Monday, November 3, 2014

The Tides of Morality

Over the last few years (while I wasn't paying attention, apparently) certain things that were once considered almost absolutely wrong are now considered admirable. Among these things are bragging, suicide, self-made and self-distributed pornography and incest.

I have heard each one of these behaviors, in print and elsewhere, defended at least once in the past year and, in those defenses, the behaviors above were not just defended, they were praised.

How I feel about these things is irrelevant. The important thing is that these changes serve to convince the active observer of societal trends that when it comes to morality, it really is now just a question of the tides in thought; concrete touchstones of what is "right" no longer exist; it is all a question of what the majority speaks up for. And when one has as many people (as much water) as we do, the movement of the ideas (the currents) is that much more apt to sweep people's thoughts along.

In the past, people were willing to accept absolutes. If God or if the king or if the law said it was wrong, it was wrong. Sure, some didn't think that way, but most did. Authority was something they were used to. Obeying was something they were compelled, either by force or by convention, to do. If, say, the Church told people not to marry their own siblings, they mostly fell in line. Those who did not fall in line were considered "sick."

Now, especially in the United States, which was founded upon literal rebellion against what was supposed to have been a divine authority, things have changed dramatically. Authority is becoming a dirty word. Policemen have gone from the benign, rose-cheeked and trustworthy chaps of Rockwell's paintings to abusers of the public -- at least in the minds of many. Most churches have plenty of open seats on Sundays. Respect and manners seem to have become, in many people's minds, either a show of weakness or a subtle kind of repression. The wealthy have gone from having been perceived as an "upper class" to being seen more as abusive aristocrats. It even seems that, in some scenarios, employees are offended when bosses "tell them what to do."

With all this in mind, is it any wonder people are moving away from doing what they are told is right?

But, as a believer, always, in the idea of balance, I think that just as a house needs a foundation, a society needs some foundational principals of accepted behavior. While I would never say that all of the old moral ideals were good -- in fact, many of them, were biased and unwise -- I also fear a society in which everything is "okay" (or not "okay"). There is a reason why America is set up as a republic; why simple popular vote doesn't determine governmental action: we don't all have the capacity and the composure to make big decisions and mob rule is just a bad thing..., do we really want to be in a place where "mob thought" dictates morality?

The only solution is to teach our kids to think things through on their own; to decide either to willingly jump into the current or to get out of the water. but never to allow themselves to be swept away by it.

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