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“About 20 years ago I witnessed an episode that has stuck with me ever since, as I thought it was such a poignant example of the complex and contradictory nature of the human soul.

While browsing rental videos at the store around the corner I overheard a middle-aged man talking to the clerk, asking if the thriller he was holding in his hand was any good, and the clerk answered; “Oh yes, it’s fantastic! You have to see it! It is brilliant!” The man then asked if the clerk thought it’d be suitable for his young daughter’s all-girl birthday party, to which the clerk responded “Hell no! They cut fingers off of little girls in it.”

Similarly, I remember the documentary I saw about the travelling cinemas of India, where the owners for the last 70 years have been driving their buses across India showing big screen Bollywood movies to people in villages who have never seen a movie or even read a book before. In such villages violence is extremely rare, and in some cases the cinema owner was struggling as these people were so shocked by the comparatively mild violence they saw in the movies that they literally felt physically ill, and in some villages everyone walked away, incapable of continuing watching.

This has stuck with me ever since. It is interesting how we can condition ourselves and what our “root state” of being is. There is a potential hidden there, if hard to reach.

This of course also has some interesting consequences and follow up questions:

First of all, since that root state is always under threat from those already conditioned to the use of violence, protective counter-violence will likely always be necessary, and in order to preserve that root state for as many as possible, others will have to submit themselves to a conditioning for threat and use of violence, serving as police or soldiers, thereby, and by necessity, choosing to become less sensitive to it.

Second, while according to research, movies and games do not directly cause us to commit crime, it quite clearly can function as propaganda, and desensitizes us to the use of violence, while it also, at the same time, can sensitize us to the threat of the same. And, large parts of the world has been doing this for the last 60-70 years, with ever increasing brutality, exposing even young children to it.

Third, what are the effects of large scale conditioning of the citizens of a society to the threat and use of violence? Those effects are bound to be of great interest for exploitation by political and particular financial forces, as fear. e.g. can be used both to control people, to pacify as well as to instigate them, and to boost sales of various forms of protection, and to motivate temporary and permanent infractions on the citizens’ freedoms and rights.

Photo by Amit Madheshiya