The Pistorius Case: Why Do We Thirst for Blood?

Via Jennifer S. White
on Feb 20, 2013
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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.


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 S. White 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 who 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, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She's also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.


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.

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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.

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