Violence in the United States is a commodity mined for profit, a practice that has become normalized and a spectacle that extends the limits of the pleasure quotient in ways that should be labeled as both pathological and dangerous. We are not just voyeurs to such horrors; we have become complicit and reliant on violence as a mediating force that increasingly shapes our daily experiences. The culture of violence makes it increasingly difficult to imagine pleasure in any other terms except through the relentless spectacle of gratuitous violence and cruelty, even as we mourn its tragic effects in everyday life when it emerges in horrifying ways such as the senseless killing in Colorado. Increasingly, institutions are organized for the production of violence such as schools, prisons, detention centers and our major economic institutions. Rather than promote democratic values, a respect for others and embrace social responsibility, they often function largely to humiliate, punish and demonize any vestige of social responsibility. Our political system is now run by a financial oligarchy that is comparable to what Alain Badiou calls a "regime of gangsters." And as he rightly argues, the message we get from the apostles of casino capitalism carries with it another form of social violence: "Privatize everything. Abolish help for the weak, the solitary, the sick and the unemployed. Abolish all aid for everyone except the banks. Don't look after the poor; let the elderly die. Reduce the wages of the poor, but reduce the taxes on the rich. Make everyone work until they are ninety. Only teach mathematics to traders, reading to big property-owners and history to on-duty ideologues. And the execution of these commands will in fact ruin the life of millions of people."(1) It is precisely this culture of cruelty that has spread throughout America that makes the larger public not merely susceptible to violence, but also luxuriates in its alleged pleasures.
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