, Newburyport, MA


June 19, 2013

Extent of violence is horrifying

Having passed the ripe, old, possibly over-ripened age of 80, I find the world I live in seeming increasingly incomprehensible. The problem is violence. Not so much its existence! An even cursory perusal of the history of our world or our country makes it quite obvious that violence has been continuously endemic, sometimes condoned or even fomented by institutions that we would expect to eschew such things.

The United States long had a place to send potentially violent people through its nearly continuous series of skirmishes, wars, police actions and interventions, but in my lifetime, at least, the various legal, judicial and reportorial institutions did not openly condone violence. Around the turn of the last century, prize fighting was illegal in Massachusetts and it was prosecuted along with cock fights, dog fights and other such violent pastimes.

Eventually, prizefighting was legalized, but there was a set of rules that were generally enforced to restrict the degree of injury inflicted. Professional wrestling also had rules that were intended to limit mayhem. I recently, while switching channels, observed a bit of what now is considered acceptable in such professional matches. It may be exciting to some — I find it to be horrifying. There is an abundance of medical evidence revealing the consequences of repeated insults to the head and body, yet nothing is done to minimize the consequences.

The difficulty with continual exposure to violence is that it gradually accustoms one to its presence. The same is true of violent computer games. It is incomprehensible to me that our society has come to condone events that would have been severely condemned and sometimes severely punished just a few decades ago. Our society has a twisted view of what is acceptable and what is desirable. People are richly rewarded and lionized for activities that are essentially trivial, while those that engage in socially important activities are poorly compensated and largely ignored.


Ron Irving lives in Amesbury.

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