Sorry for the delay today. There is nothing quite as enjoyable as betting two college football underdogs, (Northern Illinois and Va Tech) parlaying them on the money line for 39 dollars and having the cage cashier look at me and ask, "How did you win 600 bucks on a 39 dollar bet?" I mean she didn't even want to pay the ticket, she just stood there staring at it. Eventually I explained that parlaying dogs on the money line pays big bucks. Satisfied with my explanation, she then paid me and I drove home late- at 2 AM.
A couple of weeks ago, I was reading some interesting stuff about societies and how they eventually crumble and implode. More than a few people have postulated that the first things to go wanting are values, morals, and integrity. This was first proposed by Socrates and then expanded on by Plato as they spoke of virtue as moral excellence.
How are people supposed to understand the importance of virtue if your society doesn't teach it and your leaders don't possess it? Not only do we lack any type of "leadership by example" but when was the last time you actually heard anyone, anywhere, describe a President or a Congressman as honest? If all you ever see is this current day "dog eat dog mentality" from your leaders doesn't that become the standard? If you look outside politics, you see greedy corporate pirates such as the Koch Brothers, Gates, and Angelo Mozilo. If your Congressmen and women are allowed to accept bribes from lobbyists, trade equities on information they receive as they formulate laws that impact various publicly traded industries and corporations, give themselves giant raises, sweet lifetime retirement deals, and health packages outside of Obamacare- at what point does our culture accept that as the norm or worse yet, describe it as intelligent? I think they already have.
It gets worse I think. If people don't understand the importance of virtue, they begin to see it as unnecessary. They don't apologize for their lack of virtue because they don't see any reason to have it. So I think that type of moral decay has to be in place before societies crumble. When we collectively abandon civil ways of dealing with each other, abandon virtue, morals, and ethical behavior- we are ensuring our demise. It makes perfect sense. If people are setting the example, treating each other civilly, and always acting within the bounds of virtue and integrity- your society is at it's strongest. There is no moral erosion. In fact, I often think that this missing piece is the root of all of our problems. I see it everyday.
So what happened? Where did we go wrong?
Years ago, I was looking at a traffic accident report filed by one of our better officers. He had actually tried to measure the final resting position of the vehicles and some debris. There are only a couple of accepted ways to measure crime scenes and traffic accidents and it was readily apparent to me as I looked at this report- that our officer didn't have a clue how to measure. He had been out of the academy for about 5 years and so I questioned him. He told me that the academy no longer taught traffic accident investigation. I sat there, mouth agape. Of all of the things I have taken for granted- I never thought in a million years- that police academies would quit teaching traffic accident investigation. We do it every day. I had incorrectly assumed that our officers were being trained in accident investigation. Not only was I unaware of this, but I can't imagine how many motorists were adversely effected by our untrained officers.
It was my fault for assuming. More importantly and the reason I use this example is that you can't fault people for not knowing what they don't know because they haven't been taught something. Therein lies our cultural dilemma. If people don't understand the importance of virtue and acting ethically, or have never been taught, how then can we possibly expect them to behave in virtuous ways?
When I was a child, two things happened. My parents instilled a strong sense of right and wrong. Note that I had two parents. I was taught how to behave with virtue. That does not mean that I always behaved correctly- often as a child and a young adult, I did not. However, those were just my poor choices. Secondly, children were taught civics in school and our teachers were very active and involved with this. This three pronged approach- two parents and our schools- taught us the importance of integrity, virtue, and ethical behavior.
This doesn't happen anymore. Schools quit teaching civics long ago. Two parents is an iffy proposition and chances are good that one or both parents have dismissed virtuous behavior as a waste of time anyway. Instead, they are busy working and accumulating "things."
Replacing virtuous behavior in our society is the idea that all we really need to do is comply with the legal minimums. What is barely legal is the only concern nowadays. Corporations and the pirates that run many of them, take every advantage possible. They pay the bare minimums. They routinely find ways to skirt having to pay overtime, health insurance and other benefits, and all they really care about is greed. If they can get away with something, they will. Acting responsibly and doing the right thing are no longer big concerns. Accumulating as much wealth as possible is their only concern. It is a sickness. Our political leaders lie with impunity. They engage in every greedy and self centered act just so long as they can get away with it. Some might be cash register honest- but I'm not convinced they have that much integrity. Take a look at these people- like Darrell Issa. He is a former CEO and quite wealthy. He also has an unbelievable criminal history- most of which he has gotten away with- while now acting head of the Government Oversight and Reform Committee. You cannot make this stuff up.
And watching this dog and pony show, is a culture and society that hasn't had any real or moralistic leadership since JFK and some might even argue that. Nobody leads by example any more and oddly, there are people who would argue that our current leadership is fine. Remember, you can't possibly know what you haven't been taught. It doesn't come by osmosis.
Could the slow erosion and demise of our society and culture occur because we abandoned virtue and ethical behavior for self centered-ness and materialism? Could it be that simple?
I think so.
What remains to be seen is whether our culture picks itself up, recognizes what is wrong, and gets back on track with some moral excellence or whether we continue to circle the drain. It almost makes me sorry that I'm not going to be around to see how all of this ends. If we do manage to pick ourselves up- it certainly won't be at the behest of our current government "role models." In fact, it may very well occur without them. Let's hope so.