In a civilized society, there are social mores that exist as a form of self-regulation and self-governance. These mores (pronounced as “morays”) are accepted traditional customs and usages of a particular social group; these are common moral attitudes that are realized internally by each individual as the common recognition of agreed upon rights and wrongs.
And then there are taboos – a taboo is a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment.
Today, it seems that there is something in the papers and online every day that indicates that there are those in our society hell bent on attacking the very social mores that hold American society together. They are doing this via engaging in taboos that serve to subvert the very foundational idea of self-regulation that our system of governance is built upon.
High school teachers having sex with underage students, college coaches and priests molesting children, groups like the National Man-Boy Love Association and other groups seeking to normalize pedophilia, a Duke college student turning to making porn movies to pay tuition while terming it “empowering” and yes, even the mainstreaming of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lifestyles are all examples of former taboos that are currently in play (I make no personal judgment about practitioners of the LGBT variety other than these behaviors are traditionally viewed as “taboos”).
As many have pointed out, politics follows culture. If we accept this as a fact, then we must also accept that government is a reflection of the culture.
If an independent and free society decides that a certain behavior is counter to its best interests, it can self-correct through peer pressure and the transference of learned behaviors from one generation to another. This certainly does not prevent individuals within the society from acting on taboos, it does provide for the majority of the society who disagree with them to voluntarily opt out.
A complicating issue is introduced when government, acting on behalf of minorities who engage in such taboos, institutionalize acceptance and protection of those taboos through enshrinement in law. In doing so, the self-correction that would be capable by society at large is negated and instead of being marginalized, these behaviors become part of the basis for the next generation of the society.
Cultures can certainly decay on their own but as they descend the ladder into a pit of corruption, government acts like a one-way lock that prevents them from climbing back up the rungs to the light.
Edward Gibbon, the author of “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” wrote:
”The five marks of the Roman decaying culture:
- Concern with displaying affluence instead of building wealth;
- Obsession with sex and perversions of sex;
- Art becomes freakish and sensationalistic instead of creative and original;
- Widening disparity between very rich and very poor;
- Increased demand to live off the state.”
The first volume of Gibbon’s work was published in 1776, the same year of America’s Declaration of Independence, yet the parallels between Rome and the decay of modern western civilizations are uncanny – their presence are also undeniable and incontrovertible.
History is a cruel mistress, doling out harsh punishment for ignoring her. While we may believe ourselves to be above history, I can assure you that thousands of years of recorded history show that we are not.
Freedom doesn’t mean that we have carte blanche to act on every base desire. While freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint, what we actually seek is liberty or the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.
The design of our country as identified by the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution is the definition of true liberty – and the possibility of future generations to that liberty is being eliminated through cultural decadence, immorality and amorality.
We must have a moral basis for the prevention of corruption or we risk losing liberty.
Edmund Burke once wrote:
“Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.”
Burke was right. Just ask the Romans.