The book starts with Virginia Woolf’s view on the way in which war can be prevented. She highlights that although for all people, especially for educated individuals, the fact that war only leads to only
The book starts with Virginia Woolf’s view regarding the stance of individuals towards war. She highlights that when one comes across images depicting atrocities, the first thought that naturally comes to mind, especially for well-educated individuals, because of our conscience, would be a question of how this could be stopped. However, Wolf also suggests that the situation is more complicated, as men, in opposition to women, tend to perceive war as a chance to gain glory and prestige. Also, political views may play a significant role, for according to them, even such an act of massive violence could seem justified. Moreover, the author comments on the use of powerful imagery, that although socks as and forces us to initially adopt the common view that war must be stopped, oftentimes proves to be ineffective in actually altering our behavior and even misleading, if the context is incorrect.
Although the opinion that war must be stopped is self-explanatory and already held in common, there are several factors, including one’s gender or political views, that make them shift their view on the subject.
Sontag discusses our reactions when we interact with images showing other people in pain. To begin with, she acknowledges the guilty pleasure we derive from pictures of atrocity and human pain. That’s mainly because they show a very intense human feeling we are unfamiliar with, which stimulates our sense of being well, feeling glad that we are not in the position of these individuals. Also, she mentions that people nowadays have grown so familiar with images of violence, that although they cause us to feel sympathy, they do not make us feel empathy, as we are able to distance ourselves with what is depicted in the images.
People sometimes enjoy seeing images of individuals in pain as it provides an insight into the most intense parts of human nature, and at the same time, nowadays, getting used to them, they are often able to not engage themselves emotionally to the content of these images.
Sontag connects maturity with the awareness of the atrocities human nature is capable of. Also, she gives value to memory, but at the same time she supports that thinking about a situation is much more important, as it ignites the discussion of how to improve it, and often peace and conflict resolution is based on forgetting about the past. Moreover, she recognizes that just seeing images of people that suffer, you do not experience their suffering fully, as it enables you to distance yourself from it. However, at the same time she claims that the large quantity of images depicting the pain of people around us is beneficial, for we are less ignorant, and more aware of what is happening in the world we live in and of how human nature operates.
Being aware of the harm humans can cause is essential and therefore images depicting pain gain importance, as although they cannot make us live this experience fully, they make us witness the suffering in the world around us, initiating the thought of how what we can do about it.