Tag Archives: violence

“Violence is one of the most fun things to watch”

The quote in the title is, perhaps unsurprisingly, attributed to Quentin Tarantino.  It no doubt refers to film rather than real life violence, but lately I have been pondering the massive apparent increase in violence of all kinds, whether it’s drunk guys smashing each other on Saturday nights or the appalling violence visited upon Indian students in Melbourne or sexual assaults or kids filming fights at school and posting the results on YouTube.  I say ‘apparent’ because I’m not sure whether there is actually more violence, or whether it is being reported more often.  Growing up in what my sisters call the ghetto, there were fights all the time, in school and at parties: sometimes the police turned up, sometimes they didn’t, but these days it would turn up on the news: back then, everyone turned a blind eye.  Having said that, the drugs that are around these days does make people crazy with violence, and I’ve spoken to enough nurses to know the effect drug-fuelled violence is having on EDs around the country (and particularly in the country).  But drugs aside, what is causing it?  Is it only drugs?  And what effect does media saturation – ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ – have? 

I don’t have any answers.  I worry, though, that the media portrayal unintentionally glamorises and normalises violence for those inclined to be violent.  I worry that the images and news we have of the latest beating or stabbing or assault creates paralysing fear and dread amongst the rest of us.  I also worry that if we don’t ask questions about how people come to be violent, we will never know how to address violence.  And don’t forget that a large component of violence – in the home, against children – is invisible, and its victims largely silent.

I do think, though, that it might behove the media to treat violence in the same way it treats suicide – journalists recognise that reporting suicide leads to an increase in suicide attempts, and they voluntarily desist, unless there are important reasons to do otherwise. 

Fiction, as opposed to news stories, lets us have more than a one-dimensional view of what makes humans tick.  I’ve recently finished Barry Jonsberg‘s Ironbark, which deals with a violent kid, the kind most adults would avoid on the street.  The book doesn’t offer any answers, either, but it made me ponder families, violence and self-control in ways I hadn’t before. 

I know fiction isn’t the answer to the perils of the modern age: I only wish it were.  But it’s better than screaming headlines that aim to provoke primal emotions and a mouse click.  It’s a shame that Quentin Tarantino is right.

Reunion: a personal reflection

Yesterday I went to a small reunion of those who survived Kelmscott Senior High School in the mid 1980s, thanks to facebook (and A!).  My memories of the place, which were largely unflattering, found their (fictionalised) way into my first novel, Obsession.  Since the publication of Obsession, I’ve wondered from time to time if I’ve been a little unfair, particularly in the depiction of the fear-inducing kids who roamed the school, untempered by bullying policies or reliable intervention from teachers.  (And I’m sure it’s probably quite different now: even the scariest schools I’ve been into as a writer haven’t had the Clockwork Orange-like menace I remember from my days at KSHS). 

So, I’ve made a conscious effort to remember the positives: the couple of teachers who tried to save me from myself, and who encouraged me to be creative and not head down the self-destructive path I nevertheless wandered down for a few years after being ‘permanently suspended’ at the beginning of Year 11.  The musicals, and the escape they offered from the tyranny of lunchtimes. Being given the opportunity to audition and be accepted in the WA Youth Theatre Company, which I believe was funded by the Education Department of the day.  The teachers who encouraged me to write.  Being sent on a Rotary Leadership Camp in Year 10, possibly to try and stop me from becoming seriously naughty (it didn’t work).  Tne teacher who had the vision to ask me if everything was all right at home – which, of course, it was not. 

I was therefore a little nervous to meet up with some people I knew well in high school, and others who I only remembered by face or by name.  Was it just me, I wondered, who remembered KSHS like that?

No, it was not.  And it wasn’t just the girls, either.  I was mortified to hear one of the guys describe the vicious beatings he received at the hands of one of my highschool boyfriends, and to listen to others’ stories of trying to avoid being randomly descended upon by the bullies, male and female.  (I was even more mortified to hear that one girl had been scared of me – not because of me per se, but because of my less savoury associations.  And to hear that one of my friends had been harrassed for an entire term because I happened to mention to one of these less savoury associations that I’d had a fight with this friend.  Ugh). 

Then there were the sad stories of those who had died – through misadventure, or their own hand – or had ended up in jail (and can I say, there were no surprises there). 

But for the rest of us, life has been a mixture of sorrow and joy, difficult times and personal satisfactions, and everyone there seemed to have sieved some wisdom – and some humour – from the unexpected twists of our fully lived lives.

It was delightful to be able to reconnect with my old schoolmates – and to be able, ultimately, to laugh at it all (thanks, D! – and apologies to our fellow diners at 2 Fat Indians).