A couple of weekends ago I sat in my apartment wasting time watching TV, and I happened to land on the Discovery Channel. The commercial that was showing was a promo for Future Weapons, a man's man of a program featuring the grizzly Richard "Mack" Machowicz, an ex-Navy SEAL who every week delivers demonstrations of the latest machines that humans have conjured to blow each other up. From bullets that shoot around corners, to the laser-guided bombs that can burrow through 50 feet of concrete, Mack promises to reveal all there is to know about the 21st century battlefield.
I quickly changed the channel, shaking my head in disgust. "Why do they put this crap on TV? Just more glorification of violence," I thought to myself with a self-satisfied roll of my eyes. After a few more minutes of channel surfing, I opted for the next item on my list of procrastination techniques: video games.
Being me, there was only one choice: Counter-Strike, an online first-person shooter in which a team of counter-terrorists battle the other team of mask-clad terrorists in short, two or three-minute rounds. (You heard it straight from the source folks: I play PC games. Yes, I'm a nerd, I know, but I dare say that I spend far less time on these than many Geneseo guys do behind PS2 or Xbox controllers.)
I booted the game up, connected to a server, opted for the counter-terrorist team, and considered my weapons options. I had $4,100, and could spend it on my weapon-of-choice, the trusty M4A1 assault rifle with the 5.56mm ammo, which could easily dispatch my opponent with three or four hits (unless I aimed well enough to get a headshot, of which you only need one). Of course, there was also the FN Herstal P90, a less-powerful submachine gun with an incredibly fast rate of fire of 5.7mm bullets that can be devastating in close combat. I was about to choose the M4 when the realization of my incredible hypocrisy hit me over the head like a sledgehammer.
I'm not writing this to suggest that today's media is obsessed with violence: everybody knows that. But it was this moment, more than any other I can remember in my lifetime, when I've been so incredibly convicted of my own sense of self-righteousness. What right did I have to criticize the Discovery Channel, who is just catering to the same violence-enamored crowd who might not get their fix with video games, when I take pleasure in blowing my opponents' heads off in the virtual world of Counter-Strike?
Whether I want to admit it or not, I know for a fact that I possess many of these hypocritical feelings towards a variety of people and things, and I dare say I'm not the only one who might have this problem. It's incredibly easy to be scornful, mostly because it makes us feel better about ourselves. But let's take a step back. How many of us may, in some way, be guilty of the very things that we claim to be against? In my case, it was reveling in the glorification of violence, but it can be practically anything. Regardless, recognition of the problem was undoubtedly a first step in rectifying what is a real problem in my life, and I venture it may be an issue in yours as well.
Don't think I'm going to and give up my Counter-Strike though, no way. But I'm certainly going to ditch this idea that I'm better than those that would watch a TV show about the very same thing.