Society is addicted to it.
In homes. On streets. Outside pubs and clubs on a Friday night. After the football. On TV. In the cinema. On games consoles. On the web. In fact and in fiction.
We pursue it. We portray it. We glamourise it. We normalise it. We show it in slow motion replay. And we present it as entertainment.
I’m not about to come over all ‘Mary Whitehouse’ on you, but I am troubled by the consequences of it all.
Roll up, roll up for:
- The serial killings
- The gang rapes
- The extremist executions
- The teenage stabbings
- The 24-hour news loops with scenes of atrocity playing on repeat
Is it any wonder that some of us are becoming desensitised; that some of us are losing the capacity to be shocked; that some of our young people in particular have lost sight of the consequences of their very real acts of violence; that some of us fail to give the most recent manifestation of terror anything more than a passing glance.
- The murder of Kodjo Yenga
- The latest killing game
- The murder of Ben Kinsella
- The latest torture flick
- The murder of Milad Golmakani
- The latest offering of horror porn
- The murder of Dogan Ismail
Reality and fiction blurring.
And policing deals with the reality:
- The domestic murders
- The brutal sexual assaults
- The shootings
- The shankings
- The street fights between strangers
- The endless blood soaked scenes
I have stood in the places where violence happens – where the horror and terror are real.
Every police officer has.
So let me make a simple observation about some of the violent young men I have encountered during the course of my career: young men who have stabbed and shot and taken life, just like that.
The overwhelming majority of them grew up in homes where violence was a daily reality – where their mums and sisters were battered senseless whilst they looked helplessly on. The trauma caused in those haunted childhoods is beyond comprehension.
And it is that same trauma that becomes – in my experience – the primary cause of violence in later adolescence and adulthood.
But, alongside the terrifying reality, there are plenty of other influences on these young lives that are making things worse, not better.
These same young men are playing violent video games. They are watching violent films. They are viewing violent pornography. And the combination of these things does astonishing harm.
Are we surprised then, that some of them develop and maintain an entirely screwed up view of the world? Are we surprised that some of them end up holding a knife?
To be clear, I would never for one moment seek to excuse the behaviour of those who cause harm – but we do have a responsibility to try to understand what on earth is going on.
Is violence in society increasing? Is it getting worse? Those are questions that are almost impossible to answer – not least given the significant levels of under-reporting that we know exist. But certain things are clear. Violence has become more visible. More accessible. More normal even.
We, as a society, are letting those things happen. We are complicit in it all.