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The Australian way

Media coverage of natural disasters in Australia tend to focus on people’s willingness to help each other in times of great need, and they call it the Australian way. They say that this solidarity defines the Australian way of life, as if it were unique to our relatively puny population.

In truth, solidarity in times of acute need is a trait of humanity, not just of Australians.

It is troubling to see how much hype is made about it on the news, because it makes me wonder whether kindness and care are only valued and encouraged under these rare circumstances.

Why do we disproportionately hear of random acts of violence, compared to random acts of kindness? Do the news try to inform us, as they would like us to think, or merely to entertain and excite us?

What do you think?

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Entertainment standards

Those who know me well know that I have very high standards as to what I watch on television or which music I listen to. Some even feel offended when I refuse to watch something they enjoyed because its content does not conform with these standards. They feel I’m being self-righteous, preachy or snobbish. Thankfully, others take a second look at their own standards and actually respect my choice. A few even raise their standards, and good on them for doing so.

I haven’t had these standards all my life. As far as movies were concerned, we were allowed to watch anything in our home as long as it wasn’t pornographic or had too much strong language. Violence was not really considered a big issue. Then again, I’m talking about 20 years ago. Things are worse now.

I enjoyed watching movies like Robocop, Alien and countless others. I admit always feeling very uncomfortable seeing nudity or sexually oriented scenes, but rarely was I shocked by the violence. I think I actually enjoyed it.

I also played several violent games, though there were not many back then. I played Doom, Quake and others of the “Kill-all-in-sight” type. I didn’t question the morality of these games.

Why, then, do I feel so much disgust towards these things now? What has happened in the meantime?

The truth is, I am still occasionally attracted to them. I acknowledge that they are designed to appeal to the baser attributes of humans: lust, appetites, greed, selfishness, disregard for human life and the freedom of choice of others etc. I’m far from perfect, and these baser attributes are part of me. However, as in everyone else on this planet, there is something greater within me. There is a yearning for higher things, a desire to overcome the “beast within” and become a better person through hard work and a healthy amount of self-restraint.

Even more important, and just as universal, is the plain truth that I am a child of God, and, as such, have within me all the attributes of divinity and the ability to make them grow. I was taught this simple truth since I was born, and I have always believed it, but as a youth I didn’t think enough of its implications. If I had really understood humanity’s place in the universe when I was young, I would have been horrified at the mere thought of killing for money or sex, of inflicting pain for pleasure or revenge.

What’s happened since then is that I’ve started to understand how sacred life is. I’ve also started to care about others, which thing I was very bad at doing as a teenager. The principle of delayed gratification was certainly one of the most uncomfortable principles and the last I wanted to hear about!

Something else happened. I met someone very special whose standards were much higher than mine, who was already very sensitive to violence, profanity and nudity, and who was sensitive because of the same basic truths in which I believed. It made perfect sense for me to raise my standards, and I have never regretted it.

Does that mean I don’t watch any television or listen to any music, or play any video games? No, I still do all these things, though hardly any of the latter. Anne-Marie and I have been building a collection of DVDs which meet our standards (and which we like!) for the last 8 years, and it now includes over 200 movies and TV series. We also have a large collection of inspiring, uplifting and sometimes exciting music which also meets our standards.

I encourage everyone to re-evaluate your tastes in entertainment media in general, in the light of simple principles in which you believe. Little by little you will feel more strongly about it, you will become better able to discern between right instead of wrong, between the ugly and the beautiful, the uplifting and the downgrading, the constructive and the destructive. Having this discernment, you will be more able to make choices which bring lasting, spreadable, sharable happiness instead of fleeting, selfish pleasure.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2009 in Musings, Religion

 

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