"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Creativity - the power to heal - the power to hurt

Many share my dismay at the almost unbelievably violent computer games sold to children, but how many have the courage to take a stand against such things? Patience Wheatcroft in The Times a while ago wrote: ‘Whatever previous research has determined, it is hard to believe that prolonged exposure to such horrors does not breed some nasty ideas in the more impressionable of minds.’ She went on to say: ‘The instances in which youngsters have gone out and committed murders akin to those they have watched are mercifully rare, although there have been a few notorious cases. But instinct suggests that bloodlust cultivated on a computer screen might at least have a desensitizing effect, even if it does not drive the player to go out and…[copy that violence.]’ She quoted research from the University of Missouri-Columbia that shows that ‘regular players of violent games suffer reduction in a type of brain activity called the P300 response, which reflects the emotional impact of an image on the viewer. The reaction of gamers to violent images was muted, suggesting that they were desensitized to brutality. They were also found more likely to behave aggressively…’
And now, since my original blog on this topic, and since the publication of my own book, there is a Meta-Analytic Review published in 2010 that gives even more evidence of the harm of violent videos, games etc. And I have just returned from a conference where we learnt quite a bit more about "mirror neurons", or "empathy neurons", in the work of Dr Valeria Gazzola and others, and saw just how deeply this knowledge changes our understanding of human nature.
Even without the benefit of scientific evidence, common sense tells us that the emotions provoked by such violence can hardly be healing. We are healed by beauty, sensitivity and spirituality, not by ugly brutality. Studies such as these are always controversial and science rarely proves anything, it simply offers balances of probability. Nonetheless those who create such horror for the retail trade seem to be allowing their own wounds to crush them. They certainly have a responsibility for the potential negative effects of their work; for the harm it possibly inflicts on the minds of others. We know that people who are subjected to too much gratuitous violence put up a barrier of defense and they become desensitized, a process sometimes known as ‘psychic numbing’. It is not hard to see that the longer-term effects of such material on the general behavior of the human race could be far reaching.
Arun Gandhi travels the world trying to keep alive his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, based on the principles of love and truth. A young teacher in one of Arun’s lectures raised the question of ‘the corrupting effect of violent movies, TV shows and obscene and violent music on the young people in America.’ Should they avoid such things, she asked. This, he replied, placed the cart before the horse. Those who live a life of practicing ‘truthfulness’ would not want to watch or listen to any such media in the first instance.8 But such a noble life is not so easy for many of us to achieve.
gorillas Pictures, Images and PhotosWhen I was a very young girl we had an illustrated nature book at home. Among the photographs was a full page spread of a family of fearsome looking gorillas. They terrified me and made me scream every time I opened the book at that page, but I still insisted on continually going back to that photo! They held a gruesome fascination for me.
Many of us have an almost ghoulish tendency to look at the evil that is around us. We are certainly not very good at protecting ourselves from harmful influences. We therefore have government and industry guidelines that protect us from ourselves! We have rules and regulations that prohibit or restrict certain creative material, such as those that may determine the content and timing of television and radio programs. Films are classified according to their perceived suitability for different audiences. Such rules are often although not exclusively designed to protect the young and vulnerable in our societies.
Of course it is difficult if not impossible for government agencies to restrict what goes on within the confines of our own homes and neither would this be desirable. But it does seem to me that the bar of acceptability seems to be continually and subtly lowered, but perhaps this is a sign of me getting older! Certainly yesterday’s restrictions often seem to have been diluted to the extent that they become today’s standards!
Does it matter?

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