Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lowering the Bar

Get a cuppa coffee or tea, get comfy. This is gonna be lengthy.

A situation came to my attention that centered around violent video games in general and the newest version of Grand Theft Auto in particular. Of course, the debate about the bad influence of violent games and movies on young impressionable minds rages on, unresolved, as games and movies continually push the envelope evolving into ever increasingly graphically violent and sexually explicit content–a cultural lowering of the bar unimaginable in as short a time as only twenty years. Unfortunately, I think the yays far outnumber the nays in the vote now. 

There is a logical reason why the addiction to activities that arouse the most primeval desire to decimate, murder, destroy and over power is fast becoming the new ‘norm’. 

The question is not that it is happening but how much is too much? How far is too far?

The worn out argument that video game and movie makers deny the negative influence of their products because it means multiple billions of dollars in commerce at stake is lame and goes nowhere, and needs to be put to rest. Yes, of course, who doesn’t know that one only need follow the money to find that those who profit from something will never speak out against it. This is primary common sense and is easily applied to all manner of industries. Should pharmaceutical companies be allowed to rate their own drugs as safe or unsafe? No, that’s the job of the FDA. 

So, who decides if steady brain bathing, sometimes hours a day, in streaming violence, crude language, blatant evil, and salacious sex in video games is detrimental to the children who are destined to inherit the future? In the US, the age appropriate ratings for videos is administered by the ESRB–Entertainment Software Rating Board. But the usefulness of such ratings is often challenged by studies concluding that 90% of teenagers say their parents never check the ratings before allowing them to buy and play video games. If true, the problem should be dumped at the feet of parental responsibility. Right? Bad things are available and always have been therefore parents are the ultimate guardians against inappropriate exposure to harmful influences. 


Here’s where the topic gets all sticky. You see, modern parents are the products of their upbringing. As a society slowly slips into irreversible depravity, each subsequent generation brings with it the revised and stretched boundaries adopted while in their own developmental years. Those who are old enough to remember previously higher standards that were generally self-enforced by accountability can easily see that desensitizing to any type of base behavior comes with repetition which leads to acceptance and finally adaptation. It’s as though society cannot defend itself against the inevitable wearing away of the values that maintain all that is civil about civilization. But history tells us that civilizations rise and fall on its values and standards.

When graphic violence, bad language, virtual sex, bloody and gory scenes, partial or full nudity, drug use, portrayal and/or condoning of criminal behavior, and other types of provocative behavior, once considered anti-social, becomes the new standard for children to experience as they also are supposed to be learning basic right from wrong, the lines between right and wrong are inevitably blurred in the process. 

When right and wrong are no longer discernible as a societal norm, when anything goes becomes the new standard, opinions adapt accordingly. Even the ‘experts’ are subject to the process of redefining what is conventional and therefore cannot be trusted to evaluate that which can do harm. This is historical. How many harmful products have been declared safe and then found to be deadly? Lead in paint? Mercury in thermometers and vaccines? Radiation in x-rays? Even the FDA cannot figure out which drugs are bad until harm is done and the drugs are then pulled off the market. Enter the attorneys. So much for experts.

One can argue that violence has always been with us, one can make fun of ‘stiff necked’ objections to young children being allowed to immerse in the story lines of murder, lawlessness and debauchery. The proponents can claim they played the games at a young age and they know the difference between the vile environments of the games and real life. Those who argue that studies have found that there is no link between increased violence and crime to video gaming, especially perpetrated by the young, often cite ‘scientific’ conclusions but rarely specifically name the study that produced the results, or the names of the experts who drew the conclusion or the source of the funding for the study. No one asks those in the trenches dealing with the ever growing numbers of violent juvenile delinquents apparently. They are not expert enough I guess.

So, people prefer to believe what they want to believe even if what they see happening in the schools counters the notion that violent images broadcast into not yet fully developed brains do not increase the probability of violent behavior. Ask middle school teachers about the rise in disrespect for authority and property. Guess they don’t count either. 

Again the question is begged, how much is too much, how far is too far? Most schools have a psychologist on staff now. Twenty years ago - no need. Most schools have discipline issues that include rape and death threats. Twenty years ago - not even. Some schools have security guards now and all schools have lock down protocols in case of assault. Twenty years ago this was not only not necessary, it wasn’t even on the radar. But now it is, in this enlightened, modern, death and destruction obsessed society. 

Are logical conclusions all that difficult to draw?

One last thing–in spite of what the ‘experts’ claim, societal norms established in the alternate world of video games do not stay confined to gaming time. When perspectives are adjusted to no longer be shocked by anything, to find pleasure and excitement in the act of destruction, whetting the appetite for more and worse, then those perspectives, like a virus, go out and infect everything else in the real world, making way for even the smallest seemingly innocent increments to find their way into the new framework.  Because it’s not just acceptable, it’s cool and replaces everything that’s considered archaic and irrelevant to modernity. 

Commerce adjusts to fit the new standards and then the new products ultimately manipulate and drive the standards further. It’s a vicious and diabolical cycle. But no one notices the decline until it is too late.

Case in point, while shopping in a local big name store I saw a type of art/craft book. The sole purpose of the book was all about wrecking the book, it said so in the title. Each page had a suggestion to do something, like rip, scribble or in some way alter it by destroying it, (direct quote) to engage in ‘destructive’ acts--poking holes through pages, adding photos and defacing them, painting pages with coffee, coloring outside the lines, and more--in order to experience the true creative process.” 

In order to experience the true creative process? Imagine someone publishing and then finding a market for such a book just twenty short  years ago. 

When all activity, even art, is no longer about positive creating and building but tearing down, disrespecting, and decimating then the bar may be closer to the bottom than anyone has bothered to notice. I am sure most would accuse me of making a mountain out of a molehill when I say that this book is a very bad sign. Silly old me. But then, I am still hanging on to those standards that once worked so well to hold us up and all together. You know those old guidelines that called for everyone, educated or not, to take care of things, add to, keep repaired, restored and respected, especially that which belonged to others. 

You know–civil.

Here’s another study - might want to read this one. 

For Him,

If America is ever laid waste, much of the blame will lie at the doors of the churches. We have the Answer and, like the children of Issachar, we should have understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do. 
~ Vance Havner

(Psalm 51:10) Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. 

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