I’m watching a swordmaking series on Youtube, and on one video, someone commented that their kid watches the series with great excitement, but that at the end, when they slash pumpkins, bottles and such, they now have a guy do this in a zombie-slayer theme, slashing apart an anatomically relatively realistically looking zombie bust, and that this gives their son nightmares, and was asking them to remove it.
Now I was thinking back to that and it hit me how much people are in denial about an inconvenient fact that pop culture helped to blur:
Swords are weapons of war, meant for killing people.
All the pop media over a long period of time managed to give people the delusion that there is a moral difference between watching a sword fight and watching a shooting range. Swords have been ‘quaintified’, because they are not the weapon of choice in our times due to being inferior to guns.
Then again, even tons of computer games are all about shooting and killing, yet people make a troubling distinction between the act and the visualization like there’s a moral highground. It is conditioning the mind in an unhealthy way.
Yes, I myself would make a practical distinction, but I don’t kid myself that it’s a personal preference. If someone depicts gun violence in a shockingly realistic way (apart from the question whether that is glorifying violence), there is no right or wrong to their choice of depiction. It might be understandable to say that, for example, computer games with horrible depictions of violence shouldn’t exist, but they do, and people should stop twisting the focus on the depiction. That’s just realistic. Instead it should be discussed whether the gun violence depiction itself is desirable. Because if you start kidding yourself about the origins and nature of what you see, that becomes exploitable. For example, you see a US soldier blow a ‘terrorist’s’ head apart and you might be outraged that this is shown. But what about outrage about the act of violence itself? When you merely read about those things, it’s so easy to be fine with it, because you are not confronted with the full reality that comes along with it.
This also stifles the development of empathy.
When your young kids are playing, for example, the MMO World of Warcraft, they are playing a war game involving bloody violence. There are no bullshit excuses like “but it’s medieval”. You could just as well let them watch Game of Thrones. The only difference there is a more realistic depiction of the consequences of the actions that you also find players doing in World of Warcraft.
A huge part of entertainment media is still based on exploiting violent and death-oriented behavioral patterns and whitewashing happens to any degree necessary to make it acceptable to people who like to fool themselves.
If you allow your kids to play with toy guns, you’re conditioning them for violence and conflict. If you allow them to play with rubber swords, you’re doing the same thing. The difference is purely formal.
If Hitler was ruling these days, he might get inspired by Whack-a-Mole and there would be “Whack-A-Jew” browser games, and because it is fun and trivial, people would develop those associations and stop seeing jews as human beings. Because that’s a popular propaganda strategy for making people do horrible things: You have to make them feel good (about themselves) while they’re doing them.
Bottom line: It is alright to admire the skill that goes into the swordmaking craft, but it might still be a subject matter that’s reserved for a mature audience – for people who are not kidding themselves and can make distinctions and educated decisions.
All that’s bothering me (in many cases) is people deceiving themselves, not seeing things as they are. Because then they are not acting based on reality, which means they are shaping a different one with their actions, and if it’s based on conflict and violence, that’s not a good starting point. If you can change the world, why choose to do so for the worse?