Violence, Fear, and Hope

It’s the season of hope in a time when the world seems hopeless. All over my social networks, people are talking about that dissonance and how to maintain hope in the face of so much bad news. It’s hard. My upcoming video is going to be a “sermon” (not sure I like the word but not sure there’s a better one) about the importance of recognizing the darkness so we can more fully appreciate how much we need that hope.

When I first thought of it, that seemed like a new concept, since my own Christmas celebrations growing up were basically just a weird reverse birthday party for Jesus. We didn’t have a real liturgical calendar, I had no idea what Advent was, we certainly never paid attention to the significance of all these holidays occurring near the darkest part of the year. That just happens to be when he was born! (I realize that is probably not true, I was speaking from the perspective of kid-me there.)

I’m still talking about it, but now it doesn’t seem so new. It’s become pretty clear that a lot of us are having a lot more difficulty finding the good and the hope and the fun this year than we are understanding the darkness around us. For me, that’s settled recently on the way we’ve let violence become our response to fear.

I’ve found that having a reasoned discourse about guns isn’t possible for me because for too many people everything starts with the assumption that the best way to protect ourselves is to be more dangerous than whoever might harm us. I can’t get on board with that because it never ends there, it’s always going to cycle and that puts us in far more danger. I just can’t believe adding more violence and conflict will somehow make us safer.

This all starts when we’re very young and it’s all around us. Stepping away from the issues of real people and real violence, it’s all over our entertainment. I think a lot about having kids and the things I’ll want to share with them. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that quite a lot of my comics, TV shows, movies, and games center around violence. And many that don’t are still about conflict and competition.

Right from the start we’re telling ourselves and our children that the world is fundamentally about winners and losers, that to succeed you have to be stronger/faster/smarter/better than the next person. No wonder we can’t seem to find a solution to threats that doesn’t involve being more threatening. It’s just another competition. I’d much rather my kids learn that we win or lose as a community, that no one can win if anyone loses.

I’ve been on the lookout for better sources of entertainment lately. And where there is violence and/or conflict, I’m starting to analyze it and decide what positive messages can be drawn from it. Yes, Captain America occasionally has to hit people to stop them. But if he spends more time trying to find non-violent solutions and only uses as much force as needed without causing unnecessary harm, that’s worth noting, right? It’s not ideal, but it’s what I’ve got right now.

In the future there will probably be more of a focus on specific games/shows/stories and how they score on the violence-cooperation spectrum. Sharing ideas on how to make them more cooperative and less harmful, things I might do differently, stories and games that are already doing better. Imagining new stories and games that start with compassion and cooperation so they never have to recover from violence.

It’s not enough anymore for things to be better than they used to be. In a world where violence and conflict seem to be the automatic response to a challenge, I don’t think meeting halfway is enough. I have to be much more deliberate and careful about rejecting it completely.

That’s going to be hard to do. A lot of my favorite things don’t make the cut. And to be honest, I doubt I’ll be able to drop them right away. But at the very least I’ll be a lot more mindful of it and slowly that will lead to changes in myself. It’s not easy right now to hope for the same in the larger world, but I’m trying. One problem and one person at a time.

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4 thoughts on “Violence, Fear, and Hope

  1. Well said.

    I find it telling when even band – a class where everyone must cooperate to succeed – is based more on competition than on helping each other out.

    I don’t know many games that aren’t focused on violence and/or competition. The onyl things that come to my mind are Neko Atsume, Hanabi, jigsaw puzzles, pretend (depending on the individuals involved), and building things (again, depending on the individuals).

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    1. The only game I know of that’s cooperative and non-violent (well, as long as you don’t consider killing disease violent…I don’t) is Pandemic. Which tells me that the only way people can envision a truly cooperative scenario is when we’re all about to die from some common enemy. That’s not super encouraging.

      I’ve been trying to modify other games. Ticket to Ride is my current favorite and it’s non-violent and not really competitive. At least for me, it’s not really about winning, I have fun meeting my own personal goals. But I think it would be better if there was some sort of bonus where you win as a group, get points for helping other people meet their goals, etc. I just can’t think of a way to do it where it’s its own reward and doesn’t come down to points and still having a winner. Working on it.

      And of course there’s Journey and some other discovery/exploration games over in the world of video games. That whole medium is a bit more promising, probably because it’s so much more about the individual so competition doesn’t come into it. It’s just a shame we seem to think that adding another person necessarily adds conflict as well. It would be nice to see more partnered exploration games…so I should probably appreciate Journey even more and give online mode a chance.

      And yes, good point about band. I wound up dropping that my senior year because I was just so tired of being in the back row of clarinets. I loved playing when I was younger, I gave up Saturday mornings to perform in duet competitions with friends and showed up at all of the parades and did everything I was supposed to do. And it was just so frustrating to have to keep competing for chair numbers and always be told I was one of the worst players. The teacher remarked that the people leaving band were the ones who should be staying, but…for what? There were no competitions in choir. I just got to sing and enjoy the music. And considering I’m actually tone-deaf and should be a terrible singer, that says a lot about how much more encouraging an environment that was.

      Edit: I had never heard of Neko Atsume, so I looked it up. A cat-collecting game. A game where the goal is to collect cats. HURRAY. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

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