Some time ago I read an article about rogue elephants in Africa whose behavior was out of keeping with normal herd behavior. They showed extreme aggression and moved in packs with one another, demonstrating complete lack of discipline. Researchers and animal behaviorists were concerned by the anomalous behavior because elephants have a tight community and protocol that they follow. It was discovered by the researchers that the poaching of ivory had cost the lives of too many herd elders who taught the youngsters about correct elephant behavior, and without this training, the young elephants formed their own bands, acting on impulse rather than discipline because they had no guidance.
Today as I watched the news, two advertisements came on the television for new movies to be shown this summer. Both were about assassins and were filled with murder, mayhem and scenes of horror. I was at Fry’s electronic store the other day to get something for my computer and walked down an aisle that had joy sticks, steering wheels, simulated gas pedals, and video games that encouraged kids to speed, steal cars, and outperform everyone else without regard to ethics, rights, or courtesy. Then in the evening news reports came of increased shootings by young kids roving in gangs throughout the area
There is a connection between the elephants and our kids. Without structure and guidance, adolescent children and animals will behave according to impulse. As the body shifts hormonally to prepare a time of procreation, high levels of testosterone in males and hormonal shifts in girls cause instability and imbalance in the emotional reaction to events in life. Without being guided through these rites of passage by elders who can help kids channel the energy into worthwhile activities, they are left to fend for themselves and to find ways of bonding that are not necessarily in their best interest or in the best interest of a society to which they belong. Yet, over and over again, we are abdicating our position as role models for our children and grandchildren, deferring instead to a market driven media backed by irresponsible companies that put out games, movies and television programs that violate human rights in favor of pandering to the basest impulses of impressionable teens. And we do this all in the name of “freedom of speech”
A society that neglects the training of its youth is in danger of becoming victimized by it, and as we see more road rage, more senseless killing for no reason other than someone looking the wrong way at another, and the lack of respect for the rights of others – we better wake up as a collective and do something to protect our children from this type of legal predatory practice. We have lost our moral authority as we let baser and baser forms of entertainment become acceptable. That which would have been banned twenty years ago on television is now fair game. As we let our moral compass slide, we become desensitized to things that previously would be shocking to our system. And the further we go, the more violent or extreme the new games, movies and programs need to be, because they are based on shock value rather than ethics.
We are being desensitized through our complicity. We are allowing companies to profit at the expense of our society, and we are forging a generation of people into rogue elephants who, having no guidance, are forming pacts with one another that deal with survival of the fittest, the sexiest, the most able to get something for nothing, etc. etc.
Our forefathers did not create the Declaration of Independence to defile humanity and encourage lawlessness. They did it to free us to become the best and noblest of our individual potential, which at that time was not possible unless one was to the manor born. Yet, we have squandered this precious inheritance and become a nation driven by petty goals. We have reverted to a society where our national focus has very little to do with noble ideals, and everything to do with consumption, exploitation, and fixation on gossip, physical acquisition, and survival.
One of the saddest losses of this survival/exploitation mentality is the lack of love represented. There is plenty of lust and sexual fantasy – but very little in the way of love for one another. We have given up our commitment to care for each other, and if it were not for the immigrants, our elders would be floating on iceburgs or left in the street to die, because it is mostly the immigrants who care for those who no longer have the wherewithal to take care of themselves. I was shocked to learn that in the Philippines and in certain Latin and South American countries, it is considered the highest honor to be one chosen to take care of the elderly. Here, nobody wants the job. And yet we look down on the immigrants who take care of our forgotten people. And it is the immigrant who often is the caregiver to the children while the parents are off fulfilling themselves and climbing the corporate ladder while the little ones are shuffled off to day care, summer camps, and all kinds of activities that keep them occupied so that parents can “do their thing.” Yet, even in this, the level of dissatisfaction and alienation rises.
Children living in homes where the parents are just trying to survive feel the aloneness and the lack of time that can be given to them. They begin to look elsewhere for connection, and here we see the roots of computer communities. These can be a God send or a curse, depending on who is spending time with the kids, and what the underlying motives are. With everything else, we have become a nation filled with predators…not just of children and teenagers, but of the elderly and anyone else who can be used by those whose goal is to take advantage of the most vulnerable segments of the population.
How can we counter this trend? How can we defend our rights and obligations as human beings to turn this tide around in the face of overwhelming corporate domination, and the pandering to the lowest common denominator by media? How can we counter the need to survive in a country that supposedly has plenty so that people can arrange their lives in such a way that there is time to spend with family, and time to give to the children? This is the looming question for us in this 21st Century. As a nation we will sink or swim depending on the actions we take now to reclaim our founders vision for what was intended and crafted as a magnificent country.