The seeds of sen­si­tiv­ity

The Compass - - OPINION - Kirk Squires

It’s a ques­tion that has been asked by each suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tion, is so­ci­ety be­com­ing in­creas­ingly de­sen­si­tized?

Some would ar­gue it is not a ques­tion of be­com­ing; so­ci­ety has been on a down­ward slide for cen­turies. But there’s no ques­tion the 21st cen­tury has ush­ered in a whole new low on the sen­si­tiv­ity scale.

Look at en­ter­tain­ment. In its day the Wizard of Oz gen­uinely scared peo­ple with im­ages of the wicked witch and fly­ing mon­keys. By to­day’s stan­dards it’s noth­ing more than a chil­dren’s movie.

And you don’t have to go back too far to find a time when the glimpse of a breast in a movie was un­heard of. To­day, ev­ery sec­ond celebrity is flash­ing their un­men­tion­ables to who­ever wants to look. And a sex tape is less a scan­dal and more of a quick and easy way to jump­start a ca­reer.

So what makes the cur­rent age so much worse than the one be­fore? Tech­nol­ogy! That brings us to the next ques­tion. While so­ci­ety has be­come more tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced, is it more civ­i­lized?

The an­swer to that will be a topic for de­bate for gen­er­a­tions, but on first glance the an­swer would have to be an un­equiv­o­cal NO!

The ad­vent of tele­vi­sion (in the 1940s and 50s) ex­po­nen­tially in­creased the speed at which so­ci­ety would be­gin its love af­fair with the hor­rors of the world, and the most graphic im­ages the av­er­age per­son could stom­ach.

News from the Sec­ond World War was lim­ited mainly to pho­to­graphs in mag­a­zines and short re­ports be­fore the fea­ture at movie the­atres.

Jump ahead 25 years; tele­vi­sion brought in­stan­ta­neous re­ports of the Viet­nam War into the liv­ing and din­ing rooms of a na­tion.

To­day the In­ter­net, G3 cel­lu­lar net­works and dig­i­tal video cam­eras have taken the most grue­some events and made them al­most bor­ing. They are sim­ply not graphic enough to sa­ti­ate the masses.

There are sites on the In­ter­net ded­i­cated to crashes and the pop­u­lar­ity of th­ese sites demon­strates a grow­ing fas­ci­na­tion with death and de­struc­tion. The grue­some and macabre have be­come fash­ion­able.

The ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy have re­al­ized some won­der­ful break­throughs for so­ci­ety, but they have also eroded the so­cial struc­ture.

Pri­vacy has taken a back­seat to cell­phone cam­eras and video recorders, which cap­ture daily life and plas­ter it over the In­ter­net.

A decade ago when you came upon an ac­ci­dent you were merely a wit­ness.

To­day all you need do is ask any emer­gency ser­vices re­spon­der what hap­pens at ac­ci­dents and fatal­i­ties.

Many will tell sto­ries of by­standers and “rub­ber-neck­ers” with cam­eras and cell­phones in hand cap­tur­ing the im­age of the man­gled body as it’s cut out of the wreck­age. In short or­der, those im­ages make their way to the World Wide Web. Is it the fault of tech­nol­ogy? No! The prob­lem is with the ap­pli­ca­tion of th­ese elec­tronic toys. Tech­nol­ogy is merely the medium that has al­lowed a fur­ther ero­sion of com­pas­sion and re­spect for our fel­low hu­man be­ings.

We are slowly be­com­ing a so­ci­ety where a de­gree of will­ful so­cial autism is the norm. Ba­si­cally what that means is the ad­dic­tion to tech­nol­ogy has al­lowed peo­ple to iso­late them­selves un­til they lose all touch with what lit­tle em­pa­thy and con­science they may have had.

Tech­nol­ogy iso­lates and erodes so­cial in­ter­ac­tions. Without those so­cial in­ter­ac­tions it is easy to see that body be­ing cut out of the wreck­age as mere meat. It may sound cold and it is. Peo­ple have to re­mem­ber that was some­one’s fa­ther, brother, son or friend.

But dis­card­ing tech­nol­ogy is not the an­swer. The se­cret is not us­ing tech­nol­ogy as the foun­da­tion of our so­cial in­ter­ac­tions. Hu­mans are so­cial be­ings; hu­man con­tact in its phys­i­cal form is the foun­da­tion of that so­cial struc­ture and the ba­sis of com­pas­sion and re­spect.

By shar­ing a warm mo­ment with a friend or shak­ing the hand of a stranger the seeds of com­pas­sion and sen­si­tiv­ity can be­gin to ger­mi­nate. Oth­er­wise don’t be shocked when graphic and dis­turb­ing im­ages fail to shock.

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