The falling bottom line of American values

When someone says our society has lost its values what they’re really saying is that people have forgotten how to behave civilly toward themselves and others.

Values are what have been collectively determined as the most important societal etiquettes of our society. Essentially, they are the table-manners at the banquet of life—eat everything on your plate and don’t slay thy neighbor for consuming the last chicken leg.

Just like one’s eating manners, about everybody agrees there’s a certain level of acceptable behavior required of every individual in a society, but more and more people seem to be falling bellow that level. One of the big questions in today’s society is when did everybody start eating like slobs and throwing their food all over the floor?

We’re talking here about a society where tourists are slain in the streets and some lonely guy with a gun decides he’ll walk into a school yard and end his misery with company. And what’s everybody worried about in light of all this—the impressionable youth, of course.

Let’s face it, the virtues of innocence and a wholesome childhood are quickly becoming the stuff of fairy tales. A kid losses his or her chance to be impressionable pretty fast nowadays between the six-o’clock news and prime time.

And what’s the most widely-recognized cure for this societal disease besides censoring the hell out of network television? Putting values back into the classroom.

Excuse me, but I never realized values had left the classroom. The last I’d heard, students are still being penalized for lying, cheating and fighting in school. So what other values are there? And if there were other values in the classroom, who gave them a hall pass?

Society, of course.

Then wouldn’t it be society’s charge to fix the values in America? Doesn’t the family deserve the first crack at teaching their kids values? And if the families of America aren’t sufficiently instilling values into their children then whose fault is that?

Society, again.

Why should these faults be tacked onto the whole of society? Because no definable group of society has caused this degradation in acceptable behavior. The school teachers didn’t expel values from the schools because they were a bad influence on impressionable youth, and third-world terrorists didn’t take them hostage as part of an underhanded plot to undermine the strength of America. Instead, the inner-cities have been allowed to fester and big business has been permitted to exploit three-year-olds. The values of adults have been plummeting since the 60’s. (Note that I did not say because of the 60’s.)

The philosophy of “me” is destroying this nation. Instant gratification is quickly becoming an inalienable right. If we are to bring values back into our society we must learn to respect the table manner’s of society for the sake of our future, our neighbors and our children.

People look to their children as harbingers of the future, and rightfully so, for they are the ones who will either build or demolish it. But censoring prime time and making teachers mold behaviors instead of intellect will not turn the tide of increasing anti-civility in our society. People might like blaming society’s institutions for their problems, but this is one that society’s going to have to start fixing on its own.

The solution has to begin with each and every one of us. We can’t merely say values are important, and we can’t force young minds to believe the same. We must each choose our own values, follow them, and be an example to our children and others.

A true value-revolution can occur only one person at a time.