Victor Barrio: A new kind of death?

Should a person’s final journey between this life and the next be filmed and sent around the globe for all to see? In this post, I suggest strongly that it should not. I further imply that, if our own journeys are largely experienced through the medium of a screen, we are not truly present in our own existences!

I had never heard of Spanish matador, Victor Barrio, until his untimely death at the sharpest point of a bull’s horns was broadcast – to my mind with a wanton lack of human feeling – for the whole world to view on Facebook and YouTube (and, for all I know, on all news stations throughout the known universe).

I feel strongly that this latest trend in our response to death is unhealthy, insensitive and intrusive.

It does not matter what one’s views are on bull-fighting. This was a young man, married, with people who loved him – and his death should not have been captured live on other people’s mobile phones and the like.

This is becoming an increasingly popular pastime. Is real life so thin and unsatisfying that we can only get a buzz through the screens of our phones, cameras and video-creating technology? Are we so numbed by years of exposure to the graphic deaths endured by animes (who, of course, pop up again for the next round of the game unblemished) that we can watch a young man being gored to death without flinching?

In many so-called uncivilised societies, men, women and children are brought up close to birth, death and old age. There is both an openness and a reverence about these transformative moments in our lives  – and they are viewed in a healthy, non-scary way.

We have made death a taboo. We have buried it in euphemism and undertakers and coffins and terror. We do not routinely allow our children to sit with a dying relative (in our presence) or to view the shell which is left when the animating spirit slips away. We have left huge gaps in our children’s knowledge of this natural process – and, therefore, in their planet-sized imaginations. A vacuum has to be filled.

How do they – and we – make death real and present? We feast our eyes on its most violent representations via XBox, YouTube, news flashes. We inhale blood and maiming and mass shootings on a daily basis – as if that were the only face of life’s ending. We click on a link to watch a twenty-nine year old man being killed by a bull – and few of us stop to think, ‘Why am I watching this? Why did someone film it? Isn’t his wife going through enough grief without this?’

As a race, I fear we are becoming violent-death-obsessed. Death junkies. We need more and more gore to get excited at all. Increasing doses of nastiness to feel that death is real.

Yes, of course people find themselves unexpectedly faced with events such as Victor Barrio’s death. But at that point they have a clear choice: To take out their phones and cameras and start filming, or to desist from so-doing. Having adopted the former strategy, they still have choices later on in the day: To upload that which they have recorded – as a fellow human being lay dying – or to quietly delete it.

What are such video clips adding to the sum of the human experience?

Isn’t it just blatant prurience and gross lack of fellow feeling?

I am choosing not to add an image of Victor Barrio’s demise. I think his final moments have had quite enough exposure already.


12 thoughts on “Victor Barrio: A new kind of death?

  1. Your comment about death being a taboo is interesting, since it seems that NATURAL death (i.e. of old age) is a taboo, but violent (and often senseless) deaths are glorified. And there also seems to be some glorification of too-young-to-die-because-of-a-terminal-illness. I just don’t understand it.

    The viral video du jour in my area is the video of the death throes of a victim of police brutality. This might be a different story, however.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There have been some truly ghastly recordings of deaths recently, including one (which you might have seen; which might even be the one you mention) of a man being killed by police. The brutality itself is bad enough; for passers-by to then film and upload it seems, to me, to be unbelievably crass and awful. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Really brings it home when it’s that close, doesn’t it? I am glad there have been protests and demonstrations.Maybe one day, the world truly will run on the ‘United, we stand!’ rather than the ‘Divided, we fall/Divide and Rule’ laws which so poison our world at present. xxx


  2. We have become rather twisted, haven’t we, in the way that we view such events? For the most part, my news feed has been plastered with posts which, in rather unseemly celebratory tones, applaud the victory of the bull. (A rather poor victory, since the bull, and all its offspring have been summarily despatched since the incident).
    The victory of the bull?
    The entire argument of the rights and wrongs of bullfighting reduced to a polarity; of the desire to see the bull “win”, effectively “giving the bullfighter a taste of his own medicine”. Are we really so inured to the pain of another human being that we are able to find, in that pain (and death), some solace for the pain (and death) inflicted by them on another sentient being? Using the language of retribution, in any context, but this one more so, seems wholly inappropriate; and the lauding of the bull misses the point entirely… but that probably shouldn’t surprise us in a world where “All lives matter” and “We are all human”…
    I recall a news bulletin, in a foreign land, some fifteen years ago now, in which close up images of a shooting victim inside a gore filled vehicle were transmitted live, the victim’s name, address and occupation read out, and finishing with “Police are trying to locate relatives of the victim to inform them of events”. I think it was around then, in that heart stopping moment of stupefaction, even before mobile phones had made such images so easy to collect and social media so readily share them, that I realised “we truly are a fucked up species…”
    If it were, indeed, the case that these videos added anything to the sum of human knowledge, it might be forgivable. As it is, those who captured the scene then tripped over themselves in the race to “share”, allowed the modern lure of internet popularity; the desire for likes, views, hits and shares; to overwhelm, entirely, that part of their psyche which defines what it is to be human.
    As for those eagerly devouring the footage, I fret (without losing any sleep) about where their personal “line” is drawn… after all, we are eight years beyond the much maligned “Untraceable”, yet it seems, as long as we call it “news” and don’t pay-per-view, increasingly acceptable to watch torture “porn”… If we’d assumed that the days of spectators turning up to watch battlefield spectacles were over, we were sadly mistaken…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beautifully put. I agree totally with your words and sentiments, and particularly liked the point you have made about the inappropriateness of the language of retribution. Thank you for such a brilliant, and sobering, and thoughtful response. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Ali. Generally I find myself in agreement with your musings and can empathise with you in many ways. Not this time however. It’s not the general point that we, as a race of rather aggressive apes, are insensitive to death and seem to take morbid amusement at the pain of others. No my specific point in this instance is over the fate of a bullfighter. His was the choice to fight an enslaved animal bred for one purpose, to die and give vacuous pleasure to the drooling masses watching the spectacle. His was the choice to perform the act of death for money and fame in a very public pursuit. Let’s save our pity for the bull, the only innocent in the debacle. He that live by the sword….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I no more approve of, or condone, bull-fighting than you do, Ted. But the rights and wrongs of this so-called sport were not the basis of my post. I wanted to examine the ethics behind this fairly recent phenomenon of filming, and then uploading, the death moments of human beings. To me it is irrelevant whether they are good people or bad, or, indeed, whether the pursuit which finally carried them off is something I personally approve of or not. I just feel that the act of deliberately filming another’s agony and demise, and then rushing to share it with the world, is ghastly beyond belief. The same goes for those who capture the moment of impact when someone driving far too fast crashes. I do not endorse excessive speed, and some people bring disaster upon themselves by the way they behave – but I still do not think it right to film and share the results! Thanks for responding – even though you and I do not agree on this one, I always appreciate your comments. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

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