Maureen Dowd of the New York Times had an interesting commentary entitled “Moral Dystopia”. In it she talked about the atrocity of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case. How could it be, she thought, that an assistant coach who happened upon a perverse scene in the locker room shower did nothing to significantly stop it? His moral hesitation kept the perpetrator in his immoral ways.
But what is immorality after all? Is it a personality defect? A problem with our genes? What? It’s hard for us today to know today. Once staid institutions that helped set the parameters of a moral life are eroding. Personality seems to have trumped character. Whistle blowers are the odd ones. And maybe that’s why we do so little to condemn (or call out) whatever it is. Maureen interviewed Cory Booker the Mayor of Newark who ignored his security cadre and ran into a burning house to save his neighbor. He said he was taught by his parents to have a moral obligation to help those who needed it. No hesitation.
Interestingly, the Mayor stated that “We have to fight the dangerous streams in culture, the consumerism and narcissism and me-ism that erode the borders of our moral culture. We can’t put shallow celebrity before core decency. We have to have a deeper faith in the human spirit. As they say, he who has the heart to help has the right to complain.”
Think about consumerism, narcissism, and me-ism in our culture today. They are very pervasive and powerful influencers. Yet, there are some practical ways to counter them.
- Consumerism: Give stuff away. Every time you give, you subvert the powers that be.
- Narcissism: Intentionally become ‘other’ focused. Be fully present with the one in front of you and constantly be on the lookout for those who could use a warm hug, a smile, or attentive ear. Not difficult acts but powerful in their effect.
- Me-ism. Turn off the media spigot. We are conditioned by the ads of consumer culture to see ourselves as the center of our universe. We owe it to ourselves to spend, they say, and focus only on what makes us happy. It’s impossible today to escape the market’s intrusion in our lives, so begin to critique it’s messengers as the deceptions that they are.
What do you think? Are there other streams eroding morality today?