I was reading a story today about an 89 year old lady who was arrested this week for keeping a football that had gone into her yard. Of course, there was the requisite shaking of the head that was prompted by the words in front of me, but as I thought about it, I wondered “What was her motivation for keeping the ball? What did she get out of it?”
I know some would like to turn this into a property rights issue. Does she, as owner of the property, have the right to keep the ball when it comes into her yard uninvited? Do the kids have the right to demand that she allow them onto her property to retrieve it, or do they have the right to compel her to retrieve it for them or give it back to them? And, I’m sure the police did not go right to her house and arrest her upon receiving a complaint from a bunch of kids. If any protocols were followed, they would have given her multiple opportunities to return the ball before she was actually arrested. I’m sure she just refused to listen to reason or cooperate, and they were left with no choice. Yeah, it’s pretty sad.
But the question of “Why?” still remains. I think that I actually stumbled upon the answer on the way to work this morning. It happened while I and everyone else on this particular road were being slowed down by unusually heavy traffic. When the state authorities redesigned that part of the highway a few years ago, they did so with a view to the future. There is actually room for four lanes (on each side of the road) to fit easily through this stretch of road, but unfortunately a couple of miles on either side of this stretch, there are areas that are still two lanes wide, and expansion would require massive engineering projects to ever get to the desired four lanes. As a result, the area of the road that could hold four lanes, still has only two to keep from having a bottle-neck at the other end. As I sat in traffic this morning, I saw two vehicles pull out into the huge shoulder area and simply drive about a mile down ahead of the other cars. It was complete sorry-ness, and I found myself wondering “Why?” once again. Why would they do this? It shows a complete lack of regard for the law, and the other people who are being forced to wait their turn, and in the end, when they get to the point where they have to join the rest of the pack, they end up slowing traffic even further to let their sorry selves back in.
These people and the old lady from the first story reflect the attitude that they only care about themselves. They have no regard for others around them or people that they might come into contact with. Their greatest personal achievements involve elevating themselves above those around them (at least in their own minds).
The answer is a reflection of the fact that there has been a removal of social mores, and it shows the death of the personal moral compass that has been encouraged by the cultural relativists in our land has begun to bear fruit. People have been encouraged by schools, society, television, and psychologists to do what feels good to them regardless of how it affects other people. There is no corporate desire to make our society a better, nicer place, and as result, it is not.
I finally got around to watching HBO’s John Adams this week. It was great. I noticed that there was indeed a corporate sense of honor and duty that led men to fight and to give their lives without pay, and without even being ordered or asked to. During those times, a person could strongly disagree with another person. He could even say that his ideas were ridiculous in print. But, I also noticed that when they spoke face to face, they always spoke cordially to one another, and referred to the other person as ‘Sir’ even if they were skewering each other at the time. They might question the man’s sanity or ability to reason, but they never questioned the motives of the other person because, if they did this, they might end up dead. See Alexander Hamilton for a good example of what happened when people acted without decorum during this time.
People had expectations of other people during this time, and society reacted negatively when a person failed to live up to those expectations. A good example of these attitudes could also be found in the Adams series. In it he, John Adams, refused to help his son-in-law, and disowned his own son because they failed to live up to societal expectations. Later generations still felt the pull of duty and a sense of corporate responsibility. You only have to go back to WWII to find a time when Americans offered up their sons and themselves to fight in a war. This was not a war where there might be a chance of getting killed by an insurgent (please do not think I am taking anything away from the bravery and sacrifices made by servicemen today). It was a war where, if you were in the military, there was a strong likelihood of you suffering death or serious injury. If you were able-bodied and you did not serve during WWII, you and your family were stigmatized by this decision.
During the 1940s and 1950s people were still expected to perform up to societal standards, and families that did not were also rightly stigmatized. This corporate societal expectation motivated people to act in a way that was mutually beneficial to all. It is not so today. The adoption of the welfare state in cooperation with the elevation of the individual and the advocating of the ideas espoused by relativists have deprived Americans of the corporate disdain that would beneficially keep us all in line (sometimes literally).
Persons without a religion to assist them in attaining a moral compass today, often have no way of attaining any sense that they have a duty to the rest of the people around them to at least treat these people as they would like to be treated.
On this subject, I have no answers, only complaints. Popular religions continue to cut off their collective noses to spite their faces (see the Baptists boycotting Disney for a good example, but they are not alone). They seem to drive more people away with the self-serving rants than they bring in. I believe many young parents would use a church as a good way to instill good morals and mores in their children if the churches would actually stay on message and not veer off to attack Miley Cyrus, for instance, whenever they get bored. As far as society getting a handle on itself and reestablishing its own set of social mores to help encourage decorum, this would be impossible at this point. Not only is that horse out of the barn, but that barn has long since burned down.
In the end, we are left with individual choices to do the right thing or not. Those of us who choose to act with decorum and respect for others while teaching it to or children will be the ones that keep society from completely falling apart.
You still have a choice. You can be the mean old lady at the end of the block that keeps the ball, and no one will mourn you when you die, or you can be the old lady who gets the ball for the kids along with a cookie. Which one of these makes more of a mark?
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