Individual actions do have a cumulative or collective effect on society. This may seem rather obvious, yet it is often overlooked or ignored in the discussions of the day on many, diverse (and contentious) issues.
We have in Western societies normalized so much that is destructive to both individuals and to the larger society since the 1960s. Promiscuous and perverted sexuality, and recreational drug use are 2 examples. Both of these serve to harm families and that makes for a less harmonious society. Ego-centric, self-absorbed individuals have contributed to many of the societal ills we face today. Many groups clamor loudly for “rights”. But, on closer inspection, we see that these so-called rights mean merely being able to do whatever these folks want to do for any reason or for no reason. And, no, licentiousness is not true freedom. True personal freedom requires the acceptance of personal responsibility.
No restraints will be endured nor tolerated by these pressure groups (radical feminists, militant gays, etc.). If the society’s laws are in their way, then these laws have to be struck down (often times by radical judicial fiat). If God’s moral code (designed to protect humans from their self-destructive tendencies and proclivities) is the obstacle to them, then deny God’s existence and thus banish His moral code to the “superstitious” past.
What is often left out of the equation by these people (some of whom are selfish hedonists who do not seem to be fully mature adults), is the cumulative harmful effect their individual actions have on both those around them and on the larger society. Do we really want airline pilots, and surgeons, and others on whom we rely for our safety to be drug addicts, and possibly be on drugs while doing their jobs? As to the so-called sexual revolution, we ought to ponder its very bitter fruits (which could be an essay of its own). Just review the many ill effects of the break down of the family, the attempted redefinition of the family, and the lack of family formation in some communities, which are by-products of the sexual revolution. We also see the corrosive effects of the mindset that rejects many (if not all) limits placed on individual behavior elsewhere. Today, it is accepted by many college students that cheating in their course work or on exams is permissible. Overall respect for the law has been greatly undermined in the past few decades.
The common good has suffered greatly during these past 50 years.
But what serves the common good?
Given the past 50 years of societal change (decay?) in Western societies, can it be that the greatest good is achieved when we have the largest number of individuals acting selfishly, pursuing individual hedonistic ends?
Legitimate self-interest is one thing, but acting always from a very self-centered premise that neglects to consider others and the society as a whole is not and cannot be good for the society.
Lord Acton put it this way: “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”
A few years ago on this blog, we wrote that people who have lost their moral compass, and do not adhere to true moral values, are also demoralised and won’t fight for the good of society, won’t fight nor sacrifice for anything larger than themselves.
This essay serves as the prelude to our next post that will ask one of the seminal questions of our times. Stay tuned.
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