CBS News ended their article about abused and starved special needs Iraqi orphans thusly:
This is a tough test for the Iraqi government: How a nation cares for its most vulnerable is one of the most important benchmarks for the health of any society.
In the last week alone, I read that horrifying article and this one, too:
A team of international investigators infiltrated an Internet chat room used by pedophiles who streamed live videos of children being raped, rescuing 31 children and identifying more than 700 suspects worldwide.In this latter example, children as young as two months old were raped, live, while men watched, on a streaming video across the internet.
And then, in Britain, there were 25 reported honor killings last year. And, abortions increased 4% to 193,700. Britain had approximately 700,000 live births. 2/7 babies aborted--29%. Does that number seem big to you? In America, approximately 1.3 abortions occurred with about 4.1 million live births. That's 32% of potential babies not living aka dead.
The above examples reveal how our society cares for the weak and defenseless. Our society is not doing much better with the able-bodied and gainfully employed. Over at Classical Values, Eric questions the morality of sucking off the taxpayer teat all the while receiving more respect than the person earning the salary (it's well worth reading the whole thing):
I've long been worried about a growing division between tax payers and tax eaters (the latter are now poised to become the voting majority). Common sense suggests that in general, the former tend to be more productive than the latter. In economic terms, this would make them more valuable (although private school teachers make considerably less than public school teachers, despite the fact that the former do a better job.)
But can such value be measured in moral terms? While it isn't my job here to make a moral pronouncement, in my half a century on the planet I have detected a significant moral shift. I can remember when living off government money without working was considered less than morally optimal, and being on the government payroll carried with it no special moral authority. Nor should it. Yet I have seen a growing tendency in some circles to see tax eaters (of all varieties) as morally better than the people whose taxes pay them. This makes no sense. It's not as if working for the government is like working for a religious order.
Society has degraded.
We place little value on the weak and infirmed. We have contempt for the smart and hard working. We minimize the importance of honesty and fidelity. We elevate the selfish and lazy. We honor the vapid and decadent.
In short, we're immoral. Not all of us, well, not all of us completely, mind you, but enough of us to make a difference. And it is making a difference. Society has changed. It is a harder, more cruel, crass and base place than even a decade ago. When I read the last graph of the sad story of the abused and neglected children in Iraq and read the sanctimonious tone of the author, I wondered not at Iraq's inhumanity to their most vulnerable. I wondered how long we can swim in the cesspool we're creating and not end up that inhumane ourselves. Worse, I wondered if we're already there.
UPDATE: There is a danger in worrying about the cesspool too much. One can come to believe that no one is trying to be good, no one works hard, nothing matters--so why try? This is not what I'm saying in this post. It's not what I meant to convey, anyway.
My motivation was the absolute shock and horror about how these children have been exploited. I can't help believe that our mean culture, our culture that condones the aborting of "mistakes" creates a place where it's not a leap to hurt children out of the womb. And then it's not a leap to hurt grown children. And then it's not a leap to hate oneself and everyone else. It's not a leap--it's a natural progression.
A softness, a kindness, a pleasantry, a graciousness, a forgiveness, a gentleness, all those traits needed to co-exist with our fellow man gets lost in meanness, impatience, brusqueness, blame, and harshness. When we so mar our own soul, we start believing that others are just like us. We become cynical.
There is a danger, too, in believing that being cynical is just being "realistic". For all the distressing world devlopements, there is still honor. We just have to look for it. The Anchoress talks about this, too, when noting the cynical responses to President Bush's heart-felt gift to the Pope. She says about herself:
A while back a friend teased me and called me “gullible” (which I confess I sometimes am), and in the course of enjoying his joke, I also wrote back, more seriously:Cynicism is really lack of faith. And faithlessness is a decision, just like having faith is a decision.
I decided a long time ago that cynicism - to which I was prone - was simply too easy and the refuge of the timid or the hurt. I made a conscious decision to take people at their words unless their behavior warranted differently, even if it did leave me open for some teasing about gullibility. I couldn’t stand myself when I was cynical.
So while the world can be harsh and cruel, ultimately my hope is that we, as individuals, can examine ourselves and change what we can change. We are told to be in the world and not of the world. That can be a daunting proposition.
To much worrying, too much cynacism is not reality, though. Reality is faith that what is happening in the world today is part of a bigger plan. We see through a glass darkly.
Ultimately, we have dual citizenship--one in an imperfect fallen world and one in a world of perfection. For those who have that higher citizenship, cynacism really is never an option.