Sunio: Desensitized

Riz P. Sunio

IT’S so easy for most people to mention about death, either as an expression or a simple means to let out their steam.

“Patay kang bata ka (You’re dead, kid)”, “Mamamatay na ata ako (I think I’m dying)”, or ‘tegi’, ‘taichi’, ‘chugi’ or ‘deado’. It comes in many daily expressions, and we don’t find it outrageous or shocking to suddenly hear these from anyone.

Is it a reason why we now take deaths for granted?

Desensitization, a popular media theory, states that frequent exposure to media that depict violence “reduced the initial negative reaction to these images, and viewers tend to eventually become comfortable viewing those images,” according to The Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. Because of this, audiences tend to no longer feel concern, empathy, or sympathy towards those affected.

What’s worse, they may feel that these violent occurrences as common or normal.

Or something they deserve.

This is where we find the reason to bring back death penalty. It’s because we feel that ‘sinners must die’ and anyway, it’s not us or anyone we know who will face the gallows. We have removed our faith in the correctional facilities to “correct” a law offender.

Despite the effort of religious sectors to visit prisons or the efforts of civil societies to teach livelihood skills such as entrepreneurship or basket weaving to the inmates, in hopes of renewing them and make them better citizens once they get out of prison, we still push their heads to the hang rope.

Instead of pressuring the government to give a better environment for our inmates to rethink their lives over, we pressure the administration to kill these “sinners” instead.

This is also where we find the justification to continue to Tokhang operation. The users and the pushers should all just die, they said. We no longer care about the reason why they use drugs. Who cares if it was because he lived an awfully bitter life and holds on to a packet of shabu instead to continue living. It’s because anyway, the user is not us, so they should all just die, instead of simply being captured.

This is why we think that the New People’s Army should all just die. Despite the previous efforts and foundations created to forge peace talks with them, when they were suddenly branded as terrorists, it is entertaining to see them being hunted down one by one. Just when peace was within an arm’s reach already – and that it is expected that a party or two will attempt to sabotage or disruption it – the government has decided to dissolve it completely and pursue a manhunt instead to an assembly who has already agreed to talk with them.

To the party who was left hanging, we now say “Kill them all.”

This is why we have decided to give up critical thinking and rationality when Myles Albasin and five other teenagers became subjected to trial by publicity when they were captured by the Military in Mabinay, Negros Oriental and were branded as members of the NPA. Just like in a drama series, when the persona that we think is the protagonist captures the ‘bad guys’, we rejoice. We think it was a goose chase of some sort.

We never thought first why they were in there. Were six kids really able to wield large weapons all on their own? Are they really capable of exchanging fires against trained forces and get captured unscathed or unable to at least injure some personnel?

Did they even destroy or take away anything during their stay in Mabinay? What did the residents tell about these kids even?

Just because they were caught there, we already think that they did something illicit.

Schadenfreude is a German term where people think that ‘evildoers’ should be sentenced with defeat, death, or despair – and taking pleasure from it. This is how we think of the people that were caught in the Oplan Tokhang, the NPA manhunt, and the red-tagging, and soon to be, in the return of the death penalty.

We lose our humanity and our rationality whenever we mix up teleserye and reality. That the protagonist and the antagonist of the action story you like the most are the same in real life, where the latter is simply evil incarnate with no solid backstory of why that person became destructive.