We, humanity, are surrounded. Surrounded by a clash of Worldviews whose proponents insist on victory. Attack!
As laws against have receded, morality has given way to ethics shaped and reshaped by the culture. Humans leading humans. And talk of transcendence, or transcendent values, recede as those who wear religious adornments too often compete rather than teaching and animating love, God’s gift— “love thy neighbor.”
One of the analytical tools of decades lived is comparative analysis. We have been paying attention as things our parents warned us against became not just acceptable, but often promoted by governments.
As government’s appetite for money pulled, situational ethics pushed. Somewhere along the way we concluded that people’s appetites should not be restricted even if they hurt others. This new culture lacked a North Star. Or maybe it had one—the dollar or euro or yen or whatever.
The House always wins in gambling and predictably its promotion is now in our face. Ad agencies, appetite-makers and amplifiers, serve up gambling, sex and drinking in alluring audio and video invitations.
And drugs? Marijuana and more are being branded as recreational. Huh? Kudos to the brand managers and lobbyists who hornswoggled lawmakers. Although maybe in decades to come as the human losses pile up, “recreational drugs” will fall under the reality that turned tobacco from cool to toxic.
As dollar ethics ascended, sports took over Sunday. When I was a kid, I played basketball in a church league and we didn’t play on Sunday morning.
So let me take you way back. When Marty and I were married church sanctuaries and basements were often paired for the ceremony and the reception to follow. Now, for many, destination weddings search out exotic locations.
And when we got married, we said, surrounded by symbols of divinity: “in the name of God”, and ended with, “until death do us part.” Since death to many is an unfathomable distance away, many of the betrothed mouth the words and then move on. And I say this knowing that moving on from a failed marriage is often a regrettable imperative.
As what much of mankind thought of as moral imperatives became less influential in governance, venues of worship with their transcendent messages were also declining. Two-parent families were on the same trajectory.
In The Godfather, part one, Vito Corleone wanted to keep his family out of the drug smuggling business. The drug smuggling families prevailed and the Godfather was dispatched.
Many who prefer restraint to accompany freedom have become defensive and aggressively so. Predictably they are targets of parody across culturally defining media. Reverence replaced by irreverence, laughs followed. Laughs are not always free.
As the more traditional religious strength waned, a new generation of leaders emerged. And many decided that progress required political activism. I guess they decided that nurturing souls and animating love was not challenging enough. But turning to the transcendent source I know best, Jesus’ was explicit: leave Rome to Caesar. As one theologian put it “love is the home of God.” It’s definitely not the home of politics.
As biblical literacy and authority declined, the libertine unrestrained by convention or morality, often shaped the philosophy that replaced it. And often that philosophy was simply a business model.
And ethnic differences are now increasingly used as political weapons. The world, many argue, must be seen through a racial prism. You are white and privileged (regardless of your circumstances). You are a person of color and therefore blocked from experiencing your full potential. Both constructs are right and wrong, but in a world of situational ethics animated by politics, who cares? If it serves the political agenda, don’t equivocate; simply repeat the proposition often and loudly.
An ambitious narrative on cultural cleavages would require a book and risk unwittingly stepping in a few deep and pitted holes. So let me end with this thought; as societal noise clouds the mind: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” I borrowed this from the gospel writer Matthew who recorded Jesus, in the technology of the day; many have voiced this aphorism, but at a time of rampant hypocrisy I opted for a transcendent source.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.