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Editor's note: The recent death of a homeless man in New York who saved a woman from mugging — and bled out on the street as onlookers did nothing to help him — left many asking questions. Why would no one help him? Has modern entertainment left us desensitized? Some even questioned if the violence in movies and video games played a role in it. Stojan points out that violence is part of human nature — and that instead of assigning blame, we should look at ourselves. -Jason
Get ready for another finger-pointing episode of "Blame the Media! Blame Video Games!" — this time in real life!
The story featured in this CNN video represents the disgusting, inexcusable, and downright confusing side of humanity. Call it what you want — bystander syndrome, or desensitization to violence — but to walk by a bleeding man on the ground and not ask to help or assist in some way is downright sick. In the video, some walk by and not even so much as glance. Some stand by him, and some kneel down to see what's wrong with him — and then promptly walk away.
Why did this have to happen? Why did over a dozen people leave this man to die on the sidewalk (not to mention the woman he saved…where was she!?)?
It's got to be the video games. Video games and fictional media, according to print and television journalists, have desensitized us to violence, and they have in turn made us violent. When we see a bleeding man on the street, you can thank Resident Evil for killing your perception of blood and gore. You can thank all of those horror movies you've watched, too, for killing your sympathy for people who've been stabbed. When you see a man walk into an Army recruiting center and shoot up the place, you can thank Grand Theft Auto for encouraging his urge to kill.
But all of that finger-pointing ignores that violence has been a staple humanity for nearly all of our existence. In Ancient Greece, children were bred from birth to fight, kill, and slaughter.
They must have spent a lot of time playing hack-n-slash games.
Let's not forget the centuries-long battles of the Crusades, where millions of people fought over land rights and religious beliefs. Assassin's Creed must have sold a lot of games back then.
Now let's sit back and think about why this event happened in New York. A few arguments come into play, some of which this interview mentions.
People are desensitized to violence. NYC is a big city, and it has had its fair share of violence (the World Trade Center bombing in '93, 9/11, the recent Staten Island crash, etc.). Does this mean that this exposure to violence has killed New Yorkers' sense of humanity and helpfulness? The sight of a man dying on a street is commonplace in many other parts of the world (go to Karachi, Pakistan, and see how tough your hood is). Do you think the entire world has succumbed to a media frenzy of fictional violence and chaos? Do you think Taliban soldiers are avid Call of Duty players? Do you think the stabber in NYC has a high kill ratio in Battlefield 2?
We are desensitized to violence because it's in our nature. When we see images of real-world violence, most of us don't react. Video games aren't the cause of this.
It's a different society now. Yeah, we've all heard this one before. Do
we care to go back to one of my original points: that in many cultures, not just ancient ones, violence was commonplace? Especially for the youth. Fathers trained their sons to be killers the moment they developed the dexterity to hold a sword and shield (or whatever their culture's weapon of choice was). Even now, in some areas of the world, fathers still raise their children to fight.
One would think that in our society, a culture in which we consider ourself "enlightened," we wouldn't be desensitized to something such as a man dying on the street because we don't grow up around violence. This is wrong. Remember, it's part of human nature to ignore violence.
You can watch a horror movie, or play Left 4 Dead, and see gallons and gallons of blood, but when you see it in real life, you can't stand the sight of it. You can have 4,000 kills on Modern Warfare 2, but if someone gave you a gun and said "Shoot that guy," would you? Or better yet, could you?
This is a different story if you witness violence in real life. Rampant violence exists in hot spots such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt, and yet are we going to go out on a limb and say "Marilyn Manson is the cause of all this violence!!"
We've got many more arguments against video games and fictional media influencing our violent behavior. We in the United States, as well as many other countries with similar freedoms, should be so lucky. That we have freedom of religion, when other countries kill each other because they are a different religion, should grant us peace of mind.
So when we see something on video like this, we shouldn't stop and point fingers at the easy targets: video games and the media. We should stop to think about each person's upbringing and what traits and values they hold dear. Video games and media cannot alter who you are. Any psychologist worth their license will tell you that. Your upbringing can alter you. What you witness in real life, before your very eyes, can change you. Call of Duty cannot train you to be a killer.
And instead of someone telling you who to blame, why don't you pick up a book or a newspaper and find out for yourself what's really to blame. Not so easy, is it?