Sunday, February 9, 2014

It's the End of Civilization as We Know It: And About Time, Too

Technology that was science fiction in my youth is obsolete. My children text each other instead of walking into the next room to communicate. They think that money isn't everything.

It's the end of civilization as we know it. At least, I hope so.

Today's America is not a perfect place. But neither was the America I grew up in.

The "Good Old Days?"

(From 20th Century Fox, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee, "Gentlemen Prefer Blonds.")

I remember the end of an era when "she's smart as a man" was supposed to be a compliment, and being drunk was a socially-acceptable excuse for vehicular manslaughter. I don't want to go back to "Happy Days" America: ever.

I was one of those crazy kids who wanted to change the world. I'm not happy about the direction some reforms went, but I think many changes have been for the better.

My nation's government finally got around to honoring a few of the 19th century treaties imposed on folks who lived west of the Appalachians.

People who are not pale-skinned men associated with the "right" church can get professional jobs if they are qualified.

Unsightly cripples are no longer institutionalized or hidden, in fear of what the neighbors might think.

Women can wear slacks during Minnesota winters: without having their sexuality or morals questioned.

These changes fly in the face of mores of the "good old days." I thought they were long-overdue in my youth. I still do.

Discrimination along ethnic, health, or sexual lines still exists. We don't live in a perfect world: but we corrected some injustices during the last five decades.

However, innovations of the '60s have become the status quo — and I see a familiar mix of clueless complacency and mistrust in our new establishment. (September 15, 2011)

That's why I think we're due for another major change in our society's attitudes and assumptions. (July 30, 2012)

Trouble With the Double Standard

If the Bible was a detailed template of the "correct" social order, we should all be herding goats or sheep, or running small businesses in the Middle East. Even the most rabid "Bible-believing" folks I've encountered don't go that far. (September 26, 2009)

The last I heard, some folks still believe that Ephesians 5:22 defines "wife" as the husband's live-in servant, and little else. Surprisingly, some women seem to think this is a good idea: apparently because they believe God says so. (May 1, 2012)

I think they're sincere, but I think they're wrong. I've read Ephesians 5:22-31; Judges 4:4-10; and, for that matter, John 2:1-5.

I'll grant that Ephesians 5 doesn't support the 'have sex and live together if you feel like it' ethic that's currently fashionable; or the somewhat passé notion that men and women are all but indistinguishable. But it's not the 1950s double standard, either.

Not everyone in America believed that "boys will be boys," and that "nice girls" should virgins: preferably with no awareness at all of human sexuality. But widespread, unquestioning acceptance of that double standard helped make any argument for sexual morality seem like a sick joke.

There's more to morality than "morality," by the way, and that's almost another topic. (June 3, 2012)

Tech Angst: Teens, Telephones, and Texting

Television and the telephone were destroying society in my teens: according to a few "experts," anyway. Folks my age, I read in the occasional anguished op-ed, didn't communicate any more: instead, we spent hours on the telephone.

Nobody actually wrote that, as far as I know: but it's what many of the op-eds boiled down to.

The Internet and texting are, I've read, destroying the minds of America's youth these days. I don't see technology, old or new, as a threat.

The 19th century's passion for Progress with a capital "P," and unconsidered optimism about technology and science, were silly. So, I think, is the notion that science and technology will kill us all — and that humanity is doomed.

Television, telephones, and today's information technology, don't make people better: or worse. All these tools do is make it easier to be act wisely: or not. (August 12, 2012)

Working Toward Perfection

(From F. Bate, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(New Harmony: It looked good on paper.)

Folks have thought about utopian societies at least since Plato wrote The Republic, about two dozen centuries ago.

The 19th century was particularly well-stocked with new utopias. Some worked fairly well; others, like New Harmony and Brook Farm, only lasted a few years.

Inventively disastrous economic and social ideals were imposed on a national and regional scale during the 20th century. I think we'll be cleaning up the mess for generations.

The big problem, as I see it, in planning a utopian society is that every attempt has had to deal with human beings.

It's not that humans are basically bad. God doesn't make junk. But we're not perfect, either.

We're expected to work toward perfection, though, with God's help: personally, and as societies. (Catechism, 355-361, 399, 1928-1942, 1987-2016)

Each of us has fewer than a dozen decades to work with. That's not much time to sort out our personal issues. The societies we build are another matter.

Love and Looking Ahead

(From Daniel Schwen, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

The current iteration of Western civilization has been around for roughly 1,500 years. Although I think we might last another millennium and a half, I'd be astonished if a world map for 3514 looks like today's.

Change happens, and nations aren't forever. You probably haven't heard of Ergyng recently, for example, and I'm wandering off-topic.

Inventions like the elevator and telephone made skyscrapers practical, changing city skylines. How we produce and trade goods has changed since a standard weight of barley was the Mesopotamian gold standard. On the other hand, humans still act like human beings. (September 10, 2012)

Laws and customs have had to change. The Laws of Eshnunna discussed damage caused by an ox, but not digital copyright.

Natural law, the underlying ethical principles woven into the universe, hasn't changed: just details in how we apply it, or don't. (October 6, 2013)

The core of all legitimate law is love: 'Love God, love your neighbor.' I'm also supposed to love myself. (Matthew 22:36-40)

The Catholic Church has had almost two thousand years to think about how "love your neighbor" works, and outlines how love should guide the duties and roles of:
We can't reasonably expect to end all illness, suffering, and injustice in the next few years, decades, or centuries. But I'd be disappointed and surprised if, when folks see the Code of Hammurabi, Magna Carta, and United Nations Charter as roughly contemporary, we're still working on today's issues.

Depending on how you look at it, striving for but never achieving perfection as millennia roll past is a dreary prospect: or job security.

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