Back to reading…

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.

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7 thoughts on “Back to reading…”

  1. I agree. Very good insight and well put! The quote you included was amazing when compared to what Paul said in Romans 1:32, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

  2. Just to quelsh the comments regarding the pen name of Dr. Anthony Daniels, I know.

  3. I’m reading Mary Pipher’s book “The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding our Families” and she makes the same point. One of her main points is that parents have gotten a lot of blame for kids turning out a certain way, but that their influence has been overestimated in the face of a culture with a pervasive and ruinous ethos. I’ll be picking up some of her themes on my blog soon. Maybe.

  4. Home-alone America, another article by Mary Eberstadt, looks at the way parents have left their kids alone more and more, and why. It questions the pressure on women to work, and notes that there is a preference in parents to work, rather than spend time at home. I think that the pervasive and ruinous ethos is largely a result of the hurt that parents have caused their children through divorce, neglect, abandonment, lack of protection, and abuse. A good portion of the neglect and abandonment is accepted and even encouraged in our culture, and the industry of daycare cannot keep up. I admit that it is not entirely a matter a of choice for everyone, but I think it is for the majority, and no one will say that it is harmful in long term subtle ways. I will also admit that day-care is not the same as having abusive or non-present parents.

  5. Being slightly more of a perfectionist than Daniel, I often struggle with reading his typographical errors in entries already posted. Now, I know I make many mistakes of my own and I have to push myself to relax, post, and not put everything through my compulsive over-editing. So getting to the point, Daniel told me that I should point out that “quelsh” does not appear to be a word. He could have used quash, squelch, or squash. But to his credit it appears that he is not alone in his use of “quelsh” to mean quash, squelch, or squash and maybe soon it will be added to our dictionaries.

  6. Actually, I think “quelsh” may have been a word used several times, dramatically, in that classic action movie, “Leonard 6.” It’s obviously a very classy word.

  7. I believe that ours is a culture that does not value the nurturing of children. There is a long standing, subtle, de-valuing of ‘mothering,’ beginning with WW II, when women were urged to replace men in the workforce during the war. After the war, women were urged to stay there, and through the years, challenged to prove their worth there. Now we have second and third generation families whose children who have never experienced a mother at home, and have no real idea what one would do, or what exact role she would fulfill. The role of a mother in the home, nurturing her children, creating ‘a place’ for them and her husband has been relegated to that of househelp. For a woman today to take back this role goes against the tide, against all she has heard in school since grammar school, and is about as daunting as a solo trip into the Amazonian jungle, especially if she has never had a model for that role. There is clearly a need for ‘the older women to teach the younger women to be workers at home, to care for their children and love their husbands.’ Those of us who value our roles as ‘active, nurturing mothers in the home’ can be like lighthouses for others.

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