We live in a world of eroding values. What was right once is now wrong and what was wrong once is now right. Britain’s chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs recently wrote: “In virtually every Western society in the 1960’s there was a moral revolution, an abandonment of its entire traditional ethic of self-restraint. The [Judeo-Christian] moral code was jettisoned. In its place came [the adage]: Do whatever works for you…We have been spending our moral capital with the same reckless abandon that we have been spending our financial capital…The message is that morality is passe’, conscience is for wimps, and the single overriding command is ‘Thou shalt not be found out.'”
Freedom is the most wonderful gift we have, but to be free to do everything we want regardless of the consequences our actions may cause to others and to ourselves does not make things right. We know that the law of gravity says that if we jump off a window we will fall down, but that does not mean that we have to do it because we are free to do so. We may but its consequences are out of our control: we could be severely injured or die altogether.
It seems to me that this ‘I’ mentality which is now prevalent in Western society and is quickly moving to other cultures in the world is rather selfish and it is causing the real problems we see in our times. Simply put, for instance, the financial crisis we are experiencing is the fruit of the mentality I just described. The thought that comes to mind in this case is that those who caused this worldwide misery did not care at all about others but only about the ‘what is in it for me’. The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement has clearly identified that problem. Yes we are free to do things and it is right to increase our personal wealth but not at the expense of others. So does freedom justify that the greatest majority of wealth and riches are available only to 1 per cent of the entire population? There is something very wrong with that.
Change can come only through us. We cannot expect systems to correct themselves like some financial pundit would have us believe. We need to act and we need to act within our circle of influence. The choice is between a momentary, maybe physical pleasurable event and an enduring sensation of peace and contentedness. I’d rather go for the latter. The problem is that many today make the first choice. Like addiction to a drug, that short lived momentary pleasure will only be a quick fix unable to be entirely satisfying and demanding more. The fact is that the afterward of that moment is total emptiness.
John Bunyan once wrote: “Although I have been through all that I have, I do not regret the many hardships I met, because it was they who brought me to the place I wished to reach…I carry with me the marks and scars of battles – they are the witnesses of what I suffered and the rewards of what I conquered.” Hard work, sacrifice, honesty and integrity will bring scars but also everlasting peace of mind and happiness.
I hope and I hope because I know that people have the intrinsic power to know what is right from what is wrong and I also know that they are more than they think they are. I will begin today as I do every day. Will you?