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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our Declining Values

What do we, citizens of the modern world, consider more important? Do we go by what the media tell or show us, or are we able to form our own judgment?  Is the life of any celebrity and their sordid adventures, i.e. Paris Hilton, so fascinating that we immediately focus on the Hollywood show? Is Lindsay Lohan's fall from grace and what the judge said to her "How well she is behaving during her probation" so earth-shaking that millions of viewers will hit YouTube? What does such behavior say about our society?

What I love the most about the American society (I was born in Europe) are the many cases of generous support for victims of natural disasters, whether national or international. Such a prompt and massive response is not common in Europe and certainly not in Mexico where I lived for several years. It's easy for a millionaire to help those in distress, but what counts as true Christian generosity comes from those who struggle to make ends meet. I have witnessed personally the amazing hospitality of poor segments of the population who will share what little they have.

However, I am most concerned by the erosion of important values in this country as I navigate the perilous depths of modern media: Right in the middle of the page, the picture of a diamond-encrusted ring is asking me "Whose engagement ring is this?", as if the response contained the solution to homelessness or foreclosures. Prince Harry's adventures are prominently featured along with the convoy of departing U.S. troops from Iraq. One apparently must know which prince ABC news is talking about; do we live in a monarchy? Then we have the usual fare of crimes as in "No motive in office shooting", as if an ordinary murder in a nation of 320 million were so unusual. The video of a cart hitting some people at a football game is apparently important enough to appear on the front page.

The All-Important Ratings

Before blaming the media for such superficial and callous offering, let's look in the mirror: Yes, you and I are responsible for the selection of "important" news by commercial channels and newspapers. They cater to our wishes, to what WE consider important. That is not to say that our 6 o'clock news should consist only of dour political and economic information. What I object to strenuously is the sick emphasis, day after day, on cases like Casey Anthony's or JonBenĂ©t Ramsey's. This morbid fascination speaks ill of our civil interests which should be focused on more constructive issues. By the way, where is the feedback from the public during news time on television? And when will these news channels stop using the now trite expression "Breaking News"? The only thing breaking is my interest.

Video Era

Today's audiences are demanding to SEE, more than to HEAR. The new generation born after 1980 cannot imagine a world without moving images. They see it on iPods, iPads, iPhones, smart phones, and a multitude of new communication devices. These tools are invaluable when denouncing atrocities by police or by tyrants; we have witnessed the Arab Spring and the American Spring (OWS) in full color. Even grandpa and grandma are impatiently scanning their computers for pictures or movies of their grand kids. Making a video is now in the hands of a 5 year-old, whereas 20 years ago, only professionals or wealthy amateurs could make movies. The downside is that the public on YouTube is demanding more and more exciting action, raunchy and dangerous. Teen girls are "sexting", the new term for sending sexy pictures, moving or not, of themselves in various states of undress. The video era is exposing our most intimate and dirty secrets, avidly watched by a multitude of voyeurs. Everybody nowadays is apparently a paparazzi and whatever you do, make sure nobody is watching with a camera phone, a quasi impossible achievement.

Good-bye Modesty 

Modesty is a value that has been lost, judging by the way some female students dress in my high school. Mini-skirts and plunging cleavage make the boys permanent oglers. Some young ladies feel no shame in asking a handsome boy for a date, no doubt the result of women's equality movement. Groupies, girls who follow rock bands, literally throw themselves at the feet of the musicians. Living together without getting married now involves quite a few minors, who enjoy their sexual freedom without caring about the consequences. Unprotected sex is extremely frequent as more and more teen girls become pregnant. Responsibility? The State will take care of me and my kids, says the 16 year-old single mother.

What To Do

Faced with political corruption, with the use of children to sell sugary treats on television (vile exploitation), with the breakdown of traditional marriage, with the approval of gay marriage, with the loss of traditional femininity, with parents too busy to love their children, with increasing teen pregnancy and neglected offspring, with rampant materialism and consumerism, our American society is in danger of accelerating the Decline of the Greatest Democracy this world has ever known. We can revert the trend by going back to our basic, traditional values of hard work, honesty, modesty, and respect. We already have generosity and tolerance; it's a matter of building anew on the forces that made us great.

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