I’m initially going a bit off the financial-health reservation today, to write about something that’s been on my mind since Tuesday night.
But fear not. The last few paragraphs of this piece bring it all on home to the ultimate financial reality each of us faces each and every day: having enough to eat.
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Trending on Twitter right now is the TV show Sons of Anarchy. I will confess, guiltily, that I have followed this show, having watched probably two-thirds of its episodes the last couple of years. It’s the only TV series I’ve watched at all during this time (I am slowly making my way through The Wire on DVD — it’ll take years at the rate I’m going).
I have always felt like a schmo for watching SOA (as they call it online, especially in that place where every character counts). SOA is about a motorcycle club/crime syndicate. People get killed. Fights break out. Drugs get sold. Guns get stolen. Crosses get doubled. Good does not happen.
And, yup, Jax is fun to look at, and Gemma is an amazing acting job, being Peg Bundy, but a decade or two later and a universe or two removed.
All told, there is not a single admirable character in the show. Not a one.
[Writing aside: I’m mostly foregoing links in this piece; I do not wish to support, in even a minor way, the subject matter!]
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SOA is trending right now because the person who played one of its side characters — a character accounting for maybe 0.5% of the show — died yesterday after perhaps killing his landlady and jumping to his death. I kid you not.
SOA has aired two episodes so far this season. I had to look away once during each episode; in the first episode the innocent daughter of an SOA member was put into a pit, doused and then set ablaze as her father watched, this being dad’s punishment for having killed another badguy’s daughter, and in the second episode one of the main characters, the closest to a sympathetic one on the show (but, in the end, still a very violent thug), was beaten to death in a prison, with guards looking on and setting up the encounter itself, after that same badguy (he really loved his daughter, and therefore must kill kill kill) decided that one of the SOA gang members in prison had to die.
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I understand the draw. Drama isn’t about common things; it’s about conflict, character growth, story arcs, life and death, etc. This show has all that (thought I’d argue it’s pretty light on character growth).
But I also think that violence is just plain ol’ bad for people — being in it, for sure, but also being exposed to it, even via fiction, and especially when the exposure is audio-visually mediated, as to truly tweak our main senses.
For sure also, I speak from a time and place where I can be on my mighty-on-high perch, free from almost all (but by no means all) worry of encountering violence.
But I ask you: what do we gain — how do we improve as human beings? — from exposure to violence? Is there any upside to it, other than in some far remove, in which violence is a regular part of our lives, and our continued existences depend on our being able to well-handle it, Hunger Games-like, in which event being de-sensitized to violence would come in right-handy?
But that’s not the world in which the people reading this piece live.
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Now I’m mostly staying away from the life-imitates-art angle here. I’m sure others will jump on that bandwagon plenty. But I do want to say this: most folks who, like me, had to turn away from those two in-your-face violent scenes in the first two episodes of SOA this season, are virtually incapable of unprovoked violence: the response is sinply not present.
Heck, I have mixed feelings when I help the kitty kill a fly.
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And here’s the financial-health tie-in. Violence used to have a very direct economic component to it: that’s how we ate, e.g. we violated the sanctity of another animal so that we could et it, we protected our hunting and gathering grounds by stomping other humans who entered them, etc.
These days, though, almost all of us compete for food in different ways.
I much prefer our current competition . . . but it’s like trees in the Midwest: whatever you grew up with is what you feel most comfortable with. I’m happy to have lived in a time where we competed on smarts and skill and gumption, rather than on muscle and fight and might. Maybe a millennium of millennia from now, people — the universe willing and our violent and thuggish nature having been successfully held in check by gosh only knows what — will look back and wonder how we so ignobly fed ourselves.
Two-days later post-script: today FoxNews had on its live air a car-chase followed by the driver’s real-time-suicide via shot to the head. Live!
So who needs to see daughters burnt alive or Opies bludgeoned to death when you can see the real-thing, real-time. Afterwards, Shep Smith, who apparently egged on his producer to keep the live feed up during his show, apologized, saying
We really messed up. We’re all very sorry. That didn’t belong on television.
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