If someone were to ask you, "What are the main issues facing society today?" how would you answer? The flow of information, opportunities and material comforts have never been greater. Yet there is a sense of unease, if not fear, that life on a personal level is getting worse instead of better.
Here is my top ten list of what is wrong in society today. What would you put on your list?
1. Materialism. The false values created by a consumer driven society place material comfort, entertainment, social status and self-serving pursuits in front of relationships, family obligations, community service, spirituality and moral behavior.
2. Pernicious media. We are inundated with the pernicious influence of TV, movies - gratuitous violence, sexual content and innuendo, cynical humor and sheer time wasting. It affects all segments of society but especially on young impressionable minds. We can say the same for certain kinds of music, violent video games and availability of pornography on the Internet. The immoral or amoral content erodes basic standards of morality and teaches its own brand of materialism, hedonism, cynicism and instant gratification.
3. Popular culture and anti-education values. Teenagers are confronted with social pressures and a pop culture that encourages rebellion, deviancy and experimentation with drugs, sex and alcohol. There is apathy about school and personal goals. This is a formula for failure and unhappiness once they leave the friendly support of their teen peer groups and confront the demands of adult living.
Some responsibility for this can be laid at the doorstep of our declining family values and homes. However, there are many destructive social and cultural messages that also contribute to this slavish conformity to be cool and popular. We have to raise the bar of expectation regarding teen behavior and expose the faulty values and exploitation of teens by the purveyors of pop culture.
4. Declining standards of morality. Morality and personal values are grounded in a belief in God, a spiritual moral code and active participation in a community of like-minded believers that support and reinforce one another. Too many people ignore the spiritual laws of happiness that provide a foundation for family life and concern for others.
5. Sex and cohabitation before marriage. Societal acceptance of sexual activity outside of marriage causes confusion and devastation as people try to sort out their relationships and make life long commitments to marriage and family life. As a result, poor decisions are made in courtship. Cohabitation leads to either split ups or higher divorce rates after marriage. Children need two parents in the home that understand commitment to each other and to their parenting responsibilities.
6. Family breakdown. Needless conflict in marriage causes divorce and unhappiness. The consequences for children are largely negative. The vast majority of these problems can be prevented by honoring commitments consistently and by giving unselfish love. Relationships also grow when couples are respectful and use mannerly communication and effective problem-solving skills.
7. Child care. Somebody needs to be in the home to love and nurture infants and preschool age children. The role of mothers at home with small children is not valued enough. The attachment and personal security when infants bond with parents serve as a wonderful foundation of trust in people and give positive attitudes about self and others. Having and raising children is not considered a worthy endeavor. The roles of mothers and teachers are not valued enough.
8. Fiscal irresponsibility. Our society is built on a shaky foundation of personal debt, a "spend now - pay later" mentality, and a paycheck-to-paycheck means of survival. The bursting of the housing bubble is a reminder of how fragile our economy is. A sharp recession could expose many people to hardship and play havoc on the amount of taxpayer support needed for basic governmental services.
If this snowball ever starts to roll downhill, watch out! We are a self-centered people who have a sense of entitlement to a high standard of living. Economic hardship can pierce the fragile layer of civility and trust that underpin our dealings with one another.
Failure by the federal government to address future problems with Social Security and Medicare a vivid indicator of our nationwide tolerance of living well now and exporting the bills to the future. We are mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.
9. Health care. I am alarmed by the inequities and expense of our health care delivery system and the evolving trends away from freedom of choice for the consumer. An economically driven system will eventually hurt patient care. It is devastating to those who are uninsured or under-insured. On the other hand, a technology driven system with few checks and balances has the capacity to bankrupt the economy. Our best minds need to be working on this issue.
10. Litigious society. To be without health insurance could be catastrophic. Equally traumatic is to be without liability insurance. The litigious mentality in society is rampant. How can we stop the huge bills and emotional trauma of civil litigation and still preserve fairness and justice for legitimate victims of irresponsible or malicious acts of others? Some kind of reform is necessary to cap awards and bring a level of reasonableness to the process.
What would you add to the list? Comments can be sent to: Top Ten, The Preston Connection, PO Box 1135, Orem UT 84058-1135.
For more information of society and values, visit Val Farmer's website at www.valfarmer.com.
For Val Farmer's new book on marriage, "To Have and To Hold," send a check or money order for $14.95 plus $3.95 for shipping and handling for the first book and $2.00 for each additional book to JV Publishing, LLC, P.O. Box 886, Casselton, ND 58012.
Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Missouri and can be contacted through his website.
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