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Is Violence in the Media a Reflection of Our Own Social Anxieties?

What inner psychological need is met through our mass obsession with crime and prosecution?

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Words refer to real things, to ideas, feelings, objects, and interactions. However, as the old Zen masters say, words are fingers pointing to the moon, which is to say that talking about a steak will not fill our bellies. Words cannot replace experience or who we are, just as reading about geography is not the same as walking around and actually exploring physical terrain. Ultimately, the body and its life cannot be replaced by concepts.


Although some would say that it is only through applying the mandates of the mind upon the impulses of the body that any kind of social order or cultural harmony can be attained whatsoever, it appears that disembodied cultures such as our own, whose inherent impulses tend to be more repressed, are more apt to orient towards crime and punishment, as well as violence as entertainment.

In this sense, an interest in crime would indicate an unconscious attempt to resolve the intolerable situation of our collective societal repressions, which include a displacement of the body from its central role as mediator between self and world to a third party position of objectification, in which it is mainly viewed as a nuisance, or as something which we must merely keep in good repair and maintain— like a house or a car.

The essence of crime, in theory, is the presence of something devious or deviant to the normal functioning of the individual or the society. A crime is defined as an aberrant act of rebellion, a going against the grain, a transgression of laws that we hold to be essential to the sanity or sanctity of society. Therefore a crime is an attack on the principle of Logos, which signifies order, logic, and reason.

Perhaps this is another way of understanding our obsession with crime and violence. Because Logos―the rational principle—has become so ubiquitous in its rule over our lives, crime and violence as entertainment have arisen as a compensatory function in our attempts to cope with the utter obliteration of our instincts, or the principle of Eros, which I take to refer moreover to love and the passions of the heart, the soul, and the body than to only sexual desire.

When the body, the instincts, the passions, and our innate spiritual desires for a deeper and more fulfilling kind of communion with life and the world of others is denied us by our culture, crime and violence become attractive alternatives.

Through acts of crime and violence, the impenetrable walls of restriction—by which we are sequestered from our true wholeness—are violated, are temporarily destroyed, thereby allowing us to make connection with portions of ourselves and the world with which we are normally disallowed. Just as drugs and alcohol can also give us glimpses into areas of our personality and dimensions of the world beyond our normal and socially regulated purview, crime and violence—when they are committed as ritual acts against the arbitrary rule of order—provide us with a momentary sense of freedom.

Upon more extensive analysis, it can be seen that our societal fascination with crime as entertainment is really a calling to address a deeper need of the human spirit. Although we may be perpetually drawn to that which is taboo, the way we drink from the fountain of bloodshed and violence—whether at the movies or news of the latest war—is rather morbid, and should alert us to wondering why we have become so numb as to have to continually shock ourselves into feeling anything at all.

Asking ourselves what it is that we truly need, I think we will find that we need to feel. We need to feel alive. And we need to feel connected to ourselves and to the world. We need to feel the healing presence of the earth, of nature, and the magic of being alive. We need to live in some kind of harmony with our instincts and find meaningful ways of expressing who we are. Lastly, we need to live in an authentic and nourishing interrelationship with the social world around us.

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