It takes a lot for a society to sustain itself with physical health, productivity and spiritual or emotional well being. Four major forces are at play to accomplish these things. They are: 1) family 2) education 3) religion or spiritual guidance 4) culture at large. Today we find that the modern world is faltering on all 4 counts and we are seeing the deteriorating effects as a result.
Much has obviously been written about the crumbling of the nuclear family. Studies show that
a missing father has a multifold negative effect on children in terms of drug use, teen age pregnancy, criminal activity, drop out rates and so on. I refer to this as the 'rogue elephant' effect, found in West Africa where poachers have killed off adult elephants, that surviving 'adolescent' offspring elephants without their parents, do not know how to behave and cause wanton destruction wherever they go. Doesn't this reflect human behavior as well? Bad government policies, such as rewarding single motherhood with government support has contributed to the incidence, of 70% single mother households, in certain neighborhoods.
I think we can all agree that education is the foundation for a child's future. How society can possibly not give this the utmost priority is beyond any rational understanding. Yet we see that government bodies, here in the US, both local and national, have asserted their control over this process with horrendous results for students both academically and behaviorally. The high school graduation rate for public school minority children is 60%. Overall American students rate 23th in math among industrialized nations. Bullying in public schools is epidemic and mass shootings is tragically all too common. 1 in 12 youth, according to the Daily News, has attempted suicide last year.
Religion is not as dominant or influential as it was just 50 years ago and we see drugs, both legal and illegal, proliferate in society both for poor and rich alike. A Lindsay Lohan of yesteryear would have been Elizabeth Taylor but even Elizabeth Taylor was not as clueless as Lindsay Lohan. According to a CBS News poll done in 2011, about 8.7 percent of Americans, 12 and older, were identified as drug users. According to a 2012 Fox News report, teen drug abuse has been on the rise over the past decade. A report by The Partnership at Drugfree.org showed that “heavy” marijuana use among teenagers is at 10%. A CDC survey shows that in 2009, 20% of teenagers took prescription drugs without a doctor's prescription. Without spirituality, children turn to drugs for feelings of peace. Yet a serious curriculum of mental health class or character development education is not a mainstay in the public schools.
Pop culture, in the form of sports, rock or hip hop concerts, movies, TV and gaming is notorious for their levels of violence or depiction of chaos and intolerance. Instead of arguing over how much negative effect all of this has on children forming life views, one could easily ask "what good does it possibly do?" Lance Armstrong felt he had to sue people who were telling the TRUTH about his drug, blood and hormone use, so that he could win all of his metals. NFL star, Jovan Belcher, murdered his girlfriend who was the mother of his child, after suspecting her of cheating on him. Belcher had 3 prior police incidents and nearly lost his thumb when punching through a window in a prior jealous rage. Where is the mental health or criminal justice system to track someone like that? Instead, our culture treats jocks like him with kid gloves because of celebrity status.
So what do we do in a meshuga world like this? Is it possible to just ignore it all and pretend it doesn't exist? Of course not. Those of us with religious or moral values have a spiritual compass to live by. Basic honesty, reverence for G-d, love of family, concern and respect for our fellow human beings, along with ambition to accomplish things on a professional, intellectual or business level is all that we need as a foundation to build a life on. In this respect, less is more. We don't need drugs, cheating and violence to make life interesting. Yet quiet and decent people, such as in our religious communities need to know that society has much to learn from our folks about emotional contentment and spiritual meaning. We should speak out in whatever way we can.
This surely is what is meant when G-d said to Isaiah of the Israelites, that they will be a "light unto the nations". The Jewish religion undergirds 2 other major religions in the world as well; Christianity and Islam. While both of these religions have undergone or are undergoing dark periods, much good is to be found in both religions. Islam had a glorious period with great tolerance for others, during the 12th century in Maimonides' time when Arab Muslims ruled over Spain and Islam will once again shine as brightly. Christianity, after Vatican ll in the early sixties, has undergone a reformation and is a noble religion.
Other peaceful religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism have wonderful contributions to make as well. People of legitimates faiths, whatever they may be, have much to contribute to the "heathens" of today, or the people with a weak moral constitution. Today's heathens are people who succomb to drugs, promiscuous sex, violence and rely on others for sustainance and those who implicitly condone such behaviors. Heathens and those without a moral compass need to be reigned in or educated by those who know better.
The Ron Pauls or Pat Buchanan types are also amoral because they think that American isolationism is a viable option for our government. Pat Buchanan feels that Hitler just had some territorial disputes with his neighbors and the rest of the world overreacted. The recently nominated Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, for years, appeared to be such a separatist, but in September of 2012 he coathored a statement, which gives his policy another dimension. It reads: "Our position (regarding Iran) is fully consistent with the policy of presidents for more than a decade of keeping all options on the table, including the use of military force, thereby increasing pressure on Iran while working toward a political solution." Reasonable people feel that there could have been a more suitable choice but given Hagel's most recent stance, Liberal Jewish leaders don't feel the urgency to protest the nomination.
People of faith can do something to effect change which is something that they too often do not take seriously enough and that is the practice of voting-in decent and competent candidates for office. Why should so many corrupt, partisan hacks and incompetent politicians be allowed to squander our treasure and not do their prescribed duties? When will Congress start commencing hearings on Benghazi, an incident that allowed our foreign representatives in an ill guarded consulate in Libya to be slaughtered by terrorists on 9/11/12? When will Jonathan Pollard, after 28 years be let out of prison for a crime that others would have served just a few years for? As it turns out, according to recently declassified CIA documents, Pollard never divulged any information about our own government. He only released to Israel, information that our government had about Arab states or about the Soviet Union.
With so much injustice going on in the world, we can not let the heathens make us all go off the "meshuga" cliff. Moral values must rule the day.