The Pistorius Case: Why Do We Thirst for Blood?

Via on Feb 20, 2013
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Oscar Pistorius, a South African sprint runner with double below-knee amputations, is all over the news—and it’s not for his fast times.

The Pistorius murder case is splashed everywhere I look, both on TV and on all major online news sites.

Pistorius is charged with the Valentine’s Day murder of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. It’s been reported that he shot and killed Steenkamp while she cowered in his bathroom.

This latest murder saga leaves me wondering, why do we thirst for such gory stories of murder, betrayal and domestic violence at its worst?

I think this particular case is especially interesting because of this athlete’s amazing rise from his extremely high pedestal to his lowest of collapses. I certainly don’t mean to be insensitive to this horrendous murder story when I suggest that for some reason society loves a good tale about a fall of a hero.

Why?

Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Does this type of failure actually highlight our “lesser,” mere mortal successes?

I think this particular case also fascinates because of the currently huge notoriety surrounding athletes and doping. (Testosterone and needles were found in Pistorius’ bathroom.) Revelations such as Lance Armstrong’s tale of deceit and defeat are also everywhere in the news. The unfortunate truth is that our professional sports are so competitive, money-driven and big-business that a variety of athletic leaders turn to banned substances in order to improve performance and/or performance times—and it’s alleged that Pistorius is no different.

Yet, domestic violence is a horrible reality that plays out for many people all over the world, not just the rich, famous and athletic—but does this story actually bring awareness to domestic violence or does it merely serve to feed our daily gore quota?

So what should we do with stories like this, when we have almost no way of avoiding them?

For one, I think it’s important to realize that we’re presented with these stories for reasons other than serving human good or justice. Rather, these dramatic tales hit our daily news sources because people like to hear about others’ failures, even if they are the accounts of another’s tragic death. Still, this doesn’t have to be why we, in turn, take them in and read them.

Trust me when I say that almost every city out there needs more support for victims of domestic violence. Government grants often support shelters and psychological therapy, but many of these programs barely get by. Almost all shelters will gladly receive donations of basics like soap and clothing. I’m a yoga teacher and my social worker sister has even tried to get funding to hire me for yoga therapy for some of her clients: meaning all of us can help in our own ways, even if it’s with your time instead of financial donations.

While I’m sure this sad drama will unfold before our eyes and then disappear, there will surely be another to take its place, but if we take these stories and allow them to inspire us to perform positive acts within our communities then everyone wins—not just the people trying to feed us blood for breakfast.

 

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Ed: Brianna Bemel

About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She's also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people that ever lived and she's also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor's degree in geology and absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature. She's written one book that has yet to be published and is currently working on another. If you want to learn more about Jennifer then make sure to check out her writing, as she's finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and on her new website.

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12 Responses to “The Pistorius Case: Why Do We Thirst for Blood?”

  1. michelle q says:

    maybe we thirst for blood because we tend to repress these aggressive parts of ourselves because they are socially unacceptable in a 'civilized' society. same with sexuality and pornography. i speculate that powerful animalistic urges don't simply vanish because we refuse to accept them as part of who we or the people in our lives are. my on-the-spot theory is that porn (and let it be said, i am not pathologizing or equating pornography with violence – sexuality is just another example of what i see as a powerful animalistic urge that tends to be pushed away when our urges or desires do not conform to the norm of what is deemed acceptable by those we encounter in our lives and we become condemned to a life of shame and secrecy), violent movies, violent games, violent news and violence itself are popular because the repressed parts of ourselves are trying (even dying) to catch a breath of air. our repressed parts recognize themselves in these mediums and seek union like a moth to a flame and sometimes this can be harmful. perhaps the degree to which we repress is the degree to which we are stimulated by and seek out these manifestations that swirl around us. there is love and light and compassion and goodness within us, there is no mistake. but there is also darkness, destruction, trauma, fear and pain. pretending that the latter does not exist seems dangerous because (and i am drawing solely on my own experience) it does exist. i am rife with all kinds of animalistic feelings and urges, like a modern-day cave woman. oooga! OOOOGA! perhaps pretending it does not exist or denying these parts of ourselves is why violence happens and why it is so popular. we can't develop a healthy relationship with what we ignore. we can't work with what we refuse to see. knowing how long i have pushed these parts of myself away, i am gauging the inherent power and intensity in these energies and recognize that pretending it isn't there will not help me or anyone else in the long run. all it will do is bring a little momentary comfort at the expense of my sanity. and this world has a lot of insanity already.

    though this article is attempting to prompt a discussion, i actually get the same kind of 'this is not ok', finger-wagging, shaming message at it's resolution. the call to action at the end, of 'let's make something good happen from this' i'm sure is well intentioned, and yes that would be ideal, but it isn't really looking at why we 'thirst for blood', which is what the title of the article suggests. it is misleading. to me, the overall 'take home message' is kind of passive aggressive. it is presented as though there is an intellectual examination happening when really it is just implicitly reinforcing the idea that if you look at this stuff (violence, murder, etc) you are sick and fucked up and that it is not ok because these are real people's lives. if we are really looking at 'why', there has to be some kind of impartiality, not to condone violence or the exploitation of people's lives in the name of entertainment, but simply to see what is really happening. why IS this stuff so compelling?

    if we are addressing the question of why we thirst for blood, my question is can we unbutton our shirts around the neck a little, take a deep breath and really look at what is going on with some humility? i am not above this disturbing 'thirst for blood' violence. i just burned through 4.5 seasons of 'breaking bad' and quite enjoyed it. man that is a good tv show. anyway, based on the popularity of violence in movies, television, video games, and news stories, it is my hypothesis that others are not above this either. something draws us into this realm. but we can recognize that something has the potential to be very harmful without the holier-than-thou baggage that alienates and isolates us from each other and from ourselves. though i think that kind of response does come from a place of goodness; a drive to protect people who are victimized or exploited, a desire to make the world more gentle. but is that attitude effective in realizing it's mission? will shaming people ever be helpful? is there another way to relate with this pain? it doesn't resonate with me anymore to shame myself or anyone else or to wash my hands of the forces of my own mind that beg to be heard. that is too easy. but i can look at it. that seems a more promising, albeit very painful route to some real answers. so my call to action is that we need to be both brave and gentle with ourselves as we search because we have our work cut out for us and the aspiration to understand our confusion is indeed a sane one.

    • Jennifer White says:

      This isn't passive aggressive at all. One of the very first things addressed in this article is why the media thirsts for blood in this case: it's the fall of a hero story at it's tragic best. Quite honestly, I don't plan on taking the time to address everything you mention here, but I did end on a positive note because I'm annoyed that this story is taking up such a huge space in the media (and stories like it) when if we think globally and act locally we'll find there are things right in front of our noses that need to be addressed (like the real, underlying need for attention on domestic violence victims). Lastly, while I agree with some of your thoughts on the light/dark in us, I personally have no desire to read about someone's murder. This story was so thrown at me that it was largely unavoidable (and as a writer, I was unable to not address it). Yet, my personal reason for blogging and writing in general is to examine the reality that lies beneath both flaws and human goodness, and I also almost always like to turn even the most negative aspects about my subject matter into something positive to walk away with. This is not the same as passive aggressiveness. I think your thoughts were going someplace entirely different than mine, which doesn't make them better or worse, just irrelevant commentary.

      • Jennifer White says:

        By the way, I want to clarify that I certainly don't mean to be dismissive or rude in my use of the word irrelevant. I'm just pointing out that I think your thoughts are just that: your thoughts on this topic rather than an actual response to mine.

        • michelle q says:

          i feel the topic you have chosen to write about is a very important one, and worth my time, in my opinion (MY opinion, my thought, my view, let it be known, just like my original rant, which was never a question for the record, these are my views) to express my view on this subject.

          my reply is in direct relation to both the title and your self-proclaimed thesis of your article (why do we thirst for such gory stories of murder, betrayal and domestic violence at its worst?) as these words were italicized, it leads me to believe that you are emphasizing this question as the purpose of your investigation. what i am pointing out is that i feel this topic is very important and you do not actually investigate these questions with any level of depth, but instead offer these questions:

          "Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Does this type of failure actually highlight our “lesser,” mere mortal successes?"

          and state that the rationale behind reading these stories is:

          "…because people like to hear about others’ failures, even if they are the accounts of another’s tragic death."

          and what i am saying is that i don't agree with you, think there is much more to this than what i see as shaming conclusions, find what you say to be misleading and yes, passive aggressive, and to be doing nothing to serve a discussion or even be remotely helpful or insightful. and evidently you are not even open to discussion on the topic you present. you post your rant and claim you do not plan on taking any time to address my comments and attempt, once again, to shame by suggesting that my comments are irrelevant. and again, i just do not agree with you.

          violence and the origin of violence is an important topic. kindness to oneself and gentleness to others is a prerequisite to venturing into this topic to any level of depth because of the nature of its volatility. it makes me sad that someone could read what your article and think 'oh shit, i sure am messed up. better pretend i don't like violence and murder stories.' how is repressing feelings helpful?

          • michelle q says:

            actually, the point you make about bringing attention to domestic violence in these news stories is insightful (again, just my opinion). i was harsh with my statement that nothing you said was insightful (again, my opinion). i apologize for that.

      • michelle q says:

        it is interesting to me that you say that you have no desire to read about someone's murder, yet you read about it, and then you write about it, saying you are 'unable to not address it.' as a nobody, i wonder about that.

        i also wonder what you perceive as 'flaws'.

        i also wonder why you feel the need to turn 'the most negative aspects' about your subject matter into 'something positive to walk away with', versus just presenting what is and being with what is. (this, for the record is not what i deemed as passive aggressive; that should be highlighted clearly in my other reply)

        i am that aware i am ambushing you. i don't expect you to address anything that i am saying (but i do welcome your response). i do hope, however, that you at least think about what i am saying.

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  3. victor says:

    Ambicion, Testosterone, angry,

  4. MatBoy says:

    Our sedate and civilized lives as members of a consumer society lack the excitement we get from watching and reading about the most intense human transgressions with murder and violence being at the top of the list. A look at the media, film, art and writing reveal what, deep down, we are drawn to. Could it be remnants of our tribal or evolutionary past. Sex sells, violence sells. That is just how it is and hollywood has made many people household names (Schwartzenegger) by exporting it around the world. The more graphic, the more successful.

    Some would argue that these tendencies are a necessary trait that will better ensure our survival as a species if things turn 'really bad'. At any rate, we seem to be stuck with it. Better to recognize it as reality and attempt to manage it, keep it in a small box, because it is unlikely to go away in our lifetime.

    • Jennifer White says:

      You should watch the documentary I Am, which suggests (through interviews and research) that people are not as driven by competition and other "primal," "alpha dog" traits as we're taught to believe. Rather, this is a product of our American mentality, and a product of our often selfish way of life.

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