Violent games, war and PTSD

Within the last twenty years, I’ve seen video games get more violent. The graphics and the capabilities of today’s games are mindblowing. They can portray blood and gore better than at any time before.  Violent games are also more popular than ever. One could even call them a rite of passage for kids. Everybody gets to play them at one time or another and some kids play them for years, even into early adulthood.

And yet, when faced with real war, all these “seasoned veterans” of violent video games are unescapably and undeniably floored, mentally and physically. They cannot handle the harsh reality of war, of real conflict, of real blood and real guts and body parts flying about. Their minds reel from the punch of that sickly brew and start to develop serious conflicts. When these people get home, they’re riddled with serious mental issues, many of which fall under the umbrella of PTSD.

It seems illogical, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t these kids be more prepared for war? They certainly act tough. They love to shoot people down when they’re playing games. They have no problem with digital violence. But when it’s happening all around them, they shut down, they vomit, their bladders and intestines empty involuntarily, etc.

Perhaps war and violence had best stay digital. Or perhaps in today’s modern world, with all its laws and rules and regulations, when you can’t even beat up a hoodlum who’s attacked you without being charged with violence yourself, we, its law-abiding citizens, are being turned into mush. We’re too far removed from the reality of life, which in many realms means defending your domain and your family by any means necessary. Or maybe that’s a discussion best left for another post.

Right now, I’m curious if any of you have insights on the subject of this post.

I’m not asking why video games aren’t better at making our youth more violent, less caring when it comes to life and people. I’m trying to understand why they’re so popular when they provide no real value. All they do is waste people’s time. And yet, when kids to go to the store and have their choice of various games out there, they go for the violent games.

I know the military has met with success when training its special forces with special video game scenarios, and has also used video games to train its general troops to fight in close quarters, like in cities. On the whole, I would expect today’s soldiers to be better prepared for war, given their obsession with video games about war, violence and the like — but they aren’t.


You can always count on pride

On DC’s beltway, you can easily spot trucks carrying concealed military equipment. All you have to do is to go about your business, and you will pass one or two semi trucks every day, each carrying some big payload wrapped in canvas. While the trucks are generic, the canvas isn’t. You will almost certainly find some logo or initials on it.

If you’re diligent, you can trace that logo back to the company, then find out what contract they were awarded, by whom, and finally, what concealed equipment you might have seen. It’s not hard to do this if you have a somewhat basic knowledge of how government/military contracts work.

I’m not saying this because I want to divulge any government secrets or put anyone at risk. I simply want to point out that most people can’t keep their mouth shut when it comes to bragging about their work, particularly when they’re proud of what they’re doing.

Remember Napster back in its golden days (circa 1997)? You could log on and download music all day long. College students everywhere were doing it. I did it too, for a while, until I realized it was wrong to rob artists of their hard work like that. Later, I even deleted most of the music I’d downloaded, and since then, I’ve been buying my music.

I’m not sure how online music sharing works today, but back then, most hardcore music sharers would mark their files by putting some sort of identifier (such as a nickname) inside the meta data. Some even put site URLs in the meta data. I’m sure that as music labels clamped down on file sharers, these nicknames and site URLs made it easier for them to find the culprits.

These file sharers and the military contractors are just two examples of how one can always count on pride to get at some information. Like most things in this world, this is nothing new, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re working on something you’d like to keep under wraps.


China's growing energy problem, and the US policy quandary

Just read an article written by someone at AP and published on MSNBC, entitled “World feels China’s growing thirst for oil“. I wish they’d publish author names as well! This was a very well-written article, and full of insights into the issue.

If you thought China’s energy demands are small still compared to the US, you’d be right, but what you may not know is that they’re growing at a much larger rate than US demands. What this means is that oil companies in China, a country short of energy reserves of any kind other than coal, have been busy bees for the last decade, striking deals all over the world to meet demands.

China is now competing directly with Japan for energy, and indirectly with the US. All of this leads to tension, especially when China tries to strike up deals that lock the oil reserves only for its use, and when they support abusive regimes in countries like Iran and Sudan, undermining US foreign policy.

If you think this isn’t serious, think again. Here’s a quote from president Bush: “Oil — the dependence upon oil is a national security problem, and an economic security problem.” To back up his words, the US has built a strong naval presence in the Malacca straits, the narrow passage through which most of the traffic from the Middle East and Africa moves on its way to East Asia. This concern isn’t partisan. Democrats – Joe Lieberman being one of them – agree with Bush’s characterization.

I recently read through a World Bank report that I can’t share here, which said that China’s energy demands will only grow. They’re exploring many routes, one of which is hydroenergy, most of their energy still comes from coal, and oil needs will continue to increase.

My take on it is this: the problem is that they’re the biggest manufacturing center in the world. Companies everywhere have shifted their production facilities to China because of its cheap labor costs and lax environmental standards. So it’s a bit hypocritical to expect China to regulate its energy use while they’re making most of the products for the Western world.

The point is, the industrial portion of the global economy has to reside somewhere, and China’s the place right now. I don’t foresee a decrease in that sort of energy consumption as a whole – the world population’s increasing, not decreasing. If China decreases its production, factories will have to be built somewhere else to meet demand.

To see how truly complex this problem is, you have to look at the relationship between China and the US. They’re propping up the US economy by investing heavily in our bonds and economy. We also depend on them for various of our manufacturing needs, whether we like it or not. China could easily hurt our economy by withholding investment. We’ve got a Communist country propping up a capitalist country. Do you see the irony in this? We have to plead with them to regulate their currency price in order to add more value to our dollar, and we threaten them with military force (very subtly, but effectively) in the Malacca Straits and other places, like Taiwan, which is another hot button issue. Isn’t it a messed up world?

While all of this is happening, we aren’t getting our act together when it comes to reducing our energy needs and investing in renewable energy. We complain when the price at the pump goes to $3, when we should think about conserving energy, especially when it comes to automobile use. We are still privileged in the US. We enjoy low prices for energy while the rest of the world pays $5 to $7 per gallon. We, the general public, keep blaming the oil companies and calling them our enemies, when they’re trying to help meet growing demand with dwindling supplies. We expect oil to be there when we fuel up at the pump, yet we don’t realize how volatile oil markets can be, for many reasons, political and environmental ones ranking at the top of the list.

We should wake up and thank God we’re so privileged in the US. Most of us don’t realize it. I’m writing this from Romania, where oil prices are around $6 per gallon, and most people make about $200 per month. Do the math and see if you could live with that! It’s time we woke up and started conserving, and it’s also time automobile manufacturers and other equipment manufacturers started making products that are more energy efficient. It’s also time city planners started building cities that are more pedestrian-friendly, with broad sidewalks and short walks to shops and other public attractions. We should do all this before we get into real trouble because of our thirst for oil. I don’t think any of us want global conflict on this issue.


Has your fish tasted funny lately?

Just found out from a Congressional Report that the US Military disposed of chemical weapons in the oceans from World War I through 1970. The report is frank about the quantities and make-up of those chemical weapons. It’s funny (in an ironic sort of way) how at first, they dumped them fairly close to shore, then, in 1970, they dumped them 250 miles offshore.

I wonder how many of those containers have already been corroded by the sea water, and how many will continue to corrode and release their poison over the years? And I also wonder how many other countries have been doing this, and when we’ll find out about it? Finally, I can’t help wondering what other dark and poisonous secrets we’ll get to find out about as the years go by… What’s been going on since 1970?