Friday, November 16, 2007

The Continuing Nightmare

In my continuing nightmare, I saw a society in which violence had become a way of life. Earlier generations had left their doors unlocked, but later generations were obsessed with personal safety. Security had become a major factor in design and construction, and the production of burglar alarms and window bars had become a growth industry.

Domestic violence had also become an increasing problem. Instead of settling domestic differences or abiding by court orders, more and more men were guilty of abusing their wives, and battered women fought back with their own brand of violence until “battered wife syndrome” became part of the vernacular. The sad consequence was that increasing numbers of adults were guilty of physical and sexual abuse against children. Some children died at the hands of abusive stepfathers or live-in boyfriends, and some of the children’s mothers helped cover-up the crimes.

Equally outrageous was the strange phenomena of violence committed by children who seemed to have adopted an amoral value system. Children in elementary schools assaulted fellow students over minor differences and teenagers killed each other for breaking off high school romances. Perhaps the most shocking part of my dream was the school violence in affluent suburbs and small towns. Parents, experts, and journalists speculated about the causes of bazaar behavior, but what was to be expected from children born into a society that had traded the traditional value system for a moral vacuum?

The violence and self-indulgence had a ripple effect across the whole society as victims looked to the government for relief. The court system was virtually overwhelmed with domestic problems, juvenile offenses, and criminal violations. Cases that should have been vigorously prosecuted were dispatched with plea bargains for reduced sentences, and prisons became training academies that turned petty offenders into hardened criminals.

Even the rules of the road had changed, as more and more people practiced “road rage.” All too often newspapers carried horrifying stories in which blowing the horn or cutting someone off in traffic resulted in fistfights or gunfire. Another kind of rage was seen in “sporting” events where rival participants, coaches, and even referees, were sometimes physically assaulted. In arts and entertainment, as in sports, the “anything goes” mentality led the public to tolerate and then clamor for increasingly graphic forms of violence and sexuality, especially in movies and television. Dramatic programs pandered to the public appetite for sexuality, pseudo-sports glorified personal violence, and talk shows sought out bizarre stories and relationships. The more outrageous the show was, the better its television ratings.

The situation was aggravated by an expanding mass media where publicity was the stock-in-trade, and the end product was the creation of celebrities. The media, especially the electronic media, spewed forth the publicity that turned entertainers, sport figures, and even politicians into an elitist clique that was bigger than life. Public relations experts worked incessantly to manipulate or “spin” publicity in favor of their clients. The cult of celebrity was such that even “bad” publicity sometimes enhanced the careers and marketability of celebrities.

Basking in the glow of the new tolerance, movies, radio, and television became more and more outrageous until “shock value” took on a life of its own. Indeed, the “shock jock” became a new genre in radio and television. Along the way, softcore and then hardcore pornography achieved unheard of levels of public acceptance. The lust for publicity and celebrity status gradually spread to every corner of the culture until it was said that everyone would be famous for at least fifteen minutes. Emblazoned artists and their “shock art” eventually gained access to established art museums although their only claim to fame was that they were provocative and anti-establishment. As soon as the new shock art had battered down the doors of the secular establishment, it turned its artistic guns against the religious establishment. An increasingly anti-religious, especially anti-Christian attitude, could be seen in bizarre exhibits where the image of Jesus Christ was exhibited in a bottle of urine and a picture of the mother of Jesus was encrusted in animal dung. Western civilization had, indeed, developed an “anything goes” mentality.

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