A couple of things have come up in the media recently that have led me to consider and question the civility of the “civilized” world. The realities of living in a society with more information at our fingertips than any other generation lends itself to all kinds of abuses. But what I have seen in the past couple of days highlights a problem that I have not been able to name.
So I will try to describe the problem and you see if you can give me a title for it. The first incident, is the awareness that news sources have boasted a live video feed from Ferguson, MO allowing live coverage of the riots. Just click a link on your computer and you get the opportunity to maybe see something go down!! In the name of ever present news, we can be informed up to the moment with live coverage of evil events.
The second event is the gruesome and horrendous video of the beheading of an American journalist. Obviously, the production of this video is not a direct result of Western culture, but the availability of it is. I believe the video has now been taken down, but grotesque, macabre, and violent videos are readily available all over the interwebs.
Youtube can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a voyeuristic place for skin, humor, violence, or any bizarre mix of anything in between (even cats!).
My conclusion is that there is an prevalent connectedness to world events, violence, and bizarre news that incites curiosity for unhealthy things in the average American. I remember watching a video shot in the back room of a convenience store as a tornado ripped through. Everybody survived. And I was moved to tears as I watched people, pray, confess wrongs, ask for forgiveness, cry out in fear, and clearly anticipate their own death. There was something uncomfortable about being included in that moment. It felt like a removing of the dignity of those people that felt no less voyeuristic than if they had removed their clothing. I regret watching it. I cannot define what was wrong about watching it. I cannot put a word on it. But it seems like it has something to do with dignity, the image of God, the sanctity of life, and the right to privacy all being shattered by an intrusive voyeurism.
Can you think of a title for this problem? Have you ever identified a line of discomfort in the intrusion of video into the personal lives of others? I look forward to your interaction on this!
With the boom in media an interesting thing happened. The public began to feel part of the story. When things happened people began to experience them personnally as if it was happening to them. Now with the ability for the consumer of media to provide input into media throough Facbook, Youtube and the likes we are furthering our narcissism.
We are now the stars. Everyone wants to know what we are doing or saying and where we are going. This is also why so many people want to hear and see those private moments; like the 911 call, the video of those people waiting for the tornado. That is how so many experience the media. If it’s not about them, they aren’t interested.
It’s unfortunate, but I think that the word that you may be looking for is narcissism.
How about MORBID CURIOSITY? And it feels bad to watch it because it isn’t …TRUE, NOBLE, RIGHT, PURE, LOVELY, ADMIRABLE, EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY (Phil 4:8).
I am fascinated by your comparison of our ingestion of internet media to the colosseum. That strikes a painful chord. After I was taught about the Roman colosseum as a child, I often wondered how people could watch, with seemingly no affect, the death and torture of other animals and humans. How warped would you have to be? I wondered. How desensitized, how disconnected, how cruel, how blind?
I have given some thought to your question about the word. Voyeurism is possibly a great word. To see but not be seen. To indulge with little to no ramifications on social life – that no one knows you are watching and therefore cannot respond in chastisement, horror, or otherwise. This led me to the word objectification. To make a subject as an object by treating it like an object by removing the element of intelligence – the ability to feel (pleasure or pain) or remember (wrongdoing) or communicate these things – or simply ignoring the element of intelligence. We watch another with empathy, perhaps, for the situation, but it is more like a simulation to us. A false running of emotions used not to energize us to act on that persons behalf but merely for our amusement. Ron suggested narcissism, and this may be something that fuels objectification.
More personally, as one concerned with stories and storytelling, I have struggled with the line of what is proper to retell in stories. What language, violence, evils do we dare repeat on the page? An English professor once told me that she evaluated the content of a story – be it movie, book, drama, etc. – based on the gratuity of the content. Did the content serve a purpose greater than itself? Were the Evils recounted for the betterment of the community, or were the evils reveled in for the enjoyment of self?
Your example about the tornado video reminds me of this question about recounting evils. Sometimes, I have felt the way you felt when I’ve read a really hard novel. These books had a purpose such as speaking against social evils (such as racism, sexual assault, mental illness, etc.), but I still felt wonky after reading them, like I shouldn’t have experienced it. It is an issue of intimacy. The intimate that becomes public loses its intimacy (consider the publicizing of conversations through gossip or sex through pornography). It becomes territory for all, not special or revered between a limited number.
But some intimacies must be uncovered. The ramifications of objectification and hidden sin is isolation. We stop interacting with the world as subjects and begin to transform people into objects, things that cannot love of back, forgive us back, return back anything because an object has no will. The cure to this isolation is confession. Here, the seen regains speech and voice. The seer gains substance to be known and understood. Confessing sins rebuilds broken community. This inherently requires some breaking of secrecy/intimacy, although it does not have to be with everyone. Community wrong doings will have to be revealed to a greater number and corrected, but without confession, victims of communal evils cannot be given haven because no one has acknowledged that wrong has been done to them.
Some evils – war, tornadoes, etc. – may not always need to be revealed over and over again. Controlled revelation, with a guide to help one process the emotions caused by the revelation, may be one way to healthfully deal with the viewing of evils. Otherwise, evil becomes entertainment. For the thrill; for emotions, feel goods and feel bads. Debauchery, voyeurism, objectification, and narcissism.