I couldn't agree more. Those are both really great posts and more or less covers my views on it. The thing I don't get is why there is still a correlation between Video Games and Violence in our society. It's not video games making our children violent, it's our CULTURE ITS-SELF. Video games have been around since the late 70's and early 80's. Today's generation of adults are the first generation that grew up with having video games as a main stream influence to them all their lives. Previous generations from the 40's, 50's, and 60's, as with things like comic books, when they grew up they stopped reading comics and collecting toys because those were seen as "kid things". Todays generation of adults, specifically males aged 25 to 45, are the first generations to keep the desire to play games and accept things like comic books and cartoons as part of main stream media and an influence on our culture as a whole.
As much as there is an argument to say "Video Games cause violence!!" there's just as big an argument that can say "Video Games give us a Outlet for our Violent Tendencies!!". The later argument is often overlooked or under-used though as it's not as "popular" an idea but it can't be argued against with any kind of sane logic. We can't deny that as a species, Humans, we are Prone to violence. History has recorded our violent acts and tendencies since there was a very beginning of "recorded history". If we didn't have things like "Sports" (sports are violent competitions, that can't be denied) and Video Games, and War-games, where would we channel our violent tendencies that we Need an outlet for? If a kid can come home from a tough day at school and let off steam by running over hookers on GTA4 then that same kid is less likely to go get in a Real Car and try to run people over. If a angry teen with access to guns is able to come home from school and blow the heads off enemies on COD4 he's less likely to take a gun to school and kill his classmates.
There is Always going to be a certain percentage of people out there who are "unstable". These people are going to commit their violent and crazy acts regardless of what video games they play or what movies they watch. There are crazy people out there and that's a fact and always has been from the dawn on civilization. There have been studies done on Sexually Violent Offenders that shows that criminally violent people can be placated with "simulated acts" that keep them from performing the "actual acts". To put it frankly, a guy who goes home to jack off is less likely to go out and rape someone. This same study and theory are directly applied to other violent types of behavior.
When it comes to the attitudes of our soldiers over-seas fighting...well, I've seen some pretty messed up things that really make me doubt some of these people have any respect for human life at all. Before I talk about this let me get one thing straight. I support our Troops, the Soldiers themselves, because they are putting themselves in harms way and in doing so have kept my liberties intact in a lot of ways throughout history. I Don't necessarily support the decisions that are made that put them in harms way to begin with.
The sad fact of the matter is though that there are a percentage of our own soldiers whos attitudes towards killing are honestly quite shocking and appalling to me as an American. You won't see it on a lot of new stations, but you can find it even on YouTube and it HAS been documented by serious news stations where I've seen interviews with our soldiers in the field and actual footage of them in action where they are shooting Insurgents and then saying "hey look at him twitch" and literally laughing at the people they are killing. Some of them seem to have the attitude that they Are Playing a Game and I find that pretty sickening. War is a fact of life that we deal with as humans, but should any soldiers anywhere actually take pleasure from the act of killing another human being? Some of the people they were killing were teenagers and some of our soldiers over there fighting ARE Teenagers. I almost joined up when I was 18, how many young men and women DID join up right after they graduated High School? That would mean there's a lot of 19 year olds serving in the war right now, along with everyone in their 20's and 30's and other career officers. Keeping a high morale on the battlefield is one thing, but laughing at the loss of human life when you totally outclass your enemy is just kinda sick when you're doing it in real life and Not in a video game or fantasy.
About the video games and violence, I agree with you. Media often doesn't reflect the personal values that are actually held in society. Often the most open societies are oddly prudish, and the most closed societies can be staggering amoral. I think the Victorian era illustrates this exactly.
My caveat is that I do think popular media does reflect the zeitgeist, and that geist is one scary phantom wielding an AK-47. I don't think militancy has increased because of videogames, rather militant media has really reinforced those attitudes. It's a painful admission for me because I'm so strongly on the "videogames don't cause violence" bandwagon, as you are. But if we're printing books, making movies, and playing games about how awesome and perfect America is and how the muslims are all terrorists, I can't really deny that reflects something ugly. A note: I don't think we're quite there yet, but we've come awfully close sometimes.
It's frustrating and frightening to me, it's an issue I care about because ultimately violence descends to the lowest common denominator. I've never been in a truly violent situation but as someone whose been overseas much of my life I've been touched by war far more than most and I've sometimes been on the peripheral to it. Both my parents were caught in the middle of pitched battles between warring groups and the stories are not pretty. I think as civilians they are more open about their experiences than a soldier might be, which I why I'm so disgusted by the attitudes expressed by a lot of militantly minded people, some of whom are my friends.
There really ought to be a surgeon's general warning on these sorts of movies, books and games, like there is on cigarettes. Just: "Warning: This is not an accurate reflection of combat". That'd make me feel better. People would laugh at it but at least it'd stick in the back of their minds.
As to soldier's attitudes, I think it's important that they share their stories. I've known a number of people who have gone to Iraq and so far the people who are really talking are the civilians. And I've heard first hand stories like the ones you mention.
My intent was to make a point about how difficult it is to grow anything of legitimate value in the environment there (my friend Manting also told me that the US built a dam in Afghanistan during the late Cold War that messed up the water table and caused that situation, but I have not been able to confirm the accuracy of this fact). Looking at my original post, I realize I could have conveyed that more clearly with "stayed in their village and tried to farm sand". But I suspect we may be boring the other posters here...
Well, my mother had lived in Afghanistan before the coup and the Taliban. She told me you used to be able to grow fruits and grapes there (a lot of blood oranges come from Afghanistan), which is a virtually unknown fact. I hadn't heard about the dam but that doesn't surprise me. I had always assumed the Taliban realized opium was more profitable. Afghanistan was actually a really nice, relatively peaceful place. It was the cultural center of a couple of powerful kingdoms. Who the hell buys opium, anyway?