Suffering is a difficult topic for most people to talk or think about. Let alone enduring it, or even watching someone, or something suffer
Suffering, and the way we deal with it, exposes our vulnerabilities and our greatest attributes. And this is possibly why it is so accepted in today’s society.
All throughout history, suffering has been recorded, and often in these accounts, its victims are a spectacle used to entertain a crowd of cheering and chanting onlookers. Today, we look at pictures, illustrations and read about these events with horror and disbelief. However, I would argue that we haven’t evolved as much as we would like to think we have. We still observe people suffering, all over the world, each and every day. The only difference in how we view suffering, is the way that it is framed. Rather than viewing it publicly – standing around, encouraging violent and dangerous behaviour/activities – we watch it as a newscast, or read about it in newspapers and it is framed as being informative.
Although, when we do watch suffering for enjoyment, it’s framed as sport or entertainment. There are so many platforms – games, music, movies, TV shows, internet etc. – that dramatise and romanticise both the physical and emotional aspects of suffering. With so many devices that enable immediate access to anything we want, we are often surrounded and consumed by the misery, pain and torment that is suffering.
How is it that we condone video games such as Call of Duty where the player is both the killer and the victim, yet we cringe at news stories reporting on the tragedy and fatalities of war? Is it because it isn’t real? Being so frequently exposed to this kind of thing, gradually desensitises us from the real deal.
So the real question to ask, is this all ok?
I think it is ok. We all experience suffering on some level, it is inevitable and it begs us to think and feel. I think the real issue lies with the intentions of those who choose to record and/or view suffering. It is important to ensure that the memory of someone is preserved – to pay respect – and to create a dignified recollection of suffering, not to humiliate.