Reflections on Ubiquitous Media Violence, Football Hooligans, JK Rowling and Roald Dahl
The ever-present RMP structures and institutions, which have held it all together, are starting to give way. Our collective sensitivity is on the upswing. Many of us are delving into uncharted territory. This can be confusing and frightening. One thing is certain: An increasing number of people are seeing and feeling the rampant discord that has the world perpetually at the brink of catastrophe (only exacerbated by the unprecedented amounts of intensified and normalized ultra-violent news, films and video games that many of us ingest on a daily basis). Fear is ever-present. Meanwhile, competing studies regularly emerge discussing whether or not our violently-saturated media environment has any impact on our children and society. Only the hyper-rational mindset requires studies to confirm something that is evident to those who have access to their feelings.
Like many of us in the Western world, especially men in the Anglo world, I have absorbed a staggering amount of media content in my life. I am a sports fan, I love movies, including super-hero films, and unfortunately my mobile phone is practically attached to my hand. Until pretty recently, I have been able to experience a wide range of media violence with barely any notable reaction, other than maybe becoming adrenalized. As I’ve allowed feeling back into me, I’m noticing that for the first time in my life I am actually being affected by violence and brutality. I am no longer as comfortably numb as I’ve been. Magnified by the psychological violence of, for example, Boarding School and the Military, our systemic emotional numbing provides us and our children protection from actually feeling and comprehending the perpetual damage we are inflicting on ourselves.
“The typical American [British figures will be similar] child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders before age 18. Television programs display 812 violent acts per hour; children’s programming, particularly cartoons, displays up to 20 violent acts hourly.” “Overall, roughly two out of three video games marketed for general audiences contained violence, and nearly all games marketed for older players do” (Wilson, 2008)… Underage children often play violent video games, even those rated inappropriate for their age group. For example, a 2004 survey of kids in grades 7-12 found that 65% had played the game Grand Theft Auto (KFF, 2005).”
As for video game sales in the UK, outside of FIFA16, practically every other game is non-stop violence, including the ever-increasing place of first-person shooter games in which the player has a weapon and is killing the “enemy” at will. Years ago, the “enemy” in these games were demons and monsters. In a short period of time, they became humans.
Grand Theft Auto (GTA): only in a violence-saturated, empathetically-numbed environment can parents believe that this game is “no big deal” steeped as it is in murder and misogyny. In a strange way, it’s not a big deal because GTA and other violent video games are also simply outgrowths and representations of our RMP society in which violence is completely normalized. So, when we see that many parents condone their child’s playing of GTA, it shouldn’t come as any surprise; including the mental games that are employed to minimize and deny the potential impact. One parent reviewer says, “I think that this game has many violent and awful things, but if your child knows the difference between the game and the real world, they should be fine. My 13 year old son was allowed to get this game because he demonstrated his knowledge that this game is not to be repeated in any way.” Another parent says, “But I believe that apart from it being violent and the language being bad this game is fine for anyone ages 13 and up.” Another parent says, “yes it does have sexual content, although I had found out that you do not HAVE TO go near any of it during the game.” Parenting our children to become kind and compassionate members of society – to seek out the best in themselves – is a monumental challenge for parents who are so submerged in the RMP that we have trouble recognizing that violent media serves to further entrench the already deep-seated lack of empathy that underpins our society.
My nine year old daughter recently attended a two-week film-making camp (made up of an equal number of boys and girls). On the final day, an hour’s worth of their short films (a total of about 20 films) were screened for us parents. The vast majority of the films contained violence, including fighting, murder, horror and even suicide. I kept waiting for just one of the films (made by 8-12 year olds) to explore love or friendship, to tap into the innocence of childhood. Nope. For me, in the midst of writing this piece, it provided yet another transition point as I sat there and witnessed many of the parents laughing along with what we were watching. When the show ended I was in a daze as I walked out listening to the parents congratulating their children. Despite all the violence I am so intimately familiar with, I was suddenly strangely disturbed by watching these children representing, in a twistedly cute fashion, what is dominating their imaginations. It is troubling, though not unexpected, if we take into consideration the acquiescence and participation of the children’s supervisors: a bunch of 20 year old first-year university film students.
Remember when the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange was so outrageous, so absurd in its excess? Remember the scene when the Malcolm McDowell character, Alex, a perfect representation of the RMP run amok, is injected with a drug that makes him terribly nauseous, then has his eyelids forcibly exposed so he can watch a video with endless amounts of cruelty and brutality?
Nowadays, our addictions are Alex’s injected drugs, though our level of disconnect is so severe that we need not be forced to imbibe the ultra-violence of our culture and world. We readily soak it up. As always, Kubrick was ahead of his time. We are all versions of Alex. And we have learned from the very beginning to protect ourselves from our violent world by cutting off from our feelings. It’s the only way to survive the onslaught. Of course, the consequence is that we then have trouble feeling love and community.
This is the bad news; and there’s plenty of it. Are we truly no better than this? Fortunately, and significantly, there is an opposing, and over-arching force that is rapidly coming into play, and its delivery system is the Internet. More of us are choosing to engage with content that connects us with our hearts and with humanity; that makes us laugh; that inspires us; that yearns for community instead of conflict. The inevitability of an the RMP way, that assumes and promulgates the worst in us, is running up against this heart-centred force that is expanding at a rapid pace, and has hitherto largely been unexplored by humans. There is an inverse correlation between further RMP extremity and increased emotional sensitivity. There is a nexus point in there somewhere and we are working our way towards it.
Notwithstanding the ridicule by RMP stalwarts, a tipping point may be in the offing. RMP resistance is understandable and must be met with compassion, keeping in mind that it is not required for the majority to open themselves to this evolution in consciousness.
In fact, despite the terrible state of global affairs, there are many examples of this increased sensitivity. Between 1915 and 1922 it was acceptable for 40,000 British troops to die in Iraq. That would be an impossibility today. In the last 13 years, the combined losses for British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has been less than 500; and yet even these figures have placed incredible pressure on the government and military to justify these deaths.
What will this tipping point look like? I have been asked a number of times recently what will replace the status quo. Well, we are on the cutting edge of something new… we won’t know what it will look like until we’re in it. As Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.” That’s scary for some, and certainly it leaves open the possibility for some terrible things to transpire. Or not .
Which brings us back to Africa. Some will say that the Africans were savages. After all, some of them participated in human sacrifice. That was certainly the case up until the 19th century, but only from a rigid RMP position can the human sacrifice of a tiny number of people justify the murder of hundreds of thousands and millions of Africans.
One of the easiest routes of healing for our planet would be the acknowledgement, and some level of reparations for what has been done in Africa. Until that happens, Britons, and almost everybody else, will continue to drown under the weight of their woefully misguided and ill-informed racism, a major pillar of British culture.
Unless Britons find the wherewithal and the courage to look within, the pattern still rules. This means that you are a grown man, but you likely have the emotional maturity of a traumatized young boy; maybe book smart, maybe not; but probably emotionally stunted. This has been ongoing for centuries, resulting in normalized and systemic betrayal that we cannot recognize because it’s all we’ve ever known. We cannot see the forest for the trees.
Actually, we have so lost the plot that we’re zoomed in on a few particular leaves of only one tree, the big picture sacrificed to the myopia of the Rational Man Project. Does the forest even exist any longer? Has it been relegated to myth? We are divorced from the right-brain, from the heart, too busy defending the fortress to look up and see and feel that just because something has been one way for ages, doesn’t mean there isn’t another way.
But if that ethereal other way entails the possibility of being on the receiving end of ridicule, we’d rather stick with the status quo because that is always preferable to touching into the shame and the pain. In other words, business as usual. As we continue to see, this is disastrous for all citizens.
Hundreds of years of the betrayal of our privileged children via the Boarding experience has not only created a deep-seated, cutthroat environment within the governmental and corporate spheres, but also within the culture at large. The people have always looked to their leaders for guidance and support. We admire them, or more accurately want to admire them. We aspire to their success, position and wealth. Our leaders, whether at home, school, work or government are meant to be our beacons.
Here is the crux of the matter. How on earth can we expect our leaders, generationally steeped as they are in betrayal, not to betray the people? When was the last time in the UK that a leader came into power being liked and respected, and left under the same conditions? It does not and cannot happen within the current framework. Consequently, it only stands to reason that the people are constantly betrayed by government and corporate leaders. Inequality goes up. The negligent and thieving banks are bailed out while the people pay the price through austerity. Institutions that support the people, like the NHS, are constantly undermined. More and more people living with subsistence wages are bearing the brunt of taxation while corporations are allowed to avoid their financial duties with off-shore tax havens. On and on it goes. Long and familiar story.
The people get the shaft. The reason why this doesn’t change is that for those at the top there is genuinely nothing amiss. After all, it’s a dog-eat-dog world they have grown up in. The people will have to battle, just like they’ve been forced to do. Life is not for the faint of heart. Take what’s yours. Defend it with all your might because, guaranteed, someone is going to try to take it away from you. And if you’re not up to the task, then you fall by the wayside. If you’re looking for sympathy, let alone empathy, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Nobody is withholding the empathy. It’s simply not there because it has no place within the Rational Man Project.
With the marginalizing of Spirit in the Anglo world – post Age of Reason – one thing in the modern world more than any other has filled the void for men: Sports. Some sports fans, largely young and middle-aged men, live and die with their teams. The religion is now Football. In the absence of community, once an outgrowth of the Church, they find belonging in their team. They commune with their team. They’re value comes from their team and how their team performs. When they speak of their team they say, “We”.
Unfortunately, in keeping with the chaos of Brexit, desperation has been the main feeling associated with the England football team for quite some time. It’s palpable. The pressure on the players is overwhelming. England have potential but they always manage to disappoint. Isn’t the football team the perfect reflection of working class English society as it stands? Confused and resigned. It is these young men who have the enormous task of providing a winning salve so that, at least for a moment in time, the people can feel some much needed pride and elation; because the fans feel the trials and tribulations of their team as keenly as the players. They come from the same places. Football is one of the few arenas where they, primarily young men, are allowed to feel anything, especially with the lubrication of alcohol; where they can get a small dose of acceptable male camaraderie. This general feeling deficiency is so acute that when it has a chance to surface it is extreme in its manifestation. Winning produces euphoria. Losing, especially on a big stage, is a crushing personal defeat.
When England lose, in true British fashion the fans mercilessly turn on the players – on their own – vicious on social media, heartless by the tens of thousands in the stadium. Why? Because the players got out. They made it but they’re too pathetic to take advantage of it. Too coddled and weak to deliver what the fans expect and NEED. The team has betrayed the fans with their pathetic performance so the fans feel justified in doing this…
This fierce rejection becomes an outlet for the working class fan to project their own feelings of rage and abandonment anywhere but at themselves: at their football team, at immigrants, at authority. To the bully, everything that goes wrong is everybody else’s fault, lashing out at those who dare to fail and make you feel like shit.
Again, how is this different than what is transpiring in the political arena? The players betray the fans by losing. So the fans betray the players by ripping away their support, at least temporarily, until those bastards know what they have done!
So, in the absence of empathy, community, compassion and respect, we are left with betrayal at all levels of our society. The abandonment of the privileged, results in the abandonment of the working class who then take out their frustrations on whoever is most vulnerable around them, especially women and children. Hence, why the British football fans treated those refugee children in France the way they did.
They’re not doing it on purpose; it is because there is an empathetic bankruptcy that imbues the culture both on a personal level and on a state level. State-sponsored racism is cloaked hollow justification that is subservient to a geopolitical calculus that is backed by corporate interests. There is no difference.
The rest of us look at the behaviour of these “hooligans” and condemn it in no uncertain terms, just like we condemn our politicians; wash our hands of these embarrassing fellows who reflect so poorly on us. That’s the key. They are not outliers. They are reflecting us and our culture back to us. This is real reality TV. They shed a humiliating light on us – giving away the family secrets. They are the black sheep of the family, unable to keep up the required pretences. Thus, they must be shunned because their behaviour is apparently not what Britain stands for. Shame! But of course they are exactly what Britain stands for.
We refuse to see it, to accept it. Why? Because we have trouble forgiving ourselves, empathising with ourselves. If we cannot be compassionate with ourselves, how can we give that to others? In the absence of understanding and kindness, the immediate default response is rejection.
In some “primitive” Indigenous cultures when a member of the community transgresses they are not cast out. Instead, they are brought before the community to find out what’s wrong with that person. Our binary, left-brain system only has two settings: Good and Bad. If you’re Bad, you will be punished. End of story. We are unable to see what is glaringly obvious once you notice it: namely, that a person acts out, breaks the law, hurts other people and abuses drugs, when they are in pain; when they have been hurt and betrayed. What do we do in response? We punish that person with further rejection and/or imprisonment. We take people who already feel deep levels of shame and shame them further; publicly humiliate them.
The way forward is to connect to our empathy within, to recognize that no one – NO ONE – is harming other people on purpose. Only someone who has been traumatized can treat other human beings the way that the British fans treated those children (I do not believe in inherently awful or evil people). I feel secure in saying that if someone were to contact one of those drunk British football fans, who treated those refugee children so terribly, and sit down and find out who the man is that, to the extent that he’d be able to share his own story, it would reveal pain and sadness as a result of betrayal. If we saw hidden video of him as a boy we would want to hold the allegedly terrible man and say, “I’m so sorry for what you have endured”. Our compassion would crash through the wall that keeps us from our empathy.
But then aren’t some people simply beyond the pale? Aren’t some people just lost causes, bastards? Our RMP culture, challenged as it is with nuance, can discard people so easily, transform them into Voldemort.
I almost didn’t want to mention JK Rowling and Harry Potter because Ms. Rowling’s life-story and accomplishments are so extraordinary, and she is so renowned, deservedly so, for her philanthropy. The sad reality is that she, like the aforementioned bookseller, is magically unaware of the reality of Boarding School. Before the meteoric success of Harry Potter, the Boarding School industry was at its nadir, with attendance at dangerously low levels. Ms. Rowling’s fantastical depiction of Hogwarts has not only coincided with a huge jump in domestic attendance but also has surely played a role in the top British Boarding Schools opening locations in the Far East and Middle East.
The slogan for JK Rowling’s charity, Lumos, is “Protecting Children. Providing Solutions”. Lumos is charged with improving the plight of orphaned children around the world. Upon light inspection, they appear to do wonderful work. During a live Facebook Live chat, Ms. Rowling, said, “All of the research agrees that there is little you can do worse for a child than put it in an institution”.
But then, isn’t this terribly ironic and confusing? Does she not see the intense overlap between the two institutions, orphanages and Boarding Schools? Maybe she does at this point, maybe she doesn’t. Likely, she’s like most Brits, from all backgrounds, who see Boarding School as just another normal component of our RMP culture.
Like many of us, Ms. Rowling’s past was filled with trauma and betrayal, including an unhappy childhood, her mother suffering and dying from Multiple Sclerosis, a relationship with her father that has left them estranged from each other, a failed four-month marriage and poverty-stricken single motherhood that left her clinically depressed and suicidal. Like Roald Dahl, she wrote fantasy stories from the time she was young, metaphorically playing out the good, bad and the ugly from her life. She knows Voldemort well, as do many humans. Hence, the success of the series.
As always though, material prosperity does not necessarily, or usually, coincide with emotional maturity. As most of us are wont to do when presented with ‘bad’ guys, we feel justified in judging them in the harshest terms – assuming that nothing we say or do against the villain can compare with their treachery. In a RMP binary world, poor Voldemort, conceived as he was via trickery, coercion and a loveless union, was destined for darkness; a worthless baby, a misbegotten child who, once his mother died, was a lost cause; so devoid of love as to be practically inhuman.
Within her writing, Ms. Rowling, who took some years to fill in Voldemort’s backstory, cannot muster an iota of compassion for this poor soul, and the unfathomable suffering he undoubtedly endured in his childhood that turned him into a monster. Or was he a monster to begin with? Are those of us who are borne of the union of two terrible people trapped within that destiny? Should we be written off just like Voldemort was by Ms. Rowling? We do the same thing in the real world, turning traumatized people into inhuman caricatures in order to distance ourselves from their anger and shame that has a home in all of us; that is a by-product of the destructive emotional landscape we are all a part of. All art represents who we are and where we come from. Harry Potter isn’t just a story that has been conjured from nowhere. It represents the inner workings of JK Rowling’s mind and life.
That is where Ms. Rowling’s combativeness and judgment comes from when engaging on social media with people who are worthy of her scorn, such as the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). In response to the WBC threatening to picket a gay union between Dumbledore and Gandalf, Ms. Rowling tweeted, “Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.” Needless to say, it is really easy to poke fun at the WBC; but then how many of us harbour our own prejudices, some that we’re unaware of, and some that we assiduously hide from the world?
The inference is that Voldemort and the WBC are beneath contempt; beyond salvation; beyond love. But what if the only way to possibly get through to extremely traumatized beings, who are overtly and unconsciously taking out their ugly frustrations on others, is via compassionate engagement? Was this attempted with Voldemort? With the WBC? No, because to do so would be to dabble in the darkness, which we’re deathly afraid of. We would be required to believe in love; to believe that life is more than about vengeful counter-attacks and ridiculing retorts that itch an ego scratch that actually taps into the worst in us. But it’s the Westboro Baptist Church! It’s Voldemort for God’s sake!
We scapegoat those who most clearly reveal to us our obscured self-disgust – because we are unable to own it and release it. The question is, do we believe in humanity’s inherent beauty or not? Unfortunately, so many of us are living in a state of collective trauma that when push comes to shove, we reluctantly admit that based on personal and human history, the answer is no; or, I don’t know. It might be on the other side of the wall, but who knows? Who knows is who feels.
Blessings for Ms. Rowling, who is doing nothing more than representing most of us in our RMP world, all within a superbly entertaining package. I understand and empathize with her judgment. Judgment holds a seemingly unassailable position in our world; though the operative word here is ‘seemingly’.
There is a moment in the wonderful new film “The BFG”, based on the book written by Roald Dahl (another Boarding School and Oxford alum) in which, perfectly for my current purposes, the fictional Queen of England pays a lovely compliment to the Big Friendly Giant. His eyes well up instantly. He asks if she’s really talking about him. Receiving confirmation, he is overwhelmed. You see, the BFG is as old as the world and his constant companions have been a bunch of other Giants who are much larger than him and have bullied him mercifully for eons. It’s all he has ever known. So, when he receives love, he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself, but he likes it.
All any of us want is acknowledgment. How much acknowledgment and acceptance is occurring in this culture? On the contrary, how much bashing, undermining and rejection is taking place?
From his autobiography, it is clear Roald Dahl had a horrendous time at Boarding School. Without doing further research, it feels like Dahl is the BFG and the other Giants are the boys at school, making him feel small, terrorizing him. How did he survive Boarding School? Probably by living in his imagination and by hoping against all hope.
To the football fan, bless you. To David and Boris and Donald, bless you. What we judge them for is being their traumatized little boy – and that boy is running the adult – in them and most of us. That’s hard to do and so we constantly screw up – waiting for something that doesn’t seem to be coming; that doesn’t seem like it exists. Acknowledgment. Love.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
You can read more of his work at: www.empathyrising.com.
Here are the other sections of this work:
Boarding School: An Invitation to Dig Deeper – Part 3 – Reflections on David Cameron and Boris Johnson: Boarding School, Systemic Betrayal and the Subjugation of the Feminine as Outgrowths of The Age of Reason
Boarding School: An Invitation to Dig Deeper – Part 7 – Reflections on Donald Trump, Ridicule as a National Pastime, The Sheer Scale of Humanity’s Endless Trauma, The Continuation of Global British Influence and the Troubling Legacy of Winston Churchill
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