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For some people it’s comforting to know that, for all of life’s many trials and tribulations, there are at least 10 times as many solutions as problems. Of course, it usually does no good to remind them that most of these solutions are also dumb, ineffectual, and utterly worthless.
Take the problem of violence – most acutely red-flagged by the Littleton high school shooting in April. Enterprising problem-solvers have already stepped up to the plate on this one, ready to wave their magic wands and cure this horrible blight on American culture. For starters, Clinton’s going to steal your firearms, Congress might regulate the Net, others will continue to say bad things about Hollywood for a while, and Martin Gomez, general manager of MiMe’s Cafe in downtown Redwood City, Calif., is going to feed you.
Gomez is kicking off his “Food for Videos” campaign, by which any hungry soul can score a meal if he brings in a violent video game or movie as trade. The whole thing started when the 36-year-old restaurateur and his 13-year-old son decided to do a “violence inventory” of their movie library. After deciding to swear off the rough stuff, they agreed to let their newfound, good-cause hobbyhorse out of the racing gates and begin the crusade to stymie violence in America.
Columnist Mark Simon profiling the new crusade in the San Francisco Chronicle writes, “It’s a small effort, one that’s just getting started. Consider it lighting a candle, rather than cursing the darkness.”
Unfortunately, Simon impaled himself on the point of that dull and over-used cliche. Lighting a candle? What Gomez is doing, however touching and feel-goody, is much more like flossing ones teeth or washing one’s car, or maybe even sniffing glue, rather than cursing the darkness. This is simply because what Gomez is doing is completely meaningless. His answer has nothing to do with the problem.
“I don’t think that videos are the cause of all of this,” Gomez is smart enough to recognize. “But,” he says, “it definitely contributes to the culture of violence in the United States.” Ergo, the solution: in hopes of reducing the number of videocassettes that so evilly contribute to our “culture of violence,” Gomez has a nice little barrel by the front door; drop in something violent and you get something edible.
Will it have any effect? Absolutely not.
Simple economics says so. People only trade apples for oranges, when they prefer oranges to apples. If they really like apples, they don’t give them up for oranges. If it sounds like something you learned in kindergarten, I hope so. Unfortunately, it’s clearly a lesson that most people have forgotten.
The only people who are going to trade a violent movie or video game for a meal are folks who don’t care two hoots about that movie or game. If a person likes a violent movie more than they care to get a free meal, guess who eats at home tonight and watches Lethal Weapon 4?
Here’s a list of movies I greatly like and enjoy: Braveheart, Last of the Mohicans, Patton, Kelly’s Heroes, Silverado, True Grit, and Dirty Harry. What do these movies have in common? Folks get shot, beaten, broken, cut, bruised, mutilated, and oftentimes turned to crow food or fertilizer. The fact of the matter is, I’d much rather shell out a few bucks for a measly meal tab than drop any of these fine cinematic wonders in Gomez’s little barrel.
The tables might turn, however, if this video collection turned up in the living room of a peacenik, alfalfa sprout-eating, hairy-legged Birkenstocker. He might eat lunch for an entire year, courtesy of Mr. Gomez, if somehow my videos appeared in his abode.
This simply comes down to a single fact: one of us values those movies, while another doesn’t. I have a hard time believing that movies a person doesn’t like, appreciate, or care about have much of an effect on his life, violent or otherwise. The only folks who will turn over violent videos are those who are untouched by them.
Gomez’s solution is laughable – well meaning, but very laughable.
The really laughable thing: it’s spreading. Another hamhock for hammerlocks ruse has popped up in Amador County, Calif. (And what is it about California, anyway?) One of Gomez’s acquaintances liked the idea so much that he sent flyers to hype the idea in Littleton, Colo.
In the end, of course, Gomez and any others are free to feed anyone they want in exchange for anything they want. This is a free market. If I want to open a restaurant that serves folks filet mignon for turning in old Elvis Presley records, nothing should stop me. However, Gomez would be wise to avoid the delusion that trading videos for food will do anything to solve the problem of violence in America.
Joel Miller is Assistant Editor of WorldNetDaily.