Tuesday, 25 February 2014


When I was younger, I used to say that nothing shocked me any more, that I'd seen and read so many horrifying things that nothing had the same impact as it used to.

But somewhere along the line something changed and now I find that an increasing number of things shock me profoundly. I don't know if it's because people's behaviour is genuinely becoming more extreme and outrageous, or because I've become more sensitive, or because I recoil from the sheer brutality and heartlessness of what's going on. But whatever it is, these are just some of the things that shock me:

1) Abusive social media campaigns. Like the one directed at Northern Ireland MLA* Anna Lo recently, thick with racism and sexism.
2) Extreme drunkenness in public, often requiring emergency hospital treatment and sometimes fatal.
3) Systematic bullying in workplaces, causing widespread stress and sickness.
4) Routine lying by politicians, leading to general disillusion with politics.
5) Withdrawal of welfare benefits to the poor and disabled, causing severe distress and hardship.
6) Mass shootings at schools, traumatising pupils and their families for years afterwards.
7) Female genital mutilation, on a huge scale in numerous countries.
8) Wholesale rape by soldiers as a military tactic and a display of power.

I'm getting used to being shocked. But I'm not getting used to the things I'm shocked by. And there seem to be more and more of them.

*MLA: Member of the Legislative Assembly. Our equivalent of an MP


  1. One of the things that makes it even worse is the gloating detail with which some of them are reported and the way people caught up in it are hounded. There's a gruesome fascination that many seem to feel for this sort of news that I can't cope with.

  2. Z: There's a lot of gloating detail, as you say. And the hounding of people who're on benefits, or make controversial remarks, or simply look a bit different from other people, is just sick.

  3. Society is more brutal and less tolerant and reluctant to share good fortune around. It seems more is never enough. I don't know how this can be changed.

  4. I haven't seen any research on this so I don't know whether the incidence of horrifying events is actually increasing or just better publicizes. Given that the past holds the Crusades, slavery, the Holocaust, witch hunts and so on, I'm going to guess that it's a matter of how publicized events are. And that leads to a desensitization for many, which is as big a part of the horror to me.

    I virtually never watch or read the news anymore because it is just too filled with the sorts of meanness and all-around bad behavior that drag me down.

  5. I don't think society has changed; we are just more aware due to the media. Regardless, it's good that it's still shocking to most people. Who wants to view these events as 'normal'?

  6. Bonsaimum: "More is never enough" sums it all up nicely. People are going to greater and greater extremes in order to satisfy some sort of inner craving.

    Bijoux: Yes, I think increased publicity is one reason these things are more noticeable. But abusive social media campaigns just seemed to spring out of nowhere. And the deliberate withdrawal of welfare benefits to those who really need them is a new thing too.

  7. Agent: I thought it might be you! As I said to Bijoux, I think some of these things are actually recent developments. I think you're right that increased publicity can desensitize us, but strangely I think it can also do the opposite - make us so aware of something it comes to haunt us.

    I'm often tempted to give up looking at the media. The problem is that it supplies useful information as well as all the horror stories, so it's a bit like throwing away the baby with the bathwater.

  8. #2, In this area, an 18 year old was found dead in a snowbank with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. He was supposedly acting strangely prior to his death...

  9. Susie: So many youngsters just don't realise the huge risks they're taking by over-drinking. Like freezing to death, as you say. And the death toll here from drunken driving is appalling.

  10. Extreme & excess seems to be the words of the world today.

    Extreme poverty of the basic needs of some, I am sorry to say.

  11. I think what shocked me most of all was hearing about the vile things that have happened in North Korea. I find that more shocking than drunkenness, etc. but then it is not like with like.

  12. Grannymar: Very true. People just don't know when to stop. They're addicted to sheer recklessness.

    Jenny: Yes, the regime in North Korea is appalling. Three million people dead of starvation in the 90s and 200,000 citizens in concentration camps. It doesn't bear thinking about.

  13. I didn't say I refuse to hear any news, just that I don't seek it out. I am well aware of what's going on the world, but prefer to read things that nurture me and connect me to others rather than things that depress me or make me feel distanced form others.

  14. What upsets me the most is the casual nature of some to the suffering of others

  15. Agent: I see what you mean. And I do agree with you about looking for things that connect you to other people. The connection/disconnection aspect is a good way of approaching the media.

    John: Absolutely. The emotional deadness that doesn't seem to even register that suffering is involved.

  16. Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined argues the past was even worse. Today is plenty bad enough.

  17. I wouldn't call it 'being shocked'. Outraged more like it. Not least because shock leaves you open mouthed whereas rage jumps you into ACTION.


  18. Jean: I remember reading about his book. He's right that previous centuries were even more violent and bloodthirsty. At the moment it looks like we're sliding back in that direction.

    Ursula: Oh, I'm outraged as well, but there's precious little action one isolated individual like myself can take. I've written to quite a lot of politicians about FGM though.

  19. I live alone. I was so disgusted with the way society is going that I threw my TV and radio in the local recycling bin. I do not buy papers of magazines any more nor do I go out and mix much.

    My sister and brother-in-law have cut me out of their lives simply because I told them that I didn't believe in a mythical god and all the trappings that go with it.

    I don't get depressed any more. ignorance is bliss they say, and it's very true. The world out there now is not for me!

    My computers are the only link with the outside because I can choose what I want to know and watch, and NO SILLY ADVERTS.

  20. Keith: You're not the only one who's given up on the media and all its depressing offerings. As I say, I haven't gone that far, but I'm very selective about what I read.

    The gulf between the religious and the non-religious is a huge one. I've had my own clashes with fervent believers. Why they can't just live and let live, I don't know.

  21. I truly believe the world is a very wounded entity right now, this is evidenced by drug addiction and extreme behaviours. we have put in power politicians who instigate murder and mayhem in countries they have no business in.
    This is reflected by citizens in echoing ways.
    It is inevitable.
    And I too have unplugged as you know.
    It is unbearable. I rarely write on it anymore. I can't give it energy.
    I only have to look at bleeding Mother Earth in Alberta and I weep.

  22. www: A wounded entity is right. And in many cases the politicians are only making things worse, not better. At our expense. It's enough to make all of us weep.

  23. a lot of violence now is not physical. I am so glad I am not an impresional teen any more. so many people on TV are so plastic, how I would have ever survived if I was supposed to be orange tanned, with super tight clothing and extreme make up and hair that looks like it isn't brushed. I would not have made it out of the front door. my family would have freaked out.

    The alcohol drinking is a problem. I heard from one of the younger girls at work that there is a lot of stigma surrounding sex and that is at the level of adult films. I wont go into detail but I was horrified. her sister is home school because she is pretty and bullied terribly for it.

  24. Sol: You're right, there's maybe less physical violence and more emotional violence. And yes, today's fashions are pretty extreme!

    As for being bullied because you're pretty, how warped can people's attitudes get?

  25. I find modern communication, particularly the free use of the four letter and their equivalents in our local languages words shocking. I am just too old, much older than you, not to be offended by it.

  26. Ramana: I'm not much bothered by today's swear words, I see them everywhere and I'm quite used to them. In fact it seems rather quaint now that my father never used anything stronger than "bloody fool" or "damned idiot".