The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


If it weren’t so sad, it would be laughable.  We descry the violence in our society and our world.  The horrors of gassing civilians in Syria; the number of murders in our inner cities; the general disregard and disrespect for others in our self-centered culture.  And we find the causes to be plentiful.

There’s the breakdown of the traditional home where traditional values at least had the possibility of being taught to our children.  And then there’s the violence that they learn through our media, video games and the movies.  And we wring our hands and wonder why did our little darling go and punch out the neighbor kid just because he was wearing more expensive athletic shoes.

We are an acquisitive society and used to be a competitive one as well.  Keeping up with the Joneses was a well-known phrase and an acceptable form of behavior.  We have been told, and it is true, that the consumer drives the economy in the United States – at least two thirds of it.  So we invent new ways to suck the money out of consumers’ pockets and into the coffers of whatever company has created the latest diversion to amuse our citizens.  Of course, there are a lot of old and tried creations that have been re-invented or more highly glamorized which serve the purpose as well.

On Saturday, September 14th Floyd Mayweather won his latest pugilistic bout.  He was well paid for the effort – a reported $41.5 million.  Even after paying his agent and Uncle Sam, that will leave him with a tidy sum.   Good for him.  That’s entrepreneurship at its finest.

Mr. Mayweather has a talent and he is monetizing his abilities.  The fact is, however, that it is a violent skill which he has mastered.  But if it were not for the rest of us who pay to watch two human beings beat each other up, Pay Per View would not have been able to record its single biggest take for any sporting event.  It’s obvious that we do not condemn violence when we pay money to enjoy the thrill of watching it.

The same statement may be made with regard to the biggest single and, perhaps most violent sport which demands and gets infinitely more of our dollars than boxing – that is NFL football.  That it is violent is inherently obvious from the league’s recent agreement to set aside $675 million to compensate players who have suffered head traumas and brain injuries from their years of participation in the sport.

If football were a prescription drug, with the number of serious “side effects” that it causes among the patient population, the FDA would withdraw its use and further dispensation.  But there is too much, far too much money generated by football ever to consider such an option.  And so, perhaps it is true, that money is indeed the root of all evil.

I wonder if those who are rightfully saddened at the events of Columbine, or Newtown or Aurora have ever considered whether they should withhold their dollars from a sport that has resulted in hundreds of serious injuries that would simply have been avoided if the game didn’t exist.  Or, given the fact that they want to raise their children in a less violent society, they have forbidden their children either to watch football or, more to the personal safety of those children, forbidden them to participate in the game at their schools.  Probably not.

In some ways, watching violent sports is a voyeuristic way for us to release some of our inner hostilities and frustrations.  Most of us handle that fairly well and that is all there is to it.  But there are those who are the exception to the rule and whose inner psyche actually feeds off this violence.  It’s hard not to wonder whether, like those famous video games and violent movies, the game does not contribute to a need to vent feelings of violence by some viewers on those with whom they share our society.

Of course, that speculation is rhetorical in nature.  If it were proven that there is a direct correlation between watching a boxing match or football game and violent behavior, that study would be suppressed before it ever made its way into the light of day.  There is simply too much money involved to allow that sort of statement be aired.  Even our over-regulatory nanny government would keep its hands off because where there is money involved, politicians’ major concern is that they are the recipients of as much of it as possible.

If you consider this year’s unfortunate record of the number of NFL players who have been arrested for violations ranging from DUI to murder, it should cause us to ask the question, “Why are so many well-paid athletes getting themselves into trouble?”  In part, the answer goes back to money.  Take a kid out of the ghetto – and that represents the background of nearly half the players in the league – raised in a violent atmosphere – and suddenly reward them with incredibly large incomes and it is not surprising that they do not know how to handle their instantaneous new wealth.

Further consider that football, a “macho sport,” recruits those who are unafraid of risking their bodies in pursuit of moving the sticks along the sidelines.  These are tough guys on the field and they were probably the toughest guys in the hood when they grew up – which is how they survived long enough to play for the big bucks.  If they hadn’t made the NFL cut, they would most likely have had a career either running a gang back home or at least providing the muscle for it.  Should we then be surprised that so many of these men find themselves at cross purposes with the law?

The rules of basic courtesy and civility have either not been taught or have been ignored by a significant number of those who come from generations that succeeded mine.  Not that all of us Baby Boomers were always attentive to them.  But having no standards of basic civility quickly leads to outright disdain for others and from there it’s anyone’s guess what might happen next.  Well, we don’t really have to guess.  The newspapers and internet are chock full of the newsworthy reports of a morally decaying society.

Mom will have collected the football jerseys that the family wore on Sunday and gotten them ready for the laundry so they can be worn next week.  She and dad will give no thought to what those represent – other than their making a statement about the player and the team that they love and support.  It’s all in keeping with the celebration of the all-American pass time, Sunday’s newest god.

And the violence will continue throughout the country – a hundred or so new murders this week, thousands of cars being stolen and homes being burglarized.  The cycle will continue because, unwittingly, we tacitly endorse it – perhaps without realizing what our actions imply.  And the cost – well the ultimate cost is a society which will go from disarray to collapse as the prevalence of anger creeps into more of our hearts and as we become more inured to hearing and reading about it and perhaps being victimized by it ourselves.

That’s the cost of living in our modern world.  That’s the price of entertainment.

Comments on: "THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT" (9)

  1. Interesting commentary. You’re suggesting that violent entertainment may be the “driving force” behind our violent culture. Football and boxing have been around a long time. I don’t see them as drivers. I would lay more blame on violent video games and movies. I would lay the most blame on the breakdown of the family. Kids raised in fatherless homes are far more likely to engage in violent behavior than kids with fathers in the home. As a side note, I watched the Mike Tyson fight on closed circuit television years ago when he took a bite out of Evander Holyfield’s ear. More than half of the drinking crowd in attendance roared their approval. It ruined the sport for me, and I haven’t watched boxing since. As usual, your essay is well-written and very thought-provoking.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tom. Actually, I would agree that the breakdown of the family is perhaps the most significant factor in our moral erosion – coupled with a concurrent decline in the level of educational achievement by most who are born into that environment. But everything in which we engage which is violent contributes to the problem.

      I am reminded of a comment made by a friend from the dog park who is about 15 years my senior. He had to leave early on Sunday to get “early Mass out of the way” so that he could devote the rest of the day to watching football. I couldn’t help think back to the First Commandment when he made that statement.

  2. An interesting commentary indeed, and I think if we are honest we will all admit that what we see makes an impression on us. If we see our side beating up on the opposition in a game for example we urge them on. If the other side beats up on our side we rebel and shout murderous words at them. lol. The type of games kids have access to and the violence in most of our movies is causing psychologists to observe this has it’s impact so it’s not only prudes who are sounding alarm over this. How do we fix this? Well citizens don’t have the economic power to deal with the economic powerhouses who market this stuff, and our politicians on all sides rely on their money for their re-election. So we will just make rules that are watered down and build more jails which will fill up until we water down punishments given for violent behaviour because it is just too costly to keep them there. Then when we have lost our collective will to deal with the decline radical religions/systems will step into the breach and we will sacrifice all our freedoms just for the privilege of feeling safe in our communities. Let’s hope my predictions don’t eventuate.

    • I certainly agree with your final,perhaps prophetic line.

      There is, as you point out no way the consumer can determine what is produced and made available for consumption. The only thing that we can do as consumers is choose not to purchase it.

      If enough of us do that, perhaps the output that is available will change to meet our requirements and sensibilities.

  3. Reblogged this on IdeasEvolve and commented:
    Insightful commentary. As consumers, we determine what we let in!

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