Back in the 1980's Jerry Falwell promoted the concept of "The Moral Majority," a movement of Christian-led political action committees concerned with combating the decline of morality in this country. The group broke up in 1989 but you still hear about it now and then through religious organizations and churches. Frankly, I think the Moral Majority lost its war which is why I refer to it now as "The Moral Minority." And my peeve is not really about these people; its more about the moral decay of the country.
I believe there are two reasons for the decline of morality in this country: changing socioeconomic conditions and the rise of technology. I don't think its because we don't want to be moral, but we tend to take the path of least resistance and "go with the flow." As to society, lying, cheating, backstabbing, and plagiarism are now considered acceptable forms of behavior, particularly in our schools which is where they learn it from. In terms of economics, the average person is grasping at straws to make ends meet. For example, there are now more pyramid schemes, telemarketing, and fraudulent e-mail scams than ever before. Identity theft is also considered a serious problem. Just twenty years ago we never thought about identity theft. I'm sure it was there, but there was little concern over it.
In terms of technology, I believe there is a direct relationship between the rise of technology and the decline of our socialization skills. For example, I was in the garden section of one of the mega-hardware stores recently. As I was in line to check out, the woman in front of me was talking nonstop to a girlfriend about some inconsequential triviality on her cell phone. When she got up to the counter, she kept on talking right through her purchase and treated the clerk like he wasn't even there. When my turn came, I asked the clerk if this frequently happened. He said it was becoming more commonplace and he considered it rather rude.
As another example, the kids today all seem to have a cell phone with text messaging capabilities. In the classroom, they send messages electronically, such as love notes and answers to test questions. They have also devised a cryptic shorthand code to communicate by text messaging. The kids love this, but they still have problems writing a paper, articulating an argument, or just holding a simple conversation.
To my way of thinking, the decline in morality is our Achilles' heal. And we feel the effects of it in such things as the decline of craftsmanship, ethics, pride in workmanship, and our general resolve to get things done. I think the decline of morality can be traced back to bad parenting for the socioeconomic reasons mentioned earlier. As my grandmother used to say, "Children are raised by amateurs, not by professionals," and there is a lot of truth in that statement. Too often I see parents abdicating their responsibilities to teachers, coaches, baby-sitters and nannies. Instead of taking an active role in the child's life, they are content to let someone else do it.
I had a friend recently tell me there are too many rules in our institutions today, be it in schools, on the playing field, or in offices; that we need less rules so the individual can blossom and express themselves. Sounds nice. But keep in mind, we write rules for people who are going to break them, not for those who will adhere to them. In this age of parental abdication and moral decay, I'm afraid we're going to need more rules, not less, if we are ever going to realize any consistency on morality.
I'm sure the Moral Minority is still alive out there, but they are frustrated in terms of what to do. I can only suggest two things: first, lead by example - do what is right, not what is always expeditious; we need some real heroes for our youth to emulate, not some comic-book figure, but someone with the moral fortitude to do what is right, even in the face of ridicule. Second, we need to recognize and support those individuals and institutions that promotes morality or teaches it, be it our places of worship, our fraternal and civic societies, and particularly our schools. Here's one for you: How about setting up a pyramid-scheme that promotes morality as opposed to another crackpot marketing scheme?
I'm reminded of a warning issued by Arnold Toynbee years ago, the famed English historian, who said, "Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder." I'm just concerned that our moral decay is leading to our suicide.
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week: 4/20/2007
Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant located in Palm Harbor, FL (Tampa Bay). His corporate web page is at:
His e-mail address is email@example.com
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