I like to watch
If the Commonwealth Games doesn’t go ahead, we have a substitute in our own backyard. And it doesn’t cost a cent.
Why not watch the High Jump at Villawood? Or the Target Shooting in south-western Sydney?
Every big news story these days creates a circus, and it’s not just the media. The rooftop protests at the Villawood Detention Centre attracted hundreds of onlookers, many of them young children.
While rubberneckers at car accidents are nothing new, journalists covering the story commented on the unusually high number of people treating it like an outdoor cinema.
“Some even brought popcorn,” says one TV journo with 30 years experience.
He says a handful of children watched as the body of the Fijian detainee, who’d jumped to his death, was taken from the Centre.
Several people were clapping and encouraging other detainees to jump.
It was a similar scene at the tragic shooting of NSW Police Constable Will Crews at a bungled drug raid in Bankstown.
During the subsequent siege, police were frustrated by locals who’d dragged their kids out of bed in the middle of the night to watch the drama unfold.
What kind of ghoul brings a five-year-old – still dressed in her pyjamas – to witness bloodshed?
“They’re the same parents who let their kids watch anything on TV or DVD,” according to President of the Australian Psychological Society, Bob Montgomery.
While there’s clear evidence that video games and movies mislead viewers about true impact of violence, Bob reckons the real horror movie is the 6pm news.
“Most kids can watch a fictionalised account of violence, and it will have no effect,” he says. “But a kid watching a story on the same act of violence – even if the only footage is the outside of the house where the violence occurred – would be more distressed.”
Watching that same event unfold before your eyes is even more harrowing.
On a larger scale, this kind of voyeurism has spawned a genre: Dark Tourism.
The University of Central Lancashire is undertaking research on “the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or the seemingly macabre as a main theme”.
Some of the sub-sets are Grief, Doomsday, Suicide, Poverty and Disaster.
(Perhaps those visiting Parliament House this week are interested in the latter, but I digress.)
In the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, farmers complained of visitors trampling over the their crops to take a look at the devastated farmhouses.
Residents of Kaiapoi lobbied for road closures to stop tourists taking photos of their homes.
According to the website vagabondish.com, it’s human nature to want to be an eye-witness to suffering.
I guess we all have a morbid curiosity, whether it’s driven by sympathy or Schadenfreude.
So what do you think? Is it normal? Or is there something perverse about bringing your kids along to watch someone jump to their death?
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