Challenges of the Modern World: Violence is Embraced

by Mordecai Plaut

People no longer are so opposed to bloodshed. It is now marketed and sought out as "entertainment."

"Army Forward Command Post," for example, is a toy sold in the USA. It is a doll house set up as a home that has been hit by a bomb: there are holes in the roof, one wall is demolished and bullets are scattered on the floor. It is marketed as appropriate for children aged five and up, and comes with dozens of "accessories," including a machine gun, rocket launcher, magazine belt and explosives. It was sold by mainstream, respectable US stores like Toys "R" Us and J. C. Penney (though it is reportedly no longer available).

"This bombed-out version of Barbie's Dream House is sure to excite bloodthirsty passions in even the most passive of preschoolers," wrote one reviewer. "Unfortunately, the set does not come with charred infant or mangled toddler action figures."

"Gun Sniper" is recommended for ages 4 and up. It is a "posable action figure" of a creature called Sniper, who wields a gun in each hand. The Gun Sniper includes "missile- launching side cannons" and owners can "customize" these toys "for battle!"

It is well beyond the limits of civility to even describe the violence of some of the popular computer games that are sold nowadays. They are full of violence, much of it graphically illustrated. The "player" is given weapons and targets, and the games vie with each other in how realistically they can depict the blood and gore of the fighting.

Moreover, the very fact that the world can accept the frequent crimes of suicide bombers and not react with wholesale revulsion is also a worrisome sign of a lowered sensitivity to bloodshed. Even worse is that respectable people even say that they can understand such despicable behavior given what they say the Palestinians have endured. Regardless of the context, blowing one's self up in order to murder as many women and children as possible is certainly beyond any line of acceptable behavior that can be drawn.

Killing sick people is legal in Holland and currently debatable in the USA and secular Israel. No modern secular moral sensitivity rules it out categorically.

Murder and gore is the stuff of entertainment in the West. Prominent American television shows have "expanded the limits" to the point that millions of viewers regularly see many horrible crimes committed in their living rooms on a daily basis. "Entertainment" includes seeing the world from criminals' point of view and sympathizing with their troubles in the low life that they chose to live.

A play named "Sweeney Todd" was a Broadway hit. The plot? The story of a man revenging himself upon humanity by committing mass murder. That is the basis for a comedy. Thousands -- perhaps millions -- of "enlightened" people spent a couple of hours laughing at the "funny side" of murder.

Significantly, the information above about the toys comes from an organization called the Lion & Lamb Project, a secular group in the US which is dedicated to stopping the marketing of violent toys to children. Without a doubt this is a worthy goal, but the good people there do not seem to realize that such material is as damaging to adults as it is to children.

Respect for human life is one of the most universal and basic teachings of the Torah. It is also essential to a stable society. The widespread undermining of this critical idea is very worrisome and downright dangerous.

The proper -- and only effective -- way to fight such moral degradation is by moral and spiritual elevation.

In these times, we can do no better than to recall the words of Maran HaRav Shach almost ten years ago spoken in the middle of a wave of terror, in which he evoked the age-old response of Klal Yisroel to national tragedy:

". . . the lesson and benefit that should come from the loss of such victims is not forthcoming. People do not learn, do not reflect: why did Hashem do this? . . .

" `Vehalachtem imi bekeri -- veholachti imochem bechamas keri.' This is not, chas vesholom, something that I made up, these are the words of the Torah. . . . Every one of us must make a personal accounting. Do I behave as I should? Is there nothing that I can correct?" (From a speech in Nisan, 5753)

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Related essay: [9] Moral Corruption Leads to Social Ruin

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