How to Create a Decent and Moral Society?

Helen had a lovely quote the other day: “a nation is only as powerful as its weakest citizen, as prosperous as its poorest, and as decent and moral as its empty jails.”  Not surprisingly, I disagree fundamentally with the first two statements, but the third seems worth talking about.  Certainly, if all of the citizens of a nation are decent and moral the jails will be empty.  But, when large parts of the population reject decency and morality, what then?  If the majority retains its decency and morality, the jails will quickly fill with those who have rejected decency and morality.  Certainly, that is what has happened in the United States.

Tragically, large numbers of American have rejected decency and morality and our jails are bursting at the seems.  The rejection has gotten so bad that Ron Dellums, of all people, is calling for more police to deal with the situation.  When Dellums gives up and calls for more police, you know the left has utterly run out of ideas to deal with the problem.  But, I’m not at all sure the right has any ideas either.  I readily admit I don’t.  Locking the indecent and immoral people up is a band-aid, dealing with the effect, rather than the cause.  But the numerous causes — the breakdown of the family, the lessening influence of religion, the immorality of our leaders, the impact of Hollywood and those in the media who celebrate immorality, make your own list — are intractable. 

Morality and decency are spread, if at all, into the heart of one person at a time.  No government program, no private charity, nothing that I can think of, can turn around an entire society that has lost its way.  So, as usual when Bookworm is away, I turn to her readers.  What can be done to make our society a decent and moral one, to empty our jails because there is no need to fill them?

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Comments

  1. SGT Dave says

    DQ,
    One starts at the very beginning – by making moves to discourage criminal activity. From my point of view, “cruel and unusual” becomes far more limited. Jail becomes a place with no TV, video games, or radios. In their place we put books and work programs. Prisoners go to work eight hours a day, every day but the religious day of rest (Friday for Muslims, Saturday for Jews and some Adventists, Sunday for most Christian faiths). School, teaching everything from basic skills to trades and advanced degrees, is made available. More importantly, the good things are only available to those willing and able to work. If a prisoner doesn’t work then they receive no benefits beyond three hots and a cot. A plain, unadorned room is a very powerful motivator.
    The next starting point is to encourage family development. I say “encourage”; a child that drops out of school or is systemically absent no longer counts for family size. Enforce (strictly) child support while reducing alimony. Rewrite US adoption law to encourage domestic adoption (this means once you give the child up, you have given up all rights to the child). Enforce a divorce penalty on the total estate (if there is a “fault” party, it comes from their share) to push for more stable households. Yes, I know that this makes it harder to leave a bad situation, but people should look before they leap into a commitment like marriage. This should also cut down on serial marriages; it would get very expensive.
    My final starting point would be to rescind tenure for teachers. Sorry, those policies are the worst thing that the education system has ever created. I understand that teachers need security – the job is very volatile – but the inability of a school to discipline or remove a bad teacher is incredibly counter-productive. It is essentially a guarantee of a job, with yearly wages, for life or until criminal conviction (and sometimes beyond that), after five years of performance (in many cases). It would be similar to requiring those who bought a C64 years ago to continue paying for it (at an increasing yearly cost) and keeping it centered on the desktop in favor of a new iBook even though it is outdated and provides nothing for the user. I know many fine teachers, but I have found that almost everyone knows of at least one teacher at every school that should have been fired except for tenure. Change that paradigm and suddenly the teachers spouting politics in algebra class are staying on subject – because they realize they are endangering their livelihoods. I’d also raise starting salaries and promote the “boardroom to classroom” and “operation classroom” (military to educator) programs. Teaching should not be the refuge of “those who can’t”.
    Enough rant, I look forward to someone parsing my ideas (since that is the point of this post) and open debate.
    Back to work – Kosovo has problems to solve.

    SGT Dave – “So if it is an independent country, why does it need everyone else to support it?” (not just an issue in Kosovo)

  2. satiricohen says

    If the individual is the problem, and I believe it is so, then the solution will have to be based on the understanding of the individual’s working – psychology.

    For me, the best product of psychological research in the West is the Imago Theory, a brilliant faith-based synthesis of all the great theories – Freudian, Jungian and Adlerian.

    Using force has been tried endlessly but it always backfires since, for every force applied, there is always a reaction. It is true in physics as well as in the spiritual realm.

    Giving people options and encouraging them to do the right thing – dealing with their own personal wounds instead of projecting them on the world – will go a long way towards a better society.

  3. SGT Dave says

    Satiricohen,
    I like the idea that a psychological solution is available. I do not concur that such is workable, though. While force creates backlash (per the 3rd Law), there are not sufficient resources to analyze every criminal for a unique solution. “Perfect” is the enemy of solutions. Making confinement something to be avoided is one good step; right now I’m living in conditions that would inspire lawsuits in US jails – and I’m a deployed military member. A jail/prison/gaol should be something avoided; not a place to go get finishing skills for criminal activity, a professional networking location, or a badge of honor.
    Let’s define hard rules, provide the necessities (food, shelter), and require effort from the prisoners for anything beyond the necessities.
    It is a shame that the unions went after chain-gang style work parties to repair roads. The prisoners should get benefits from the fruit of such labor – creating competition for the job opportunities. Otherwise, those who do not wish to work get the minimum. I’d even be in favor of creating bank accounts for the prisoners, with payment (and going interest) going to the accounts so that when they exit they are not faced with destitution, giving them a chance to get on their feet and on the right path.
    It isn’t an easy or fast fix. It may very well be a fix that is needed.
    And, unfortunately, there are those who will commit crimes no matter what civilized people do. Evil exists – I’ve seen it up close and personal, and not just in my military days. Some are not willing to be “fixed” – and those will always need to be sequestered for the sake of society. Sorry, the jail is never empty save when those who obey the law lock themselves inside their own cells to keep the criminals out.
    Some days it is very hard to like humanity; I’ve seen so much that I often despair of liking people at all. Thank God for my wife and my children; I am more “human” now than I was before I had them. And the fact that they can love me re-affirms the hope I have for humanity and keeps me going.
    Yep, I was (and many would say still am) one of those “rough men”. I pray you sleep well, for sometimes I do not – Orwell left out the cost to those who answer the call.
    Farewell and Fare Well –
    SGT Dave – “It is not in reaching the stars that a man is defined; it is in the determination and effort he gives in both achievement and failure.”

  4. Lissa says

    With respect, I completely and fundamentally disagree with Helen’s premise that “empty jails” are decent and moral. While I applaud the goal of encouraging a decent and law-abiding society, there is such a thing out there as a Bad Person. If you wish to empty the jails, what will you do with the Bad People? I am quite sure that Helen does not believe in capital punishment, so no matter how heinous the crime, death is off the options list. Commit them to mental institutions, where the main differences may be only that the staff is less trained to deal with violent offenders, the Bad Person is physically strapped to a bed instead of confined to a cell, and security is more lax? Or give them therapy, convince yourself that the Bad Person is “cured” and release them back into an innocent population? Bad news, sometimes that works out quite poorly (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/02/us/02rape.html?_r=1&oref=slogin). Again, I want a Utopia as much as anyone else — it would be wonderful if there were no crimes because everyone loved everyone, kumbaya, but such is not practical — it just ain’t ever gonna happen. Never has, never will.

    I’m not phrasing this very well — someone help me out. Basically, I want crime prevention — by SGT Dave’s recommendations and by satiricohen’s goal of understanding a criminal/future criminal’s psychological motive/makeup — to be an over-arching long-term goal, but I also most definitely do not want to release animals into the street where they can assault another innocent person. Check the link above — I feel pity for the offender’s upbringing and regret that his childhood was terrible, but I feel rage, pity, horror and regret that pity for the offender’s upbringing led to his release, and therefore to his ability to brutalize a six-year-old.

  5. oceanguy says

    Two words… Liberation Theology. It may go by other names… victomology, victimhood, or something like it… but the basis for much of what stands for “Progressive” thought is that all people are good and bad or evil acts are only a result of imperfect government or by the oppressors in power.

    Power corrupts, but all people are inherently good… interesting dichotomy… but they only view the world from the side of the “oppressed,” from the side of the victim. However lofty and idealistic the feelings behind those who think and act in accordance with the unquestionable goodness of oppressed victims, the Devil is always in the details. The trouble is they are almost universally disinterested in the details… in the lessons of history… of their socialist agenda. They can’t seem to get socialism out of their theoretical classrooms and into reality.

    The rejection of morality, is merely the rebellion against unwarranted power, the rejection of decency is a result of their living in indecent conditions… envy has nothing to do with it.

    I guess it’s not so strange that the left find themselves so in step with extreme leftist Christians, but the sympathy with the extremist Muslims is a puzzle. The left’s loss of what it means to be moral, and their rejection of the religious basis of morality makes it even more of a mystery. It’s one reason why I think Obama’s religious affiliation is just as relevant as any conservative christian’s.

  6. says

    To begin with in ““a nation is only as powerful as its weakest citizen, as prosperous as its poorest, and as decent and moral as its empty jails,” each of the three expresses the same desire: wholeness. This is the desire to make us “one nation under God.” Separating the expressions may be useful for purposes of discussion, but during implementation, they would go hand in hand.

    What I do not think is that we should open the jail doors and let everyone out. That would create chaos and danger. And while I don’t support the death penalty, I do believe in lifetime imprisonment (meaning until the person is physically dead, not what plea bargain crap based on “good behavior” the court allow) for people who have committed dangerous crimes and are a threat to others. The murderer is not my friend. And no amount of therapy will change the fact that some people just seem hell-bent on hurting others. I don’t have to judge them to know I don’t want them as my neighbor or yours. So the jails will always have some people in them. “Empty jails” is metaphoric language.

    I was an English teacher and now am a writer, a poet. I use figurative language. I like rhetoric. Maybe this is a clue to why Obama has such appeal for me and others. Not every sentence out of his or my mouth is backed by a fact. Rather it is about an ideal. But do not mistake that for Pollyana. The pursuit of perfection will kill all chances of recognizing excellence. Perhaps, some misunderstandings are due to the predominance of left-brain thinkers.
    Left Brain: Logical, Sequential, Rational, Analytical, Objective, Looks at parts

    Right Brain: Random, Intuitive, Holistic, Synthesizing, Subjective, Looks at wholes

    I am a right-brain thinker. Surprise. Surprise. :-) And I am a blabbermouth.

    Now, back to the jails. Has it occurred to anyone that 1) there are too many laws and that 2) not all persons who occupy jail space and violent (dangerous). I am not suggesting that it should be lawful to embezzle, but perhaps Martha Stewart could have served the citizens of our country in a better way than spending time in “plushy” jail. She’s an intelligent woman who did something wrong. She isn’t dangerous. Could she not have served her “debt to society” by building up society using her expertise? And young people. When they are imprisoned with older criminals, they come out of jail as better criminals. Why not make them work and study. Not much free time. After all, they broke the law. But don’t put them in jail.

    Of course the breakdown of the family contributes to the problem. And of course, as DQ said, “Morality and decency are spread, if at all, into the heart of one person at a time. No government program, no private charity, nothing that I can think of, can turn around an entire society that has lost its way.” But once one is “moral and decent” shouldn’t he/she work to make others “marl and decent’ also?

    I do not claim to be perfect nor do I chase perfection, but I do proclaim – day after day – that we have a responsibility for our fellow human beings: first ourselves, then our families, then our neighborhoods, then our states, nation, world. When we (human beings) got to planet earth, the trouble had already in begun. And yes, I’m a Christian. But I aim not to be an obnoxious one.

    Literally “emptying the jails” would not solve all problems. It would also create some. New solutions to old problems must include right and left brain thinkers, conservative and liberal thinkers, men and woman, people of all races, people of all religions, the sane and maybe even the insane. Certainly someone who’s had jail time, who would know experientially what I can just ayp about.

  7. Oldflyer says

    DQ, that quote has such a sweet ring to it; and it is totally meaningless or more correctly, grossly inaccurate.

    Most people realize that there are many and diverse reasons why some citizens are weak, poor or venal. A great nation rises above those who cannot or will not contribute, and those contribute negatively, because the majority compensate for their short-comings.

  8. Lissa says

    Thanks for the clarification Helen. I come from an extremely liberal background with beloved family members who say similar things and mean them in all seriousness, without an iota of figurative speech. I therefore hesitate to assume people mean other than what they write unless I’m given license to do otherwise :)

    As far as the Left-Brain-Part, Right-Brain-Whole, I think many including myself would argue with that designation. Part of the Conservative argument against Liberalism/Progressivism is that Liberals tend to look at the part and not the whole. E.g., look at one particular segment of society (a person in Maryland who cannot afford health care and *needs* national insurance) and ignore the whole (all the people who sacrified that second car and TV in order to buy their own health insurance, all the people across the country whose money will be forcibly taken from them to pay for the Maryland family’s insurance, what it will do to the health care industry as a whole, etc).

    I speak as a person who grew up in a family that was by some measures very poor — we used to play the “hunt for quarters so Mom can buy milk” game — but, truly, was not poor. We had multiple televisions, microwaves, a dishwasher, bought game systems for my brothers as they grew older, etc. What we had was not poverty but a lack of money management skills. As a single adult, I have lived without an air conditioner or a dishwasher because my money was better spent on gas so that I could drive to work. Is it fair, is it moral, is it correctly judging the whole to say that my money should be used to pay for another person’s insurance (or fill in the blank) because I have chosen wisely and they have not?

    I am not saying that people with poor money management skills deserve to be poor, or their children deserve to be hungry, etc. I just see a serious difference between appealing to a person’s good nature and sense of pity to help one’s fellow man/woman, versus deciding that they WILL do so, because they SHOULD, dammit. And I think you do as well — you have always tried to *persuade* those of us here at BWRoom. The conflict comes when people who speak and believe as you do — we are only as good as our poorest, our most miserable, our weakest, etc. — decide that they will take things from me and give them to others, whether I like it or not, because otherwise our country is a bad place and I am a bad person.

    Per my disclaimer from earlier, I’m particularly incoherent today, and I apologize. But perhaps you’ll understand what I am trying to say anyway :) Why should we judge a society by its poorest and weakest? Why not judge it by its best, and the opportunity for the poorest and weakest to become neither poor nor weak? (And by best I mean the millions of ordinary, decent people who go about their lives making a home, making a family if they choose, going to work and growing the economy, and generally being part of a fine middle-class society.)

  9. jj says

    I don’t think anyone does mistake it for Pollyanna-ishness, Helen; but nothing expressed beautifully remains nothing no matter how gilt-edged the phrases. Obama to this point has said nothing, though he’s occasionally phrased it well, I grant you.

    I think it’s occurred to a lot of people that there are too many laws, and entirely too many of them are fairly dumb at best, counter-productive at worst. (I am, in fact, probably farther out there than you are in the direction of a libertarian take on life. I am of the opinion that roughly 80% of police work in this country has to do with regulation of our private morals; by which I mean controlling what we eat, smoke, drink, put into our veins, how and with whom we have sex, and how we gamble – and all of it is none of society’s concern or business; except as it impinges on others, which mostly it doesn’t.)

    For example, I hold no brief for Larry Craig, but if Minneapolis can spare cops to hang around the men’s room at the airport, then Minneapolis needs to fire a bunch of its cops: clearly they don’t have enough to do.

    And I agree completely with Dave: jail is a place of punishment, it ought to be AT LEAST as tough as what we expect our kids to volunteer for in the military. No TV, no gym, no radio – no more comfort, though a good deal safer, than anyone deployed in Afghanistan. Endless library time, no weights. An opportunity to learn something other than how to be a better criminal.

    And it isn’t where anyone who’s sitting around with the neighbors on a Saturday evening getting quietly – or even raucously – stoned belongs. If you buy her flowers, take her out to dinner, hire a limo to come home you’re fine, but if you just throw her a hundred bucks out front: you don’t belong there then, either.

    There are far too many people in jail who don’t belong there, and far too many who do who aren’t. (A lot of them cops, to judge by the recent spate of videos we’re being treated to on the news.) People whose only “crime” was to smoke or shoot up something are a waste of space that OJ Simpson could be using.

  10. Marguerite says

    Liberals believe that erasing the consequenses of poor life choices with other people’s money will move the world forward. Conservatives believe that personal accountability for life choices will move the world forward. Worldwide despair and misery produced by the former should make the latter an obvious choice. Great Britain is crumbling before our eyes while they accommodate the failure of socialism that guarantees everything to everyone. New Orleans was a societal sewer long before Katrina. Society has lost it’s way because it doesn’t work, Helen.

  11. Lissa says

    Oh, and in my incoherence I forgot to respond to some of the stuff jj covered for me (thanks). Too many people are in jail for stupid or trivial matters, prosecution of which strains our justice system and wastes manpower. And — oh yeah — a lot of which isn’t any of our damn business, anyway . . .

    As for jail conditions, I see absolutely nothing wrong with modeling it after Army barrack conditions. Makes sense to me!

  12. says

    Marguerite, I do not speak for “liberals” but for myself.

    I believe that being born into a poor family isn’t a life choice. Oops, wrong womb. :-) I believe that everyone is responsible for his/her life choices. I also recognize that not everyone’s values are the same as mine. People make choices based on their values. I am not in charge of values. I also believe that most of us need help in one way or another from time to time.

    I do not believe that the general coffers of the US (obtained through various kinds of taxation) are “other people’s money. I believe they are “our money.” If the government is “of the the people, by the people, and for the people,” shouldn’t it help “the people,” not just the poeple who made good life choices?

    And as for “Society has lost it’s way because it doesn’t work, Helen.” What does that mean? Society doesn’t work? Huh.

  13. Ymarsakar says

    Teach every citizen and law abiding person in the United States the arts of killing and the science of violence. To those that can’t kill with their barehands because of disability or lack of confidence or lack of training, provide them training in firearms and other concealed weapons.

    When a society is armed and ready to defend itself against criminals, the possibility of a police state lessens and the number of criminals in jails lessen as well.

  14. Ymarsakar says

    If the government is “of the the people, by the people, and for the people,” shouldn’t it help “the people,” not just the poeple who made good life choices?

    That might be valid choice if people could see where the tax money came from; which individuals pay this percentage of the government program. But people don’t see that kind of money trail. There is no personal tracking number for one’s taxes through the federal government like fedex has for their packages.

    Thus it is very easy for people in government to decide that the “people” that should be given help is their kind of people.

  15. Marguerite says

    Do you mean to imply that being born into a poor family entitle’s one to other people’s money, Helen? I think you are confused about the role of gov’t in a free society. Compassion is not the government’s job and helping people is not the govt’s job. That’s your job. It’s the gov’ts job to be just and encourage a free environment where people rise and fall according to their efforts. We have deteriorated a long way when a candidate for President named Lady Bountiful runs a campaign commercial where she bestows gift wrapped government packages tagged ‘healthcare’ and ‘education’. Which of our founders saw the role of gov’t as a nanny?

  16. suek says

    >>I do not believe that the general coffers of the US (obtained through various kinds of taxation) are “other people’s money. I believe they are “our money.”>>

    And you’d be mistaken. The general coffers of the US do not hold _any_ money that belongs to the US. The general coffers of the US hold money _taken_ from US citizens. It is no more “our” money (meaning those who did not contribute it) than if you yourself took it from a citizen who had more than you did – which would make you a thief.

  17. Susan says

    It is true that no one chooses to be born poor. I didn’t. My parents live in one of the poorest cities (on average) in the country, do not make very much money, and do not have four-year college degrees of any kind.

    They have done well in life because they do not spend much and they worked hard. They taught their children, including myself, to work hard and to follow laws. They provided their children with high-quality books and educated themselves as best they could, considering that college was just not an option. They then educated their children in everything they found interesting – from fine literature to chemistry to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

    I am now attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I have never gone to a private school; my high school is not of the best quality but it had a good AP and Honors program for kids who cared to take those classes.

    I have no sympathy for “poor downtrodden victims of society”. If you were born in America, you were given the great opportunity to succeed. We have public schools, we have Head Start, we have programs to teach illiterate folks how to read, we have recycling programs so good that some people make their living by collecting cans and bottles ($100 or more per day in big cities), we have charities and churches galore.

    If you complain of poverty and own an iPod, $150 shoes and the latest gaming system, you have bigger issues. If you were raised in a family that does not educate its children, I can have sympathy – but I’m not going to enable you by stealing money from other folks. If you were raised in a neighborhood culture that produces uneducated youths with chips on their shoulders, again, I can be marginally sympathetic – but there was nothing stopping you from going to the library instead. Or borrowing books from classmates and teachers. Or borrowing books from the school library (every school I’ve ever heard of has one).

    DQ, if you’re looking for decency and morality, here’s what you do. Raise your own kids to be moral and decent, to read and write correctly, to ask questions and think for themselves. Save money and let your kids know that you are saving money – and how, and why. Encourage your kids to be creatively constructive.

    The next generation will reap what has been sown in the present. There may be a way to change the actions of large numbers of people – but I bet it is both violent and unconstitutional, and I would not do it even if I somehow could. America will hold together despite everything. Policies will change, and people will not be happy with that, but the U.S. will hold together. We have before (the Great Depression is an example) in trying times.

    But the kids will determine the future of this country.

  18. Marguerite says

    Susan – you go girl! Yours is an uplifting story. As DQ said in his challenge, morals and decency are spread from generation to generation and you are an example of the greatness of individual Americans left alone to do just that.

  19. Don Quixote says

    Geart comments, all! Thank you. Susan, I’ve done my best and I think I’ve managed to raise two decent, moral young men. They’ve made some choices I wouldn’t have made. For example, they are in their mid 20s and just beginning to understand why I stressed education so heavily all those years. But they are fine sons — thoughtful, hard-working, caring and honest.

  20. Ymarsakar says

    As I see it, helen’s position is that because the US government is formed by the people for the benefit of the people, that it is a failure if some of the people become failures. Similar to the weak chain analogy.

    Thus you have to provide for everyone, in order for the government to be truly representative. That, of course, will hopelessly unbalance the system, so that your intent to make everyone equal will in the end, make nobody equal and everyone at a disadvantage. Because government will now hold enough power to decide which people should get the additional affirmative action benefits, and government will always choose their kind of people, never the people that actually need it.

  21. Ymarsakar says

    People might want to read this post of mine concerning a very insightful and entertaining look into how people that believe in pacifism deals with people who believe in total war and violence.

  22. says

    I nominate Lissa for the top, or at least very high, on the totem of coherent posters. I don’t understand this self-derogating reference to her incoherence. From what I’ve seen every statement from this one so far has been wonderfully stated, beautifully phrased, and logically sound.

    If about five percent had your insight the world would be a much better place. Best Sentence Award for you.

  23. Ymarsakar says

    In specific answer to passages from Opening the Floodgates, here are the insightful descriptions of the philosophy in question as written 3 and a half decades ago.

    It was an old tenet of the peace lover that the madness of
    the violent people had no end. So never get involved. Make
    no counter moves. Avoid reacting.
    Let them win.
    Easy winning softened aggressors. True it was sometimes
    inconvenient, but still if you could avoid getting involved
    afterwards, or as little as possible, it was better to keep the
    peace that way. Even if a few people got hurt, it was better.
    With that reaffirmation of his most basic truth, Modyun
    slowed back to a walk.

    ….

    Modyun said diffidently after his brief exploratory look,
    “Thought I’d better come and say good-bye.”
    A great big tear rolled down Roozb’s cheek. He seemed
    pale, and not very good-looking: kind of hollow-cheeked.
    “Thanks, pal,” he said hi a choked voice.
    Modyun stared at him with considerable amazement
    “What’s the problem?” he asked. “Everybody’s got to go
    sooner or later. So why not right now?” He corrected himself,
    “Tomorrow, that is.”

    There was a silence after he had spoken. Then Dooldn
    came and stood in front of him. There were two enormous
    pink spots in his cheeks. He swallowed, and evidently was restraining
    himself, for he said, “Boy, you sure think strange.”
    He frowned. “Modiunn, I never met an ape like you before.
    There you sat in the witness chair, telling on us.”
    “Truth is truth,” defended Modyun. At that point, it occurred
    to him that the remark that the jaguar-man had made
    was not entirely friendly. “You’re not mad at what happened,
    are you?” he asked.

    The pink spots began to reduce in brightness. Dooldn
    sighed. “I keep intending to be as mad as hell at you for that
    And then I think, ‘Well, that’s my lovable lame-brain ape pal,
    putting his foot in his mouth again’. So then my anger becomes
    helplessness. Right, fellows?” he glanced around at his
    companions.

    “Right,” said Narrl and Ichdohz gloomily. Roozb was
    silent, staring at the floor, and wiping his eyes.
    Their point of view was so lacking in perspective that
    Modyun felt the need to reeducate them. “How old are you?”
    he asked each in turn. And discovered for the first time that
    their ages ranged from twenty-six to thirty-three: Roozb
    being the latter age, and the hippopotamus-man, the former.
    Since they were animal-men, their life expectancy was about
    sixty. “So,” Modyun reasoned, “you’ve all lived roughly half
    your normal lifetimes. The remaining half scarcely seems
    worth fighting for.”
    This argument was given an unmixed reception of blank
    stares.

    It was the fox-man who finally made an emotional statement.
    “To think that I’m here in this terrible predicament because
    I tried to be your friend.”

    The human being was startled. He couldn’t see how there
    could be any relation between the two conditions. “You’re
    suggesting,” he said, shocked, “that there is such a thing as
    cause and effect. That’s not true. You did what you did. Then
    the hyena-men did what they did. The two events are not
    related in a rational world. It’s something in their heads that
    says there’s a connection. There is no connection, in fact.”
    Modyun saw that his words were not being understood.
    They simply looked downcast, and seemed unhappier than
    ever with their fate. He felt a sudden pity, and continued:

    “What you should be aware of,” he said, “is that life has
    no meaning that anyone has ever been able to discover. So
    each species should narrow itself down to a small group in
    which each individual carries within himself all the bundles
    of genes—that is, the entire genetic heritage—of the race,
    and wait.”

    He went on, “Since there are plenty of each of your
    species back on earth, there’s no reason why you should hold
    on to your particular repetitive existence.”

    Say, I have made a key discovery about the enemy.
    The awareness poised, with that thought, It rejected the
    concept of enemy because … are there any enemies, really?
    The whole inner meaning of the peace philosophy said no.
    There are no enemies. There are only people who, by their
    actions, draw to themselves a response.
    This response, which they themselves have evoked, they
    then label as having come from an enemy.
    But the true enemy is in the impulse in the—however momentary—
    disturbance, which causes them to do the thing
    that brings the response.
    No response, no enemy.
    So, decided Modyun, I shall return to my little apartment,
    and stay there creating no problems, evoking no responses,
    until next Tuesday . . . when I go to court. Which is the
    peaceful reaction to the summons that has been handed me.
    And that was exactly what he did—except for going out to
    eat

    defining one’s enemy
    according to his power and his money

    I dare say that some people prefer that one define one’s enemies based upon one’s own actions, power, and money.

  24. Mike Devx says

    DQ said,
    “Morality and decency are spread, if at all, into the heart of one person at a time.”

    I agree with Susan’s answer: “DQ, if you’re looking for decency and morality, here’s what you do. Raise your own kids to be moral and decent, to read and write correctly, to ask questions and think for themselves. Save money and let your kids know that you are saving money – and how, and why. Encourage your kids to be creatively constructive.”

    I think Helen L. would agree with at least THAT paragraph of Susan’s as well. Everyone knows it always comes down to the parents.

    Yet many parents are not perfect, not even close. I consider a mother in the news recently who lost complete control of her four teenagers, plead for help from the local government, and was refused. She kept her teenagers housed and fed and otherwise she fled from them. They were completely out of control – young adult antisocial thugs and complete idiots. She is in jail now, and I think that is ridiculous.

    The point is that so many parents who are not very good at child-raising require the backing of a strong society in order to raise their children well. The norms surrounding them must both reinforce good behavior AND must reinforce parental control.

    A great parent will raise great children under any circumstances. A good parent needs cultural and societal reinforcement to ensure success. Our current society provides little to none, and so even good parents struggle. Adequate parents face a near-hopeless struggle. Poor parents release animal children among us – they haven’t a shred of hope of raising a child to appreciate anything about civilization. We all are guaranteed to pay the price.

    Some such lost children find role models outside their families. But this is very rare and we must not attempt to rely on it. That would be like relying on the lottery for financial income. It’s a complete loser of a proposition. Save two such children out of a hundred and you’ve got 98 delinquents, leading to many criminals, much poor behavior, and a larger and larger number of rotten parents. A spiraling problem; look around you.

    Consider a question: what percent of the children and teenagers around you need to be out of control animals, lacking all social grace and all civilized sensibility, before everything around you begins to suffer? I’ll bet that there’s a tipping point around 10%. And we’re well past that point.

    Parents that care and enforce and instruct. Society that reinforces and supports. A focus on the very WORTH of civilized behavior and a complete repudiation of any animalistic or “Just Do It” impulses. A spreading light to confront the gathering darkness.

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