I browsed Arts & Letters Daily today, something I have not done in months. It was interesting to find a few articles that in some way point at the same problem: unhappiness and moral decline in culture today. Before I say anything more, I am but a lowly observer, and one without a history of unusual social insight. I write here only because I find the correlation interesting, and the truth sad.
Theodore Dalrymple, a British doctor that spent the last 14 years working in a prison and a slum hospital, in The Frivolity of Evil looks at the almost spontaneous nature of evil in the underclass of Britain, and the causes. A key insight is given near the end that would apply to our own culture here in America:
So while my patients know in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong, and worse than wrong, they are encouraged nevertheless to do it by the strong belief that they have the right to do it, because everything is merely a matter of choice. Almost no one in Britain ever publicly challenges this belief.
In a similar way, Mary Eberstadt looks at the results of irresponsible adults on their children, most notable in the angry and misogynistic music of today’s youth, in Eminem Is Right. It is a disturbing look at the source and focus of their rage.
And, not to be left out, the Christian community is scrutinized along similar, albeit less extreme lines in The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, where it is noted that Christians as a whole are not doing much better, despite a profession to live according to the teachings of Christ. It seems that our morals as Christians may keep us from performing as many illegal acts, but there still seems to be an obvious carelessness and selfishness demonstrated in the home. At the end of the article things take a brighter turn and some positive trends are revealed.
I think that the common thread that runs through these articles is the popular belief that personal irresponsibility is a right. There is more than individual choices represented here though. These trends also indicate a general direction of a spoiled democracy (in the way a child is spoiled), and a complacent Church.