Belfast Telegraph

How we’re all losing touch with real world

By Nuala McKeever

A little quiz to ease us into things this week. Which, if any, of these do you find the most shocking?

  • Call of Duty - Black Ops has just been released. It’s a video game which allows players to hunt down and kill Fidel Castro.
  • A German film director, infamous for his gory movies, has made a film about the horrors of Auschwitz which is so graphically violent that Germans are pledging to boycott it.
  • Ex-president George Bush, in his memoirs, has said he was really annoyed they never found WMD but he’s not sorry he led his army into war in Iraq.
  • Fifty students are arrested after a protest march turned into an attack on Tory party HQ.

(I just threw the last one in for any Daily Mail readers — it’s a bit of a red herring.)

If you’re a member of the Cuban government, obviously you’re most put out about the first one.

Even though this is a fictional game scenario, set in the Cold War, just before the Bay of Pigs, it offers gamers the chance to do in a virtual world what many tried and failed to do in the real world — kill Castro.

The Cubans are upset that US firm Activision is glorifying the American government’s past attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, and that it encourages sociopathic attitudes in North American children and adolescents.

German film critics are outraged that Uwe Boll’s film Auschwitz shows gruesome scenes of death and torture. They say he’s exploiting the past. He defends it by saying that something needs to shock younger people nowadays because films like Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful don’t convey the horror of the Nazi camps.

Meanwhile people are probably queuing up to buy George Bush’s book, which, according to Johathon Yardley of the Washington Post, is “an attempt to write history before the historians get their hands on it.” Not so much a “mea culpa” more a “mea excusa” (And please do excusa mea if that Latin is wrong — I was off that day )

So where do you stand on violence in reality and the depiction of it as fact, fiction or, in the case of games and memoirs where one can go back and tweak the bits of history one doesn’t like, faction?

Bush, who didn’t lose a son or father or brother in the remote Iraq war, will make money on his book and sleep safe in the knowledge that, even though he got it all wrong, he did the right thing.

Young people playing Black Ops will be able to walk away from the computer (albeit reluctantly) after a heavy evening’s remotely making-the-world-safe-for-democracy-with-their-thumbs and sleep safe in their beds.

We’re living in a world of fantasy and fantasists where there are no consequences! Anyone under 30 has had their developing brains bombarded with the lure of the virtual. It may be an escape from the harshness of reality but it doesn’t teach us anything about how to deal with the harshness of reality.

Don’t like what happened? Then go back and re-make it only nicer, from a safe distance.

Strangely, the German film, even though it might actually be the most horrific, is, in some ways, the least shocking.

Loss of life is terrible, but loss of empathy and connection is scarier still.

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