Where is the logic in the horror that happened this week in Denver?
There is a logic, despite all appearances to the contrary. It is the cold and fatuous logic of the Duke Nukem, Mortal Kombat, Quake and Battlezone addicted child/adult. The logic that can solve difficult puzzles to progress through a game or a storyline while inflicting inventive, graphic (and viscerally satisfying) violence upon various characters along the way, without once considering whether there is a moral aspect to the proceedings.
There are analogies which can be drawn between every generation that has objectified and glorified violence through song and story, ancestral reminiscence and parental approval of violent myth. I have spent a part of my life within a societal myth form which praised the men who made a "blood sacrifice" and sought an end to perceived injustice through the use of firepower and eulogy. At times in my rearing I often fantasised about fighting with the "old" IRA during the War of Independence as per the old rebel songs that were churned out at every family gathering. Conversely (and with no consciousness of the irony) I would also imagine myself killing "Jerry's" as the Allied soldiers in my WWII Battle/Action comic books were wont to do in every frame.
I was lucky. I had a warm and stable family structure and a strong sense of the reality of violence (as regularly transmitted through the revulsion of public reaction to frequent terrorist atrocities in the North of Ireland). This would have ensured that any frustrations I experienced as an angst ridden youth never manifested themselves any more severely than through the occasional punch-up in school.
Now we have a generation to whom the reality of violence has been rendered into 3 dimensional hexagonal reality courtesy of Apogee, 3D Realms, and a host of other ingenious computer games manufacturers. This reality has none of the anguish; agony; humiliation or betrayal of "real" violence, but in its na´ve brutality it gradually erodes the sense of pity, compassion, and rationality that most children possess inherently. Together with saturation coverage on the 24 hour TV channels of occurrences of human bestiality, and prime time aberrations like "South Park" et al, the culture to which our children have been exposed for the past fifteen years has taken violence to the core of its existence. This culture has been rendered into a "McDonalds of the 5 senses". A bland, utterly accessible, totally acceptable and compelling lifestyle choice. And like the food products of that global company, requiring a completely atrophied taste to assimilate.
Once, I made the mistake of letting my four year old daughter sit on my lap and press the CTRL key to fire a weapon in a game of Duke Nukem. I vividly remember that the scene was set in a supermarket, with some superbly well rendered aliens (read "othernesses") rampaging through the aisles. While I manipulated the cursor keys and led the eponymous hero through the game map, Emily dispensed with any attackers that popped up from behind the shelves. She became very good, very quickly. After ten minutes or so of this I suddenly caught onto a sense of what I was doing and quickly exited the game. My daughter was miffed, but seemed to quickly get over her annoyance.
A few days later as we drove out of our avenue we saw a car with its windshield broken, courtesy of some local petty thief. Emily asked me who had done such a thing. My off-hand reply was "The bold boys" (our family's equivalent of "Gremlins" - a catch all phrase). I waited for her ritual reply of "I hope their Mummies send them to bed". Instead, to my shock I heard "You'll shoot them with your gun won't you Daddy?".
It took quite a while for me to explain to my little girl that guns were not things that Daddy would use against people. Time and time again I have revisited this theme at the least excuse, to try and supplant the imagery that in a moment of unthinking, irresponsible parenting I had allowed to become implanted in my little one's mind.
I cannot imagine the agonies of the parents of those boys who carried out the slayings in Colorado. I can however imagine their endless agonised dissection of every moment that can be recalled of their rearing of those boys. Time and again, hour by hour, day by day, until the miserable conclusion of their destroyed lives. I pray for them tonight. I hope that reflection upon the causes of this appalling event might bring many parents to a single, simple conclusion:
Violence breeds violence. There is no way to break that cycle but to remove, not only the means, but the examples, from our children's lives, for as long as is not only humanly but parentally (for we parents often do quite superhuman things for our children!) possible. Let me say, if I as a parent choose to use whatever means are at my disposal to regulate what my child experiences while she is in my care, I do not consider that "censorship". When she is eighteen she may do what she pleases. Until then I will play Cerberus at the gates of her fragile Self.
Start a petition at your website Jonathan. For real parenting. For the removal of the means of destruction from the hands of society. For the removal of the examples of aberrant behaviour that are drip-fed every day into the passive minds of our "wired" youth. Send it to your President when you have a million names and e-mail addresses. Apparently he has got a set of gonads. Let us see if he can display them in a positive fashion.