.  Move back and forth, from one subject to another. It's necessary, to some extent, in this world we live in. Compartmentalization allows us to sort out the vast amount of data that gets thrown at us every minute. Now, that doesn't mean that we're able to reflect, absorb, and learn from that information.  It also protects us from that raw data, as, for the longest time, we weren't able to instantly be aware of all the wrongs in this world.  Now, with the 24 hour news, the Internet, the cell phones, we can know everything going on.  And that's not good.  Robert Goolrick, author of The Reliable Wife, documented the many tragedies that happened in the northern states back prior to cars, electricity, medicine, where people went crazy and slaughtered their families, killed themselves...etc..., but no one knew about all of that, as CNN wasn't there to report on it.  Now, we didn't know, so we couldn't solve the problem.  We couldn't throw our money, our technology, our scientific knowledge at it.  But there was also no instant emotional response in rash legislation passed, no blame turned political, and no moving on as the next tragedy hit, and the next, and the next.  And the idea wasn't put into other, maybe mentally unstable, people's heads, so they could carry out the same thing the next time they forgot to take medication.  Copycat acts are the direct result of the communication of unsorted images and acts and emotions, all thrown out of televisions and computers.  We have to learn to think about the consequences of our actions, and in this society, that's not happening.  It all boils down to right and wrong, and in today's world of victims, moral relativity, and shades of gray, it's hard for a normal person to decide right from wrong, much less someone who might have a neurological problem.  Thus the results are ambushed firefighters, slain school children, and all the myriads of violent acts that happen every single day. 

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