Friday, June 17, 2005

The Myth Of Moral Decline

Bit of conventional wisdom is that our values are in decline. But, where is the evidence? If fact, our values seem to be improving, somewhat. Teen pregnancy, abortion, murder and drug use have actually declined somewhat.
Part of the reason for this perception is that the media has gotten more lurid and sensationalistic. On every news show you see nothing but rape, murder, and child molestation even though these are fairly rare acts.
On top of all this, there are the voyeuristic "reality" programs which only seem to show people at their very worse.
On top of all this is the occasional horror story, such as Columbine or 13 years olds getting pregnant, etc.
This steady diet of this cynical garbage only makes it easier to believe that our entire society is going to hell.
And there are some tangible effects from this perception. Combined with the shadow of 9/11, a culture of fear and suspicion has emerged.
It means people are more likely to overlook the eroding of civil liberties in the name of bringing order to a supposedly chaotic society.
This has lead to a subtle authoritarian tendency in American society. Look at all the schools with "zero tolerance" policies or the growing incidences of police using excessive force.
It’s based on the assumption that people are basically wild animals who can only be controlled via the threat of force. This is both cynical and undemocratic. Democracy, after all, assumes that most individuals have some inherent capacity for morality and judging right from wrong.
Trust in the people is the lynchpin of democracy, and those of us who value freedom should never forget that.


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