Beyond the Cusp

January 11, 2013

My Last Reasoning on the Root of Our Violence Culture

The first thing I have noticed is that every side of the debate is blaming every other side instead of doing any self-inspection. Perhaps if some of the energies and efforts being applied to deflect any responsibility for the documented recent violence in our society, it might be better invested by turning it inward and seeking what each of us and every segment of our society can accomplish to repair the broken people and the broken societal functions that have collapsed rather than stand and deflect the problem. The first hint is that Government is not going to repair this as they may be at the real root of the problem with their replacement and funding of a Nanny State which has taken over the functions in society by replacing parents with childcare and school systems, replacing religious assistance with Government programs, replacing youth organizations with after school activities, and replacing the one stay at home parent, be they the father or the mother, with almost a forced need for two salary families through high taxation and the encouragement of a consumer based society instead of a value based society. But what about the different groups and what part do they really play?

The ever so blamed and presumed evil gun lobby is always the first to be brought to the fore whenever there is one of these tragedies. Their defense that guns do not kill people, people kill people is as valid a point as any given by any of these groups to excuse any responsibility they may carry. I will grant that it would make firearms more expensive initially but there is a solution that would make the handgun or rifle nothing but a club if stolen or attempted to be used by any unauthorized individual. What I am talking about is the smart gun which has a bio-reader built in to the trigger which is keyed to only those approved by the owner to be able to fire the weapon. The argument that no such function can be installed into firearms that would survive the impacts of firing the firearm is ridiculous. When we can send vehicles to Mars and bounce them onto the surface or fire military rounds with cameras and guidance systems which work after the shock of being fired or launched but we cannot build into a firearm a trigger system, really?

The movie and entertainment industry is another and let’s leave video games out for special consideration later in the article. We will simply talk about movies and, ever more often, television shows, especially on cable and satellite. The excuse we often hear is that they have made numerous movies which are explosion and violence free and they always completely fail. I would be willing to bet that they fail in the theaters but do quite well once they make it on to HBO, pay for view, Netflix, or other mass distribution venues. One reason behind this is that the vast majority of movie goers are teens and young adults and not so much young families. One of the reasons for this is the price forces families to take the less expensive view at home option while by watching it at home they do not have to view violent previews. The other truth is that the road to the levels of violence we have witnessed is also influenced by these movies and television shows with a reality factor that makes it indiscernible from actual real world events. If Hollywood is to return to what is often referred to as a more moral and nonviolent fare, it will take at least the same amount of time, possibly longer. The warning to Hollywood is that you may not continue to be forever in with the politicians in Washington or in the State Capital. There may come a day when the politicians will no longer be enamored with you and may finally listen to the public who will still be demanding responsible limits to be placed on the entertainment industry. Trust me when I tell you that you would be much better served to manage yourselves and not continue to push a larger segment of the population than you appear to realize to finally demand actions to force change and limits on your industry.

The video games industry is quite possibly in a difficult position because it can likely be proven that first person shooter games if made too real-life-like depictions of violence, killing, and general mayhem actually do desensitize vulnerable individuals who may have other problems and are far more impressionable making them particularly susceptible to such influences turning them into stark raving mad murderous lunatics. Granted that the average youth can play these games, possibly endlessly, and never have even the slightest urge to go out and shoot up the neighborhood or whatever. But, as is often said, it only takes one out of a million to really ruin your day if that individual is set off near you. The problem is that these first shooter games are using a proven method which has been utilized by the Military and law-enforcement personnel to desensitize their numbers so that when the time comes, they will be less likely to freeze and instead will react taking shooting a person and equating it with shooting silhouettes as they have been trained. Perhaps the video game industry could adopt some alteration to the first person shooter games which would remove a measure of the real feel and graphics such that there is a disconnect between the video shooting victim and a real world shooting victim. Many of the first person shooter games now have such high definition and extensive algorithms that they can approach realistic visuals even to the point of allowing for differences between each shot and other such minutia which add to the real feeling of the game. Such detail is not necessary for the function or scoring of the game but has been driven by a demand for more realism. Perhaps the makers can decide among themselves before they are forced by the heavy hand of Government to take a step back and make an alteration or substitution that allows for just that amount of unrealistic depiction that it removed the ease of linking the game to reality.

Lastly, the real root of the problem which is seldom considered the role of Government. The largest factor which has changed from the supposed times before these mass murders were seemingly almost a common and repeated problem is that we no longer have as many live and work at home parents. The loss of an at home parent does make a difference and there are endless studies which have measured numerous different deficiencies and problems resultant from the two working parent family. The people who point out that a large part of the problem is due to our consumer lifestyle are not entirely on target as with newer technologies the consumerism has become affordable or at least more affordable at levels much higher than simply fifty years ago. The largest and most damning of the stay at home parent has been the cost of Government. All one needs to observe is the tax rates from then and now. Taxes, fees and licensing were well under twenty percent of an employee’s salary when everything is taken into consideration. Even if you pay no income tax and just pay all the other forms of tax, such as FICA, and have to pay sales taxes, property taxes, licensing, fees, and other miscellaneous money snatching mechanisms that fund our over-bloated Government, your payments to fund government is still very likely close to double that of your grandparents paid. By comparison to the investment, as the politicians like to euphemistically refer to their robbery, your ancestors paid; you are very likely paying so much more that a second income is necessary for you to earn a comparable salary and have equal purchasing power as your ancestors.

Further proof of this symptom that has altered our society and allowed for Government to become a full partner in parenting can be found in numerous studies which have been published and then ignored over the last fifty plus years. That is another part of the voiceless conspiracy that has made the demands of affording government and raising a family so demanding that who has time to notice much of anything, which is exactly the point. Perhaps we would be better off with far less government and having those in need of our society again be cared for by volunteers and not by a Government licensed employee. Just maybe things were better when those who cared for the special needs of our neighborhoods and communities were from among those neighborhoods and communities and not sent by Government with a briefcase and a thousand forms which mostly were used to prove that the government employee was necessary. Has surrendering our freedoms to care for those among us to the Government really proven to work that well? The fact we are asking the questions after tragedies at a disturbing rate is all the proof we need.

Beyond the Cusp

April 22, 2011

Another Blind Study on Bullying

The White House with the U.S. Department of Education recently held an in-depth forum to draw attention to national, state and local efforts to curb the growing problem of bullying. A study by researchers at Simmons College published in the Journal of Children and Media was utilized as the core study for information on aspects behind bullying. One of the assumptions agreed upon was that bullying has become a far more pervasive problem than in previous generations and that the degree of violence has also reached new and startling heights. There was contention on whether violent video games were a strong driving factor of increased violence and bullying with one group noting that most children who play these games are not drawn into violence or bullying while another group claimed that use of these violent video games was prevalent in the lives of those children who were responsible for much of the violence and bullying. My feelings is that claiming that violent video games or violence in the entertainment industry and other equally presumed culpable examples of violence in recreational venues is responsible for increased violence and bullying is similar to claiming that drinking milk leads to drug use as virtually all kids using drugs started by drinking milk. Those making the violence they see causes the violence they do are seeking an easy target on which to lay blame rather than examining the real problems in society that contribute to these problems.

I know what you’re saying, “OK Beyond the Cusp, what are the reasons according to you for this situation?” Well, to start with, one of the problems is the considerably higher tax rates existing today compared to forty or fifty years ago. Due to these higher tax rates, we now have a situation where the vast majority of middle income and lower income families require both parents to have jobs. Basically, as an old complaint goes, one parent supports the family while the other parent pays the government. This leads to not having one parent able to be home when the children are home which leads to unsupervised time where children are more likely to act differently than if a parent were home. Another problem is many people are working longer hours which leave them somewhat exhausted when they finally get home. In our major cities you can add an additional thirty minutes to sometimes over an hour in heavy and stressful traffic getting home. None of these factors lend themselves to allowing for as much quality time between parents and children, a factor that very well affects the children’s behavior.

On another front, where years ago the majority of families attended a Church, Synagogue, Temple, or other religious institution at least once a week for services. These services always included a sermon that often would set forth standards of behavior for living a better life in harmony with others and would warn against bad behavior such as bullying. Children were sent to religious classes where these ideals of behavior were reinforced. No matter how much some may say that this really was not what made a difference, look where the worst behavior exists in our society and you find empty Churches, Synagogues, Temples, and other religious sanctuaries while where bullying and violent behavior is not as prevalent the Churches, Synagogues, Temples, and other religious sanctuaries are filled each weekend. Building a good moral structure in children from a young age, something religious institutions are extremely adept at providing, gives the children a strong foundation which they can rely upon when faced with choices and which is very likely to affect their behavior and steer them away from bullying or other violent actions.

If we, as a country, truly are concerned for our children, then we need to shift much of our societal focus and allow for natural things to guide our youth onto a more respectful and productive path. The first step is to end our societal war on religion and allow religion back into the mainstream of our lives. Put an end to this obsession to remove all religious symbols from our sight. As a Jew, I am not offended in the slightest by a Christmas tree or a Nativity Scene placed in the town square or decorating the police station and fire house with lights. We need to return to a society that rejoices in religious principles that were the basis for the founding of this nation. There is no harm done to have a choir singing Carols using the courthouse steps on Christmas Eve, and if such does offend one, then do not go and listen to them. The war on religion is also a war on our children and the moral fiber of our society. Those who will cry out that religion is not necessary for one to have a moral fiber, I say, true, so very true, but for the majority of us who may have weakness and need a little help and support, religion is so very vital and if you value a moral society, then allow us our crutch.

As far as the taxation dilemma that has robbed children of having one parent home after the school day, that will take a while to repair. Believe it or not, religion also plays a major role in reducing our taxes. We do not need the government to provide the safety net for those who might fall through the cracks or find themselves in rough times. This was originally the purview of our religious institutions. After school activities were originally supervised by mom or dad, whichever parent was able to be home for the children. Somewhere in the last quarter to half century the government decided that it could do better at taking care of those needful of a hand up and were better suited to be the parent for our children with after school programs. They were wrong and we were wrong to allow them to take these things into their hands and then take so much more of our money to pay for their wasteful programs addressing these so-called problems. Let us give taking care of the needy back to the religious institutions that handled this function for centuries and did so with true affection rather than as a cold government bureaucrat. Who is better suited and would take more interest in supervising your children, some after-school care facility employee or a parent? The world somehow operated fairly well without the government replacing our religious institution or taking over the responsibility of raising and supervising our children. Let us go back to these old ways that not only took care of these societal problems and responsibilities, but did so with compassion and enthusiasm that could never be equaled by the average government employee. And even better, allowing the private sector represented by religious institutions and parents to care for our needs has been proven to be fiscally efficient compared to the government. We can have our communities, religious institutions and parents take gentle care with enthusiasm and compassion for less cost or allow government to take responsibility, replacing communities, religious institutions and parents, with higher costs and all the tenderness and compassion of the IRS. You choose.

Beyond the Cusp

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