Are We Becoming Desensitized and Dehumanized?

By | March 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

Years ago, Grandma or Uncle Henry lived with us, and eventually died in the back bedroom. Death was always unwelcome, but it was not a stranger. Back then, people were not fascinated with death − it was all too real. Now things are different. Many people reach middle age without ever seeing a dead body. But by its unfamiliarity, death has become a subject of fascination.
Consider the number of crime and CSI programs on network TV, as well as the forensic shows on cable TV. The forensic programs often show photos of actual corpses, with grisly gunshot or stab wounds for all to see. But the cable programs at least have the possibility that parents may block them from their children’s viewing. The network programs have no such possibility. Yes, they are usually shown at 10 p.m., but “bedtime” has little meaning when many children have TVs in their own rooms and can choose what they watch.
If death is personally familiar, it is less fascinating. When Grandma died at home, it was sad but peaceful. But when young people see literally hundreds of dead bodies on TV, in films, and in video games, they don’t see elderly people slipping away peacefully. They see people of all ages − even children − murdered in a variety of gruesome ways.
The violent deaths we see in the media tend to desensitize us and diminish our humanity. We worry about the “tone” of politicians as they trade insults, but these gory images don’t seem to worry us at all. The effect on our young people doesn’t concern us.


Actor made up as corpse

Turning away from the TV.
Some time ago, I had a surprising experience while watching a rerun of a law-and-order show. The plot involved a missing child, and my TV screen was filled with an autopsy table on which lay a realistic model of a dead, partially decomposed child. I found myself turning away in revulsion.
During my medical training, I worked in emergency rooms and saw the results of shootings, stabbings, and beatings. I’ve seen a throat cut from ear-to-ear, and a man shot in the back at close range with a shotgun. On a personal level, I was involved in a head-on collision at 50 miles per hour, and I am a cancer survivor. Death is no stranger to me. Even so, the TV program upset me.
The experience was repeated more recently. This time the story involved a young child who was stabbed to death. The TV showed a child actor, whom we had just seen alive and vigorous, lying still and cleverly made up to look as though his throat had been slit. Again I had to turn away from the TV. But that’s not the problem.
The problem is that many viewers − probably most − did not turn away. They had watched so many law-and-order and CSI programs and seen made-up corpses, and they had watched so many forensic programs and seen real corpses, that the sight of a real child with a realistic-appearing cut throat did not upset them.
Competition for viewers will continue to push TV to increasing levels of gore. The cop shows have to compete with the forensic shows, which have to compete with one another. (They showed a child with a cut throat? We’ll show a pregnant woman hacked to death!) As we become jaded with current violence, what will it take to hold our interest? Beheading? Burning alive? Oh wait, ISIS already is providing us with those.

Body Worlds
Real corpses as entertainment

Corpses as “art.”
Have you seen the ads for “Body Worlds”? Has the “educational” exhibit toured your city? It is claimed to teach the wonder of the human body. This would be true if the exhibit were made up of plastic models of the body’s internal structure. But the exhibit is made up of real human corpses, skinned and covered with plastic. Of note is that the bodies are from China, while the “artist” who prepares them is German.
The corpses are in lifelike poses. One is kicking a soccer ball. Yes, this illustrates how muscles work. But it also blurs the line between the living and the dead. Dead people don’t play soccer. Another is a woman cut open to show a full-term baby in her womb. What, exactly, is this intended to teach? Reverence for new life? How do corpses teach that? The exhibit is more likely to induce viewers to associate babies with death, which should please abortionists.
But who cares?

● Parents feel no hesitation in taking their children to see real dead bodies in “artistic” poses.

● Television news directors see nothing wrong with showing dead bodies on TV while children are watching.

● Newspaper editors find nothing dubious about printing color pictures of dead bodies. And there is an ad promising “All new specimens!” Are dead human beings merely “specimens”? They were to the Nazis. Do we agree?

● Public officials have no qualms about allowing cut-up corpses to be exhibited on city property.

● Government officials have no objection to the importation of corpses and body parts of unidentifiable people without death certificates, on the word of promoters that all the bodies were donated “voluntarily.” The word “voluntarily” loses much of its meaning coming from a totalitarian nation like China.

● Clergy find nothing objectionable about degrading human beings, created in God’s image, to the status of slabs of meat in a butcher-shop display case.

● Nobody notices anything odd about the fact that most of the dead bodies are of well-muscled, young-appearing people with no visible injuries. Where are bodies of withered elderly or sick people? Where did the “artist” obtain so many bodies of young, healthy people with no obvious trauma? Apparently they were criminals or dissidents executed by the Chinese government. But who cares?

Yes, an “artist” might enjoy posing corpses “artistically.” Regrettably, art and music may be devoid of ethical content. The guards at Auschwitz listened to classical music in the evening. Perhaps Mozart helped them carry out their “duties” more efficiently.
Crime and death have a morbid fascination for many people. Because of their irreligious, value-free education, they find nothing sacred about the human being or the human body. Why should they? They never learned that we are all God’s children, made in His image and therefore deserving of great respect.
When “Bodyworlds” came to Los Angeles, I e-mailed the Catholic Archdiocese and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Surely, I thought, Catholics, who revere all life from its dawn to its sunset, would see my point. Surely, I thought, Jews dedicated to studying the Holocaust would understand that it began not when the gas chambers were activated, but when people lost the belief that all human beings are created in God’s image. I was wrong. I received no replies. There were no protests.
Real corpses with gruesome wounds on cable TV? Real child actors made up to look like victims of brutal murders on network TV? Real corpses from untrustworthy sources viewed by children in person? Why not? They’re “entertainment.” They’re “educational.” And best of all, they’re profitable.
People spend time and money protecting their computers from malware. Yet they seem unconcerned with protecting their minds, much less their children’s minds, from harmful influences. But which are more dangerous − corrupted files, or corrupted minds?
Do you really imagine that growing up seeing images of hundreds of dead bodies has no effect on young people? Do you really believe that this does not reduce their empathy for the very young, the very old, and the disabled? If the human body is only a machine like a car, why not send it to the junkyard if it no longer serves our economic interests?
You want to live in a world where people are desensitized and dehumanized? I wish you good luck and good health. You’ll need both.

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