15 December 2012

Moral Decrepitude

Yesterday, a very tragic shooting took place at an elementary school. Hopefully, we as a nation can have a dialogue concerning these events, and how we may be able to reduce them - such as addressing lack of access and stigma associated with mental health services. However, this is not what I want to discuss. I have seen multiple people use this to say that we are a morally bankrupt society and that essentially the entire country is going down the ethical tubes.

I agree we see a lot of things that we shouldn't. A nation with a food surplus has people going hungry at night - that doesn't make much sense. A country with many vacant buildings has homeless - that doesn't make much sense. A country with the largest military by far also having comparatively weak schools for the industrialized world. We can argue the corruption and decrepitude there.

It is not fair or correct, however, to say that crime is increasing. It is not a fair characterization of our society, and is simply not true. Violent crime has, in fact, gone down and been going down. We have even gotten to witness phenomena that nobody would have expected - like NYC having a day without reported violent crime being. Crime is not increasing (I'm sure if we count piracy or something it might, but I feel like after the fall of Limewire and MegaUpload that is probably down too though I don't see stats on it partially because it is so hard to track). If you want to attribute the rise in apparent crime to anything, our population has gone up quite a bit, and there is lots of sensationalism about certain kinds of crime.

As for the selfishness issue, there is a major discussion as to whether or not Generation Y (the Millennials) are more selfish or more community minded (or both, do they have to be opposed?). The previous generations tried to teach us to be selfish with all that invisible hand in economics propaganda. They often still try to insist that we become doctors and dentists when we don't want to, though many of us are deciding we can take paths that we want to take (I would argue that is why we have seen graduate school enrollment go up a few times for our generation). I also think to all of the people I know who are going into programs such as Teach for America and the Peace Corps, or who want to do non-profit work. As a society, more people are volunteering. I think an apt description of our generation as a whole is the nickname "Trophy Kids." I would thus argue that we have this odd tension between being selfish and being community-minded, with the two sometimes being linked in weird ways. I don't want to say that there isn't a selfishness or entitled attitude to any of the current generations, but merely to say there is more argument over this topic then people portray (probably due to sensationalism of the topic and portraying what people want to hear). I'm not actually disclosing my opinion on this topic here (though I will discuss it with people if they want me to), but instead noting that it is more complicated than the posts I have seen are portraying it.

I think that we need to get away from a "Glory Days" way of thinking, where we discuss about why the past was far superior. The past had good traits, and the past had bad traits and we must accept that. The past is not the society we want to have though. We excel when we recognize our best days are ahead. While we have major challenges (climate change, water shortage, population maxing out), we also have huge opportunities. Our best days can and will be ahead if we recognize that they can be. Our current way of living may have to change, yes, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It might just make our lives better.

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