Monday, February 18, 2008

Our society is sick


I grabbed this picture from an AP News story on the recent shootings at Northern Illinois University. I blurred the face of the victim in the photograph, not only because it was bloody, but simply out of respect for their privacy.

No such qualms for everyone else in the picture. As you can plainly see the three persons in front are all happily taking pictures of the victim with a cell phone or portable device of some sort.

I know much of what I do on this blog is ask questions, but good grief, for what awful reason would you be standing there snapping photos of the dead and wounded as they are loaded into emergency vehicles? Pictures for your college scrapbook? Something to reminisce about with the guys at your 20-year reunion? Recollections about "the good ole' days" with your grandkids? Perhaps it's just a way to inject some form of excitement into your mundane life?

I may not know the exact reasons, but I do know at the bottom of it is a sick enslavement to the voyeuristic video culture. I understand we all have "train wreck" mentality to some extent - we all take a look at the car crash as we drive by. But should I really want a permanent memo of someone else's suffering for my own gratification later? The inability to not video everything, no matter how disrespectful or grotesque, is a form of insanity, pure and simple.

I feel like I should type more, but words fail me.

4 comments:

Don said...

Hey Jerry,

As I was reading your tirade surrounding the extreme voyeurism that is our country, I had to stop and ask myself one question.

Am I truly any different than those people taking the pics in the background?

If I am honest with myself, I would have to conclude that I am not, neither are you and neither are (sweeping generalization here) the majority of people who will ever read these comments.

You yourself have a website accessible to the world that tells your story in a way you want it perceived, pics and all. I have myspace/facebook pages that do the exact same thing. This very blog represents that same voyeurism, otherwise, why would it be on the web?

Let's ask ourselves this question, have we ever spent time on YouTube or any other video site pouring through video that says something we like, we could use or is just plain funny? I have personally used YouTube to see footage of battle in Iraq(footage where people died) and used them to communicate a more authentic message as to what war really means.

I guess I am finding myself in a position less critical of the world for being fallen because how can we yell at the night for being dark?

Just some thoughts on a slow Friday afternoon.

Don

Jerry said...

Hey Don,

Thanks for your comments. Are we different than the people in the background taking the pictures? You say we are not. I couldn't disagree more.

To say that this blog, my website, and your facebook page, are of the [i]same[/i] voyeurism, simply because they are on the web, I think is wrong, mainly because it misses a critical component.

In fact, you hit on it yourself but missed the implication. "You yourself have a website...that tells your story in a way you want it perceived, pics and all." But that's the point. A voyeur watches his subjects [i]without their knowing it.[/i] My website is voluntary, with personally selected content, that I [b]expect[/b] people to view.

The victim on the stretcher? They have no such choice. They are being taken advantage of, even violated, as those who were fortunate enough to miss the tragedy capitalize on their incapacity.

To respond to your second point. Sure I've watched my share of YouTube videos, and American's Funniest Videos is one of my favorite shows. Maybe that makes me a voyeur in one sense. But I really think there is a line between that, and getting a kick ouf of someone's grief; someone's suffering. I think it is a sick individual to take pictures of a dead or wounded person. My "tirade" stands - I don't think there is any place for that in a civilized society.

Is it just the world being the world? Of course. And I certainly would expect nothing less. In fact, I say that often to the guys at work when they feel a bit awkward because they've mentioned something and suddenly reazlie that is not something I would engage in. I tell them, "Look, I don't expect [i]you[/i] to act like [i]I[/i] believe." So in a sense, I agree with you. But that is when I am dealing with individuals. When it comes to our culture, to the general nature of our society's behavior, I think we have a responsibility to call out the dark. We, as the light, need to make sure we can always tell the difference. Do we not speak out on the horror of abortion? Do we allow homosexual marraige without even a wimper? Do we not raise the issues of abuse of third-world citizens in sweatshops to support our indulgences? I hope not.

Thanks for thoughts, bro. It's good to have the mind stimulated on long Friday night. :)

Don said...

Hey Jerry,

Back again.

Thank you for the engagement!

While I wanted so much to continue to argue with you, it's really hard to continue the debate when we really aren't too far apart. I hope you don't mind, but I often like to challenge someone's stance for the mere point of engaging in dialogue that may or may not help me see another side of the topic. Not to mention, in my opinion, an unsubstantiated opinion based solely on “this is how I feel” is worthless dribble and should always be challenged, and of course I knew that would not be deal with you! ;-}

Now, back to voyeurism, do you honestly believe that the people snapping photos were doing so in hopes of their personal gain? I am more inclined to think that they took the pictures more as a "look at this; I cannot believe what just happened".

There has been a cultural shift, I will not call it "post modernism" because that term is far too overplayed and really means nothing, however; this shift is real and it has changed the way in which our society communicates with one another. The Boomers were taught, ever so severely I think, to think first and speak second. To share was to reveal which is forfeiting power. The Gen X's were taught not to think and when we did, the conclusion remained “why bother”. The emerging generations have transcended both of those paradigms and have the freedom to think out loud and through graphic depictions of every sort.

Now, some would say that this shift is a bad thing; I would contend that it is just change. As we all know, the only constant is change.

Thoughts?

Don

Jerry said...

Hey Don,

You won't find any "worthless dribble" around here. This blog is a citadel of intellectual strength, and a testament to the force of my cerebral activity. :)

Speaking of intellectual strength, I just realized that all the html I attempted to use in my last post to emphasize particularly brilliant moments of insight was negated by the stupid mistake of using brackets instead of tags. Good grief, you'd think I didn't do web development for a living.

Anyway, back to voyeurism. I'm not sure why those kids were snapping those pictures. I doubt it was for personal gain (did I say that?). But I'm not sure it was for the "look what just happened" either. I mean, if that was the case, there are a lot of pictures you could take of the goings-on without requiring a close-up of a bloody victim's face. Like I mentioned, that is what disgusted me. The total lack of any conscience about the person's privacy aside, I just can't imagine recalling those pictures at a later date for any reason. Then again, this is the culture that made the Saw and Hostel movies into a hit phenomenon.

I would definitely agree with you on the cultural shift, though I would contend that not all change is good, or even neutral. Some of it is bad, and that's not just because I'm now 40. The detriments of some of that change are outlined in the books I mentioned in my follow-up post.

We will always have change. But I would suggest to you that the convergence of two specific technologies, cheap video/audio recording and the internet, has led to a seismic change like no other we've ever experienced this country’s history. It's not like the automobile, or the telephone, which advanced technology on seemingly predefined and obvious path. Take audio. We had vinyl, 8-track, cassette tapes, and CDs. The framework was the same, even when there were large jumps in the technology itself. Everyone knew their place in the chain. But then BAM! The internet hit and the entire infrastructure was turned on its head. We cut out the middleman. Anyone could have their music at anytime. We could share our music with anyone. The previously untouchable record companies are now fighting for their very lives. Stealing became rampant. Ethics, boundaries, and common sense went right out the window. And all of that possible only because of the advent of cheap recording devices and the delivery mechanism of the internet.

I think the same thing is happening with pictures and video. We can do anything, so we do it. The “I will take a video just because I can” happened so fast, and without warning, that we have not developed a corresponding ethos, or value system, for this new frontier. It’s anarchy at its worst, and the victims are those whose lives have been ruined, permanently effected in a negative fashion, or at best, incredibly embarrassed due to situations beyond their control but still should not be public record.

I just hope that we, as Christ’s body, continue to project blinding light into our culture no matter what form it takes. I’m often ashamed by how dim my light is sometimes, so maybe I shouldn’t point fingers. Maybe I should consider shutting down this blog and resort to a journal instead. I don’t know. I just feel compelled to discuss, voice concerns, and maybe even rant, about these things that strike me as compelling situations for comment.

Thanks.