I remember about a year ago, I was at a bar with a friend of mine and it was a fight night for one of the most popular mixed martial arts fighting leagues. There were a lot of people there, rowdy, excited and having a great time. When the bout began, it was fairly benign, but then a roar erupted through the bar. When I looked up, I saw someone get pummeled by another human being and the violence of the entire event struck me. I started thinking, “how can this sport be good for America?”, and I immediately said to my friend, “this is barbaric.” The guy sitting next to me overheard my comment and replied, “Yeah, isn’t it great. It is just like the Roman times”. And I thought to myself, “yeah, it kind of is like the Roman times, but what happened to the Romans?”
Even more shocking than the comparison of a 21st century cage fight to the gladiators at the Roman Coliseum thousand of years ago was that the bar patrons were totally memorized watching other human beings get their brains pummeled back to ancient times. The popularity of MMA is growing by leaps and bounds. And it could be having an impact on how we relate to one another. How can it not? Violence permeates the American culture … just look at the love we have for action movies where the hero beats the living day lights out of someone else and the way we spend Monday nights and Sunday afternoons in the fall when Football season begins.
We love our action heroes who defeat the “bad” guys, but not with brilliant intellect or through peaceful means. Instead we prefer a good old “blow everything up” movie where there are many action sequences and many more casualties. By watching so many of these movies and sporting events, we seem to be glorifying violence and numbing ourselves to the reality of physical pain.
Many of us also play video games about war and violence themes where the players see blood splatter across the screen with no real consciousness of the actual pain involved in these scenes because they are make-believe. Many mixed martial arts and football oriented video games are the most popular for teens. How can this not have an impact on how we think about inflicting physical pain on each other?
Equally concerning is our love of football. Although many Americans can not imagine a fall season without football, it is a game that leads to not only the occasional broken bone but to many catastrophic injuries including concussions, cervical cord damage and neurological problems impacting players long after the game is over. We are okay with people putting their health on the "line" for our enjoyment. A recent study conducted by the National Football League’s’ (NFL) Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee concluded that injuries are an increasing trend in a sport where players are referred to as modern gladiators. Yet, we encourage our children to play the sport and revere those players that hurt one another on the NFL fields across America each Sunday. Within the sport, there were even bounties encouraging players to injure other players so severely that they would be knocked out of the game.
All this violence leads me to ask… are these sports, games and movies really good for America? What type of environment and culture are we creating for ourselves? And is the violence in our popular entertainment and sports negatively influencing American citizens?
You have often heard that “our children are our future” and it worrisome that we are raising children in a society that fosters American youth sitting around playing violent video games and watching violent sporting events. If someone grows up surrounded by a culture that condones others hurting one another, what behaviors and ideologies are we promoting? Through these movies, sports and games are we collectively becoming desensitized to violence?
While the government is reporting that the overall violent crime rate is down, it still seems that shootings in public places are happening almost every single week. Further, while the government is also reporting that violent crimes in schools are down, bullying numbers in schools have gone up as children try and one up one another. The increase of fighting in schools is with both boys and girls. Bullying and fighting speak to not just the anger in our kids, but how they have been taught by society to express their emotions. Even more disturbing is a recent CBS news report stating that the number of police officer deaths are growing.
Does the increased violence in these cases have anything to do with a desensitization towards violence influenced by the citizens of America watching and playing violent sports, movies and video games. It is important that we all take a deeper look into whether or not there are serious negative ramifications caused by large segments of the American population watching and participating in violent recreational activities.
Email us your thoughts on this topic, we are interested in hearing your feedback.