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April 10, 2013 at 10:59 AMComments: 18 Faves: 1

Something Old, Nothing New

By E.M. Wollof from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Spawn Point Blog Series

On April 4th, 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein addressed a gathering of 500 in San Fransisco, speaking on the abuse of Congress by the NRA and violence in video games. She went on to comment that video games play "a very negative role for young people, and the industry should take note of that. If Sandy Hook doesn't do it, if the knowledge of these video games this young man played doesn't, then maybe we have to proceed, but that is in the future."

The future she is speaking of would involve the government taking a much more active role in determining what content makes it to the public.

My Sympathies

Let me say first that I get it. As an American citizen, I understand looking at the faces of innocent lives lost in school shootings and yearning for an answer as to why these things had to something1happen. I understand the natural urge to pull those closest to you under the umbrella of your courage and righteous indignation. I understand the immediate need to seek out those responsible and bring them to justice. I understand all of this and I sympathize with those who feel these feverish emotions.

We are a people of immediate action. Long forgotten are the drawn out discussions on proper action and responsibility to the truth. We trust our instincts in matters of the heart, such as the death of innocent children. We grieve publicly so that our leaders may see our pain and take measures to ensure that we never feel like this again. Forget public opinion polls and hefty legislative ideals, let our pain speak for the retribution that lies within.

I get it, but I can not agree with it.

Something Old, Nothing New

Turn the clock back a little over a century and we begin to see the emergence of ragtime, jazz, and blues music. To many, these new musical genres were the product of an entity with a less than reputable origin story. With lyrical content laden with sadness at life's ever evolving ways to keep you under foot, and music that caused provocative gyrations in its listeners, the burgeoning culture was scary and threatening to the established ruling class. The controlling body of that time took charge and banned the music in all forms, and the purveyors of said music. This wasn't much of a stretch for them, seeing as how a vast majority of these musicians were seen as slaves in the very near past.

Despite this earnest fear in which the ruling class approached this new style of music, I still fell in love with Miles Davis and played the trumpet for many of my formative years. Scandalous, I know, but indicative of the staying power that innovative art forms can have despite the backlash at their supposed effect on the masses.

Fast forward to the 1920's and film is now on the chopping block. Those moving images and something2provocative story lines are causing serious civil unrest (never mind the economic collapse, look here good people!). Amidst on and off screen nastiness, the film industry reaches for a man by the name of Hays, a Presbyterian preacher man at that. Hays goes on to put down some guidelines on what is "acceptable" for the silver screen, known as the Hays Code. It is important to note that the film industry chose this man to create regulation for them, they did not capitulate to government rule.

Add another few decades to the clock and we come back around to music. The 1960's and 1970's were a time of massive musical creativity, free love, and epic, mind expanding drugs. Social change was thick in the air, evoking, once again, fear in the ruling class. They scream of moral responsibility, of obligation to deity and country, of what it means to "grow up" and get a haircut. They did what they could at the time, banning in certain places, prohibiting live performances in others, culminating in pointed fingers and little stickers to advise parents. Kudos, wise and all-powerful moral majority.

In that same time period we find novels like The Catcher in the Rye being denied to youth and teachers being viciously raked across the coals for even mentioning it in lesson plans. A champion of the counter-culture, John Lennon, was killed by a man carrying the novel with the words, "Dear Holden Caulfield, From Holden Caulfield, This is my statement" inscribed upon an inside cover. Death always has a way of driving these points home, no?

Now, bravely we push into the nineties for the next in our generations of social change (late adopters, please take note of the distinct pattern emerging). The video game industry is flying high on the wings of console sales and major publisher dealings. Games like Mortal Kombat are taking full advantage of newly developed graphics and the ruling class once again needs a scapegoat for the civil unrest of "their" youth. Grunge rock bears much of this burden as they were less than shy in hiding their disdain for authority or their wanton disregard for drug restriction. Tsk, Tsk free thinkers.

something3As you may recall from the film industry segment, an industry under duress can avoid "direct" government involvement by proving that they can police themselves effectively. Enter the ESRB for the gaming industry. The Entertainment Software Rating Board acts as hand holder for all consumers in the purchasing process. They hand out a rating and detail, in very clear terms, how that rating came about. VERY CLEAR TERMS (looking at you parental units). They also handle privacy terms and marketing material for the U.S. and Canada.

The ESRB is a must for any game developer that wants to break into the mainstream. Both the stores and the consoles reject most games that don't have the label. If they don't, then it is bye, bye business.


Circular Lack of Logic

Here we are again, on the cusp of social change, civil unrest in all corners of the civilized world, violence prevalent in our communities, economic failures imminent, education systems in shambles, individuality near death, and again we look to point the finger.

The video game industry is no longer the underground champion it once was, but now is the largest entertainment industry in the world. I have to admit, it doesn't get much easier than pointing at the gigantic elephant in every room. But, that is the point is it not? For centuries our "civilized" society has heaped the blame upon the popular artistic industry alive at the time because it is much easier than coming to terms with who we are as a species.

As soon as the Sandy Hook tragedy happened, gun manufacturers and video game developers looked to the gallows in anticipation, knowing the tiny minds of the ruling class would manipulate the ignorance of the masses into yet another flash mob. It was let slip that the Sandy Hook shooter played Call of Duty, and this fact MAY have influenced his choice to end innocent lives (please pay attention to that MAY, for it is the linchpin used to excite the masses; the illusion of fact as an opiate). Well, this little tidbit of information peaked my interest.

You see, I play Call of Duty. I play a prodigious amount of Call of Duty. On any given night I find myself in the company of 500,000 to 650,000 players. Taking into consideration work schedules, hemispheres, and random acts of kindness on the part of mother nature, this number remains relatively constant throughout the day. This means millions of people log into this ONE game. Add to that the millions of Blizzard users playing World of Warcraft and Starcraft, the EA masses, and so much more, the number becomes rather large.

Out of this large number comes a shadowy few with death and destruction on the mind. Out of something4this large number comes the few that would put some of the world's most talented artists at risk. Out of this large number come a select few who are subject to the exact same stimulus as the rest of us on a daily basis, yet we seem to be able to handle it just fine (debatable, but you get my point).


Perhaps it is time we start looking within for the choices made by these select few. Instead of pursuing the largest entity we can find, maybe we should take some accountability for the death toll. Instead of latching on to the the closest mob with an opinion, maybe we should be conscious of what we personally think and feel.

On an evolutionary scale, we are very young and our animal minds are still attempting to come to terms with conscious thought. Our instinct for survival regulates these attacks on massive entities, our fear of the unknown encourages entry into even the most ridiculous of clubs. As Nietzsche said, "The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

What kind of example are we setting for future generations if, when a tragedy occurs, we mindlessly point at the first entity we come across? What kind of example is set when we replace intelligent discourse and understanding with fear-filled bickering and name calling?

It is time for a change. It is time for intellect. It is time for "I" to mean as much as "we."


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  • Scapegoat is Hebrew for laazayeyl, meaning "absolute removal." And, based on the excellent bits of unfortunate history you recount in this well-crafted piece, it seems as though that is exactly what our government would like to have done with any art form that seeks to explore and explain the less palatable aspects of our humanity.

    Of course, none of the recent violent events in America or abroad could possibly be explained by the reckless violence our country righteously inflicts in various Third World regions on a daily basis, so it must be our media outlets' fault. As you alluded to, why is it that the tens of millions of other people who regularly play these games aren't reaching for the nearest assault rifle to blow their neighbor's head off?

    This is just too ridiculous to even take seriously. Video games don't kill people, psychopaths with guns and our political leaders do.

  • Couldn't agree more Kyle, and thank you. I am always amazed at how narrow our view of American action abroad is when a "tragedy" like this occurs on "our" soil. While still tragic, the shootings tend to pale in comparison to the violence perpetrated across many other countries.

  • "As soon as the Sandy Hook tragedy happened, gun manufacturers and video game developers looked to the gallows in anticipation, knowing the tiny minds of the ruling class would manipulate the ignorance of the masses into yet another flash mob."

    I love this line.

    The lazy and stupid are the ones that jump to bans and regulation first. It's the witch hunt mentality. Instead of working toward finding the root cause of an issue they point a finger, yell, and demand that freedoms and access to this media, belief, or object be forcefully taken. All of this is under the guise that "You're not intelligent, or responsible, enough to be trusted with this material and it's our duty to hide it from you. It's for your protection cause you can't protect, or think, for yourself."

    Look at the bright side though. All the "new" trends you cited were persecuted in the past and now society has accepted them and even revered them. The same will happen with videogames. The best way to show the stupidity of a law is to ignore it. Once you acknowledge it you give validity.

    Of course that's just my $0.01. I'm only a stupid American civilian (income source) to our government.

  • You are right Kage, all of those cultural icons that I mentioned are now important staples in our society, but that is beside the point. The fact that we continually fall back into this same behavior every time social change comes to the forefront is ridiculous. We have such a resistance to self-awareness as individuals that we become susceptible to any powerful mode of influence that chooses to take root within our psyche.

  • "The fact that we continually fall back into this same behavior every time social change comes to the forefront is ridiculous."

    I completely agree, but you shouldn't say we. You're obviously not doing this. Nor am I. The people that are all have a few trending similarities.

    "We have such a resistance to self-awareness as individuals that we become susceptible to any powerful mode of influence that chooses to take root within our psyche."

    Aren't we taught this from a young age by standardized education? Aren't we stomped into line and indoctrinated to obey and respect authority figures as greater than our individual selves? Self-awareness as individuals is what we are born with, but its manipulated and taught as counter productive to the collective in our system. Collectivism is taught and preached everyday.

    Disclaimer: If I missed the point again I'm sorry. You have a lot more sophisticated vocabulary and sentence structure that my weak mind has trouble grasping.

  • Haha, I think I take that as a compliment Kage?

    You haven't missed the point at all man, everything that you say has some truth to it. The only problem I have is pointing the finger at other people, which was the action I spoke against in the blog entry. I am firmly for the idea of individualism and try very hard to be a proponent of it in the world at large, but we are all of one species and we all share a relatively cramped living space in the universal scheme of things.

    Because a select minority of persons thinks a certain way and they perceive that way as being more efficient, does not remove them from responsibility to the whole. If we think this way, and we feel as though it is the best way to advance our species, we have a responsibility to all to share this thought.

    Far too often do we stand upon our soapbox and stare down at the masses is disdain, unwilling to teach because we feel they are ignorant to the meaning. In reality, we should be speaking on it every day, living it every day, until it takes hold.

  • It was intend as such.

    I'm always willing to stand on my soapbox and share my opinions and beliefs (as you know), but normally when I do I receive negative backlashes, or personal embarrassment. It's a slight deterrent. I (personally) never look down on anyone who is willing to listen and be open toward my thoughts. I think the the problem with society and the overall source of most problems is that people don't want to talk about polarizing or controversial topics. People don't like challenging discussion. It takes more effort to partake in intelligent discourse than it does to flop on the couch and watch "Buckwild" or your favorite news network where they do all the thinking for you.

    People are genuinely stupid when we herd together. All most people want is a direction, an object or person(s) at fault/glorify, and a passion misguided or not. In this case it's school shootings and violent video games in an effort to ban/regulate them. People believe this because we were taught to follow authority (Feinstein) they've been given a culprit (videogames, was guns) and they have a passionate topic (Sandy Hook). This action/manipulation doesn't advance our species one bit. I think it shows how stupid we actually are. I think it shows how afraid of the "new" we are. I think it shows that we've taken steps backward at times.

    You can share your knowledge all you want, but some people will never want to hear it cause they already have what they want, culprits, passions, and authority. Still does that mean we should stop trying to share information? No because I think it's a duty to continue sharing info due to the fact that it's the only true action that advances our pathetically scared race.

  • Well that is the dilemma then is it not? When we become grouped together we tend to be more susceptible the control of passion, losing all logic and reason in response to belonging to something larger than the individual.

    The idea of never being able to affect change on the world as an individual has always grated on me and I am not a huge believer in it. I am much more inclined to believe that change comes from within a single person and spreads from that point.

    I suppose we should all work to be ground zero for the change we want to see in the world shouldn't we?

  • I think that is the only way to do it, but while still sharing knowledge. This life will never be fair, it will never be perfect.

    All I ask for is that politicians stay off my rights and my income. As long as you're not threatening the my life, rights, and property, or that of my family, and friends I don't care what you do.

    Governments job is simple. Protect our freedoms, not control or limit them.

  • Therein lies the problem though Kage. At what point can you make the argument that the government isn't attempting to protect our youth by this legislation, when in their mind they are?

    The issue is far less the government and much more our views on these types of social change as a whole. The idea that the government is far too large at entity for an individual will to change is what holds us back from attempting the change. This mode of thought needs to be breached before those changes can occur.

  • What mode of thought? Thinking that a controlling power shouldn't have such invasive control abilities over interior facets of a individuals life?

    I don't see why that thought needs to be breached?

    "At what point can you make the argument that the government isn't attempting to protect our youth by this legislation?"

    At this point, or any point for that matter. It's not their job, purpose, or right. End of story on that point.

  • Control is given my friend, it is allowed. It is easy for us to sit here and criticize government rule in a time when their decision making processes have been less than stellar. Viewed through our limited time as citizens, this is an easy point to make. Along a larger scale, this control was allowed to burgeon by citizens making choices without being informed on those choices. Every issue that you have with the government has spawned from individuals not taking responsibility for the established country that they live in.

    If we continue to point at these large entities, much like you are doing now, much like what I mentioned in the blog, we are crying out that none of this is our fault. This couldn't be further from the truth, we are merely reaping what we have sown for many a year. Change comes from discussions like this Kage, not pointing the finger and sitting back while someone else deals with the leg work.

  • Pointing at a big entity and asking them to do something about it is choosing not to take the blame. Telling the large entity to stay out of it doesn't point blame on anything. It's closer to claiming it than avoiding it. It saying we don't need you (big entity) we'll figure the issue out on our own. That sounds like taking the problem and owning it to me.

    Yes, government has expanded in times where people sit by idly, but is that not a purely malicious gain/power grab on their end? Shouldn't that be a sign that government expansion isn't for the better, but actually for the worst? I have no idea why people would support closing themselves off from "new" medias, possibles, technologies besides fear. In this fear they give up their individual rights for the "good" of the collectivists that will protect them from their fear of change.

    I guess I'm confused by the type of change you're looking for. I was under the impression that you wanted to see humans that didn't fear the "new". Humans that were smart enough not to shut out with blanket restrictions and bans, but I guess I'm lost in your line of thinking.

  • Are you thinking of hive mentality?

    The human race is one collective group all working for each others benefit?

  • The hive mentality removes the need for the individual, so definitely not. What I call for is a culture that takes responsibility for themselves as individuals, holds themselves accountable for the actions that they were privy to. This includes those elected leaders that we hold in such high esteem.

    Merely telling the large entity to "stay out of it" does nothing to change the entity as a whole, it sweeps the problem under the rug. Change takes time, and we are in a prime place to make these changes happen, slowly and methodically.

  • As usual, my friend Ed has something to say on this manner.

  • I disagree with sweeping the issue under the rug. If you dismiss the large entity than you also dismiss their authority. Without their authority they are nothing.

    You see this all the time when society breaks down. People fend for themselves and their kin. So really what is need is utopian anarchy.

  • It's funny that you would mention utopia Kage. These terms like apocalypse and utopia don't actually deal with physical manifestations, but with states of mind. Calling for anarchy is merely wiping the slate clean and, yes there may be some change that would come from it, but history shows that we would return to old habits rather quickly.

    The change that I call for has deals directly with the process of human thought and how we interact with both ourselves and the world around us. I don't claim to make plans for how government would work with this, and frankly I don't care that much, as government has never actually worked more than a few generations.

    I call for individuality, philosophy, creativity, self-awareness, and a world in which the word "work" represents a true calling and not a pigeon-hole.

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