The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Desensitization nation: The power of acknowledgment

Last week I tortured a man in an abandoned warehouse.

The whole ordeal was oddly amusing.

Before you report me to the authorities, let it be known that this was all taking place in the world of “Grand Theft Auto V.”

As I was running and gunning through an imaginary land, I thought about the recent, real-world violent events in Kenya and Washington, D.C., and I began to feel pretty ashamed. How could I sit on my couch and carry out virtual acts of violence while real ones were happening around me?

What I experienced was a classic case of desensitization.

“Desensitization to violence is a reduction,” said Iowa State University Psychology Professor Nicholas L. Carnagey in a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. “A reduction in emotion-related physiological reactivity to real violence.”

Change a few words around, and this deals perfectly with the overall problem of desensitization.

Indeed, there is a great deal of worry that people today are becoming desensitized and disconnected from the world around them — and not just in terms of violence.

Frankly, I will admit that, even as the Social Justice editor, I sometimes find it hard to truly feel the emotional impact of a news story I read.

It’s so easy to just glance through a link-dump of news articles and mumble, “Oh, what a shame,” as you head to check your Facebook account.

I hate to burst your bubble, but this is no way to go about your life.

There is always a great deal of talk on this campus about the “Guilford Bubble,” and while it is not a tangible divide, it is most certainly present. Other such bubbles permeate our lives, enveloping other spheres. There might be an “American Bubble” or a “White Bubble” to go along with your “Guilford Bubble.”

No matter the bubble, an issue arises when we push things out and away from us. I know it sounds hokey, but caring about the events outside of our bubbles is important, even with the structural implications that come with such — some would say — privileged action.

It is from this position of privilege that another problem arises: that of cynicism.

With the rise of the Internet and the unique position we find ourselves in as college students, it is surprisingly easy to be dismissive about world events.

“I could never fix that,” you might say. “It’s too late to change it now. Stuff like that happens all the time.”

Allow me to call attention to a quote appropriated by John F. Kennedy: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

I tend to agree with this oft-used quotation.

Doing nothing will get us nowhere, so we need to open up discussions to facilitate change. Whether it is about the aforementioned violence or new changes right here at our school.

It won’t be easy though.

“The very attempt to bring attention to disparate voices and an increasingly divisive tone in our culture would also be a potential vessel disintegrating civility,” said Judy Martin on desensitization in a 2012 Forbes article.

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Discuss critically instead of sitting around cynically. Make people uncomfortable with your passion for change. I’m not saying that thinking and talking is the end-all, be-all to fix our apparent disconnect problem. It’s just a first step.

Think about real world events. Take the time to read an article about what’s happening instead of just looking at the headline. And, if you’re so moved, go take action for what you believe in.

Maybe then you’ll have the time to try and drive jet skis onto the highway while feeling a little less guilty.

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