Before I begin, I believe I ought to clarify something.
In this post, I’m going to be addressing the issues of hardship and tragedy and our responses to both of these things as a culture. Naturally none of this is meant to rob any gravity from Friday’s events- pain is, as always, pain. Any and all criticism here is directed strictly at hypocrisy, not sorrow.
There is a scene in season 2 of AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead, in which one of the group’s children goes missing and the other is [accidentally] shot and badly injured- both of which are bad things even without the ongoing zombie apocalypse. After managing to stabilize the boy, his mother begins questioning whether or not her son would be better off dead, rather than going on living the horrific and nightmarish existence life had become. Her exact words went as follows:
Why do we want Carl to live in this world? To have this life? So he can see more people torn apart in front of him? So he can be hungry and scared for however long he has before he…
So he can run and run and run and run and- and even if he survives he winds up- just another animal who doesn’t know anything other than survive…
Now whether or not you’re familiar with the series, this scene will still probably get a reaction out of you. Horror, perhaps, at how vile life must be for a mother to suggest her son dying would be a better alternative. Pity, maybe, for a person so driven and desperate.
Or, if you’re like me, utter indignant rage.
Let’s take a look at that soliloquy again. What’s the criteria this person puts on a life so awful it might as not be lived? Constant hunger, constant fear, and exposure to violence. In other words, the life of the majority of men, women, and children on this planet since the dawn of time.
And what’s her description of people who live this life? Oh, right- animals.
What really gets me is that this (almost certainly) wasn’t meant to portray Lori as the vicious, self-pitying hypocrite that she came across as. Someone- nay, a whole line of writers and editors and censors- let that whole speech slide on the basis that it’d portray the character as sympathetic and troubled. And it’s this twisted attitude towards life that I want to address.
Early in the summer, I wrote a post on the need to portray graphic violence in media– especially in regards to war. I argued that our distance from the conflicts the US was engaged in made war too easy to ignore. The lack of the presence of violence, or our understanding of the consequences, made it all cheap and trite. Really this problem exists not only with violence, but with every aspect of our alienated society. We love beef, but how many of us could actually kill a cow? I’m not talking about hunting one down using nothing but a smooth rock, I’m just talking about simply ending one’s life. Could you do it? If not, I submit that you shouldn’t have a right to eat beef or wear leather.
Take a look at this cartoon.
Hard to argue with that, huh? Just as you shouldn’t be able to eat meat if you’re unwilling to kill the animal, you really shouldn’t be able to buy clothes and shoes unless you are personally willing to oversee the sweatshops in which they’re made. One way or another, you shouldn’t be able to reap the benefits of something without being at least capable of getting your hands dirty- and nowhere does that apply more than perhaps our government.
You might be familiar with the famous scene from Fahrenheit 9/11, in which Michael Moore attempts to pass out army recruitment flyers to members of congress (not surprisingly, most duck the offer). These people who were more than willing to send other people’s kids out to die in the desert suddenly found themselves far less eager when in the same situation- one congressmen protesting that his son had kids of his own (after all, all soldiers are childless and single).
And before any liberal readers get too smug, you’re far from exempt either. After the tragic mass murder in Newtown on Friday, I came back from work to find a letter in my inbox from a progressive organization I’ve signed petitions with before. “Act now!” they cried, “Demand gun control!”. This from the same people who bombarded me with pleas to re-elect President Obama, author and owner of a freaking “kill list“, to say nothing of his administration’s shoot-first-and-suppress-questions-later policy with drone strikes, and the “operation fast and furious” debacle.
Now all of this is just to demonstrate the social pathology this culture is suffering from.It’s not that we’re involved in countless injustices (that’s all bad in and of itself, but it’s not the point right here)- it’s that we have the gall to act hurt, or shocked, or horrified. Injustice is not greater for having finally happened to you. Pain and suffering don’t intensify based on their proximity to you. If you won’t cry out over the violence overseas, what right do you have to cry out over the violence at home? What right does a person have to feel depressed about cyber-bullying when he’s wearing a shirt made by an eight year old? If you shrug your shoulders, stick your hands in your pocket, and walk off whistling when you’re told about homelessness in India, what right do you have to complain about mortgage payments in Indiana? Let’s cut the narcissism, shall we?