American Democracy, Chapter 3 — Reginaldo De Philwop

Since people learned to communicate with each other, there have been conflicts between them. Differences in ideals and beliefs about government action are omnipresent issues in our country. This is a given fact when it comes to human nature and interaction.


Sometimes, the magnitude of the repercussions of a simple, petty conflict can be devastating. Even if dissension starts out as a trivial argument, flaring emotions can escalate the situation so that it results in the loss of life, or the loss of several lives. And as time progresses, the ways people can attack each other are becoming more advanced. Now hostility can be directed through telecommunication as well as face-to-face interaction. There is virtually no escape.


As tragedy continues to dominate the national news, people become more determined to find an answer to the question: what drives people to hurt each other? Could it be their nature? Their upbringing? Could it be because as a child, they were exposed to too much on-screen television violence? Maybe it’s because they play too many video games that promote the player’s use of violence to overcome obstacles. The reason or reasons could be something completely different from any of these theories, but people can’t accept that. One needs something definite, something clear and present, something that can be antagonized. So, one turns to the obvious choice. Video games. It’s a medium that directly exposes people to a violent, albeit virtual, world that they’d otherwise never experience. But if videogame violence is responsible for real-life acts of violence, then it would only make sense for crimes to be infinitely rising, and this is not the case.


A stigma has been created against the entertainment culture of video games, but this is a misplaced concern; video games do not cause the violence in people that drive them to commit murder, theft, or massacre. Rather, the mind already afflicted with illness is drawn to violent games in order to indulge wicked fantasies. When the public hears of the gruesome act this sick person has done, that correlation between violent people and their affinity for violent outlets, such as first-person shooter games, is focused on and blown far out of proportion.


In our country, game violence has been an issue for heated debate for several decades. People worry that the ability to cause harm to characters in games gives young, easily influenced children with still-developing minds the idea that it’s acceptable to do the same in real life. This argument makes sense, because a person’s brain doesn’t fully mature until they’re well into their twenties.


Though the argument is reasonable, this is not the case. If a twenty year old man plays a violent game, something like Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar Games’ latest installment in the over-ten-year-old Grand Theft Auto series,  a game with a reputation of being one of the (if not the) most violent games on the market, this man will have the ability to use guns, explosives and other weapons to kill people in-game. If a pedestrian is shot once, they may have the ability to run away and survive. The game does not force the player to finish the job, or to even shoot a random passerby in the first place. Still, the option is there for anyone who chooses to do that. The person holding the controller chooses their next course of action in this situation. The game itself does not choose for them.


If a player has an innate sense of violence and lust for blood, of course they will buy a violent game to act out whatever bloody fantasy they have. The person whose morality and ability to control violent impulses is in question seeks out the game, seeks the outlet. The game itself does not seek out “perfectly sane” people and turn them into violent murderers. There has to be some serious mental issue burdening the player, in which case they really should not be playing a game so graphic anyway, or any violence-encouraging game for that matter. Looking at murder and massacre stories in the past, such as the infamous Sandy Hook massacre carried out by Adam Lanza, should make it clear that anyone who is suspected to have a mental disorder should be helped professionally and discouraged from exposing themselves to anything that may have a negative impact on their emotional capacity.


Over the last 18 years, video game profits across America have more than quadrupled. In that same almost-two-decade period, reports of juvenile crime in the country have dropped more than 45%. This statistic alone should be enough to disprove the theory that video games cause violent tendencies in people, but in times of mourning and desperation, sometimes people think irrationally and ignore facts and statistics.


It has been psychologically proven that violent games have the opposite effect on a young person’s mind, if any (most violent video games have a rating that prohibits people below the appropriate age from playing them, but the majority of children will still have access to those games). Doctors Christopher Ferguson and Cheryl Olson conducted a study that showed playing popular games that feature graphic violence as a main component to the story did not cause increased hostility in young adults. Separate studies by psychological professionals showed that these games actually had a calming effect on the mind. The ability to let out anger and frustration virtually instead of physically improved overall well-being.


Though there will always be political controversy surrounding this subject, scientific proof continues to show that video games do not cause violence in people. People with psychological illnesses that give them the ability to commit violent acts look to videogames as an outlet.  An outlet that works until it can no longer satisfy their thirst and the person goes for the real thing. Correlation does not imply causation. The real focus should be on the mental and emotional health of the person, and whether they should be allowed to indulge in violent gameplay, not the game itself.

Sources Cited:

Nauert, Rick. “In New Study, Video Games Not Tied to Violence in High-Risk Youth | Psych Central News.” Psych PsychCentral, 27 Aug. 2013. Web. 08 Nov. 2013.


American Democracy, Chapter 2 — Reginaldo De Philwop

There are certain groups of people who are insulted regularly in Hollywood films. Sometimes we see films that target us, and take in the assault on our character without even knowing it. To the unaware, innocent moviegoer, a blockbuster comedy that portrays middle-aged African American women from the South as a obnoxiously flamboyant, uneducated people seems perfectly normal. The buddy cop action movie that shows corrupt, Caucasian cops antagonizing anyone whose skin is even a shade darker than their own for no discernible reason is taken as an accurate representation of the majority of America’s police force. This is a problem that has persisted for decades. Casual racism is brushed off completely, and blatant racism is excused for ‘comedic’ effect, or for storytelling purposes by directors and screenwriters. It’s been clear for a long time that a large part of American media has no problem painting certain races in a light that is often offensive and stereotypical, and there are also always the people who cry out against it and demand respect. People are aware of the problem, but is awareness enough? Is having the knowledge that something is wrong actually enough to stop the problem from affecting anyone subconsciously? There’s another possibility to consider.  the constant barrage on the general public by Hollywood producers leaves a mark on the psyche that can’t be seen unless analyzed carefully.


It can’t be said that only Hollywood portrayals of race are to blame for racism in the public. There are many other factors that contribute to the formation and perpetuation of racist stereotypes, such as international relations, terrorist attacks and plain ignorance, among others. But Hollywoods hands are not clean; it is a major instigator in terms of constantly churning out media that enforces negativity and ignorance concerning race. There are entire movies whose plot rely on a character being the textbook stereotype of a certain race. Movies also get away with shoving in minor, supporting characters who embody horrible stereotypes, often in blockbuster movies with a comic edge.


Hollywood has historically lacked diversity. Actors trying to make a name for themselves who don’t fit certain criteria will often find themselves left in the cold. Chris Rock, an African American actor and director, recently authored an article detailing Hollywood’s race problem. Rock writes, “It’s a white industry.” Using the influence he’s gained over the years, Rock writes, he has tried to increase exposure to new people in the industry who he knows are struggling, since he was once in the exact same position.


Racism and stereotypes in Hollywood movies isn’t going to just disappear. It’s a tool that moviemakers use to create more revenue. In some cases, writers have crafted entire stories around characters that represent every single cliche misconception of their race. As long as a premise gets tickets sold, it will be rehashed over and over again. Take, for example, director Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. One of the franchise’s installments features an illiterate pair of transformers who are rowdy, impulsive and obviously meant to portray the standard black man. Another, the latest in the series, the protagonists run into a group of people in China who just so happen to be martial arts experts.

This problem won’t solve itself. The people of America have been exposed to this blatant and hidden racism for decades and have become numb to it. Positive reinforcement about all people and disregard for offensive stereotypes is the first step that citizens can take. Starting a positive cycle will eventually spread to the most influential media sources in the country and put an end to constant attacks on the American people.

Sources Cited:

American Democracy, Chapter 1 — Reginaldo De Philwop

Citizens’ ability to express their opinions openly and enact changes in laws and other policies is a very, very powerful one, the extent of which many people never realize, and these powers are the building blocks on which democracy is formed. Some people take advantage of it, and some people live and die never having known the power of their voice. Knowledge and application of this power is one of the most important aspects of the United States government and democracies everywhere.  Democracy in America, over the last few centuries, and in the last several decades especially, has been a tool used by the American people to challenge a government that threatens what is considered balance, the definition of which is constantly changing over time as different, long-existing issues resurface and take the forefront of political debate; just as times change, so do the general values and opinions of the public. A democracy can not and will not exist without its people recognizing and utilizing their own voices.

The things that spur these battles of people vs. government and people vs. people are catastrophic events (this is an idea that gives evidence to the notion that people are most often morally forced into action by immediate consequences), oppression, long-imposed laws that are found to be unfair, a vast, maybe even incalculable, number of reasons.

Based on the United States’ history, the success or failure of a social movement hinges on one thing: personification. In tragedy, the face of the dearly departed. In lawmaking, maybe what most resonates with people involved in the cause is certain group of people that have been treated unfairly because of a rule.

Take, for example, the Civil Rights Movement, one of the most famous in American history, and still extremely relevant to modern life. Because of the persisting struggle of African Americans in this country, the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) and all it stands for remain on the forefront of the American conscience. During the fifties and sixties, when the CRM was at its peak, millions of people all across America, both black and white (and many people of other races), rallied together to support the idea of equality for all people. The faces that are now nationally recognized for their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement go hand in hand with the movement itself: one can not be mentioned without also mentioning the other. The faces of the Civil Rights Movement are plenty, perhaps too many to count if the logic is followed that anyone who ever participated in even one of the many protests and activities is considered a ‘face of the movement.’ One of its most recognized faces is Martin Luther King (MLK), an activist leader and now a national icon for all people because of his charisma and leadership abilities. Although African Americans are still fighting for their rights to this day, and probably will continue that fight for a long time to come, great, great progress was made many years ago during the height of the CRM. Because there were so many loved faces in the CRM, such as MLK, Rosa Parks, Marion S. Barry and many others, the movement made huge strides in America.

As black Americans demanded their rights in this country, there was another battle raging: Puerto Ricans and Latinos/a fighting for their civil rights. Protests emerged in many areas in America, in major cities like Chicago and New York, mostly young people joining in the fight for Puerto Rico’s independence. In the early seventies, The Young Lords, an activist group with a militant nature, organized protests and other activities in the fight for Puerto Ricans’ independence, and their cause gained popularity because of the humanizing effect their young faces had on the public, even though their group eventually was washed away.

Recent protests are no different from most throughout history. Some death or other major event sends our citizens into an emotional righteous rage and in response, they fight whatever was the cause for that unjust incident.

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