Sunday, September 07, 2008

History Rhymes

Or does it? Whether it rhymes or not, like a poem, a song, a novel, a really bad movie, or even an advertising campaign, it keeps hammering home its point until it's over. And it's not afraid of invoking repetition for emphasis.

With that understanding as a backdrop, I sat down to my breakfast beneath a wall-mounted television set at The Diner. I never sit in the back room, where the set is, unless I have bad luck and the place is full. I never watch television, either, unless it's forced on me, temporarily.

On that television, placed to catch one's attention, I observed a drag race, only one of the cars, travelling at somewhere between a hundred and two hundred miles per hour, veered into a guard rail and disintegrated in a ball of flames and flying debris. One couldn't help but be convinced of the driver's tragic fate.

And after that, a clip of a bicycle race, with one unfortunate cyclist, again, hitting a guard rail, and tumbling limp down to the center of track, where the camera trained on his twisted, motionless body.

It was a bit gruesome, actually. And it got more so: a road racer losing control and driving straight into a crowd of spectators. No cut, no edit; it was all there for unhindered consumption.

I began to get the idea. The name of this piece of "entertainment" was "Whacked Out Sports!," and it's function was to deliver videos of gruesome, tragic sports accidents for your viewing pleasure. One or two more: some genius on an ATV speeding over a jump ramp placed at the crest of steep, grassy hill. Airborne, the vehicle flips, the operator is thrown, the vehicle lands squarely on top of him before rolling on down the hill. Skateboarders attempting tricks on public planters, stairways, etc. These are people without any protective suiting, and they're playing around on concrete. This one I don't watch for a few moments, dreading what will be televised. A bit later, a motionless body in a public pathway, with curious onlookers passing by. All on camera.

This show was repulsive. A libertarian amoralist would admonish that I should simply not watch, if I don't like what I see. Fair enough, notwithstanding the valid arguments against having a barrage of potentially offensive graphic images situated in public and private gathering places. I ceased watching. I turned to my breakfast. To my thoughts. And to the newspaper in front of me.

I ate my breakfast. I thought about all the effort that goes in to making a television show. Planning. Talent. Somebody has to find those awful videos. Do they pay for them? Do people have incentive to shoot them? Talent and airtime don't come cheap. Who finances this show? Why? Why is something so morbid, presumed to be profitable?

I thought, what motivated people to promote as entertainment, the graphic, explicit destruction of human life? I wondered what that said about us as a society, that we might be so inclined to consume such fare for...entertainment! In a previous stanza of history, chariot races, coliseum events with lions and people... I wondered, "are we becoming like they were?"

In the newspaper in front of me, an aged, black and white photo: A man hanging from a rope tied to a high branch in a tree. His tongue is out. On the ground, a group of Nazi soldiers smiling at the camera. The picture turns my stomach, but the caption assures the reader it's a "staged hanging." That means it was set up for the camera, for fun. For...entertainment, Nazi style.

Are we becoming like they were?

I finish my breakfast, flipping to the sports page. On the way there, an interview with a film-maker, famous for a TV series about the funeral business. Undertaking. Dealing with the dead. His latest "creative effort:" something about a 13 year old girl who loves sex, a pedophile next door, clueless parents, and vampires.

Who are these people, I wonder, that apply their heart and soul to the exaltation of violence, death, destruction of innocence, victimization of children, promotion of myths; more so, who are the people who pay up to consume it?

Have we become like they were?


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