Societally-encouraged casual consideration of violence harmfully desensitizes

Lilly Ludwig, columnist

We heard a pounding on the bedroom door, and the enemy began to pick the lock. Terrified, my partner and I stripped the mattress off the bed and slammed it up against the door, but the boys were stronger, and they pushed their way into our hiding spot. We were dead.

It was at this moment, as I watched a group of sweaty teenage boys pelt me and my friends with Nerf bullets, that I realized how lightly our society treats violence.

Signing up for Paranoia with my friends was a decision I regretted for many reasons, including the following: I had to spend $70 replacing two broken window screens, I spent three hours stalking some guy on the opposite team when I could have been doing my history notes and I had to wipe boy sweat off of my Nerf gun on multiple occasions. But the part I feel the worst about was how casually my friends  and I were treating a game centered around violence.

The sad thing is that our exposure to violence starts in childhood. We put toy guns in the hands of children and give them army figures so that they will idolize war. And when they’re done playing, we turn on TV shows and films likePower Rangers” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, where plots center around violence. Even in movies as innocent as The Lion King, Simba regains his kingdom through violence instead of through peace.

All of this teaches children from an early age that violence is a fact of this existence, and it is necessary to get what you want. Most of us don’t learn about Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and the power of peace until long after the Nerf wars have begun.

Another scary aspect of violence is how desensitized we are. According to, 1.6 million people will die a violent death this year and 25 percent of women have experienced domestic violence.

We hear these numbers and we forget that all of these victims have people who love them, people who care if they get hurt and people who hold the emotional scars caused by needless violence. We forget because most of us aren’t affected personally by violence, but forgetting is almost as harmful as standing by and watching it happen.

I’m not saying that games like Paranoia and shows like “Power Rangers” are bad. I think they’re fun, and I think in some ways, violence is an unfortunate part of the human experience. So, the art we produce is going to reflect that violence. However I think that the handling of the topic itself provides an opportunity to be reminded of the severity of violence, and lot of times it is instead brushed off or forgotten.

An act of violence is serious, and I hope that everyone who has experience with violence as a form of play—whether it be through a video game, a movie or a game of Paranoia—uses it to reflect on the impact of violence, and be thankful that they don’t have to face that violence in real life. Because a lot of people don’t get that choice.

I think something really amazing would happen if each child was taught that peace is more valuable than violence. Most of us are lucky to live in environments where we can feel safe and the threat of violence is not a serious concern. So let’s do something with that South: let’s spread peace.