I recently overheard this conversation:
First person: I’m going to attack you!
Second person: I beat you!
First person: No! I beat you!
Second person: I win! I thought I was going to lose!
First person: You need to start fighting me. I’m going to be stronger than you!. It’s a KO! (knock-out)
Would it surprise you to know this took place between two kids?
You may have guessed it…this conversation centered around a video game.
The game’s graphics looked age appropriate, but the language and images promoted the energy of fighting, battling, competition, killing and winning, all in exciting colors and detail. (We’ve come a long way from Super Mario.) I checked in with the kids, and they confirmed, yes, we’re trying to kill each other. It bothered me that there was no context, no story of good vs. evil or moral victories, like Star Wars or Superheroes. It was just gratuitous violence.
As they played, tension rose. There was more and more jockeying to outdo the other, with grabbing and escalating voices, until the inevitable melt-down. Sound familiar? Replace the kids with lethally armed adults, and you’ve got wars, terrorism, protests ending in killings, and civil servants losing their shit.
Watching this exchange made me think about how normalized violence is in our culture and how much of it we’re exposed to every day.
The kids weren’t just engaged in the game. They were engaged with each other, looking at each other, talking to each other, being physical with each other in the same violent energy of the game.
In our culture, we’re imprinting our children’s impressionable young brains with violence.
By the time we’re of age, we’re desensitized enough to witness multiple graphic images of violence every day without batting an eye. How much harder would it be to build a military, or to pull out a weapon of any kind and kill for ANY reason, if we weren’t so desensitized?
I may have this all wrong, I don’t know, but don’t tell me that it’s just a harmless kid’s game unless you have some reputable sources of information to share with me. I’m open.
We desire peace, but we’re allowing war in our homes and our minds. In our children’s minds.
I don’t for a minute believe that violent video games are the cause of violence in the world, or that all conflict or competition is inherently bad for us. But overexposure to violence is certainly desensitizing us.
These kids have great parents who teach them compassion, empathy, boundaries, love…all the qualities we want to see in the world. Chances are those qualities will outweigh all the violence they’re consuming, but desensitization to violence will have a hand shaping their lives.
I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit I’m just as much a part of it as anyone. I’m sensitive to images of extreme violence, but my Netflix viewing isn’t violent free.
Violence is seductive. It’s addictive. It’s exciting. Violent energy fascinates us…that’s why it’s such a pervasive industry.
I don’t know the answer, but I’m convinced we have both the capacity for peace and violence within us.
Like the story of the two wolves within us, which will we choose to feed?