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What's it all about?

Friday, July 15, 2011

A lot of people believe the world is getting progressively worse; that there is more lying, cheating, dishonesty, and aberrant behavior than ever before. I'm not sure that's true but one thing is true; thanks to 24 hour a day, 7 days a week news coverage, we sure hear about it more.

The bad behaviors I mentioned earlier aren't new behaviors at all. They've always occurred in people but the knowledge of their occurrence was limited to a small group of people. Today, everybody knows about it.

For example, no one had done a scientific study of human sexual behavior until Kinsey did it in the late 1940's. That meant that people knew what they were doing but they didn't know what other people, outside their small circle of friends and acquaintances, were doing. The 40's were a very conservative time in America. There were no sex education classes in our public schools, no nudity or overt sexual behavior on television or in the movies, and discussing publicly what you were doing sexually was verboten. So when Kinsey released his study of sexual behavior in the human male in 1948 and his companion study of sexual behavior in the human female four years later, the public was shocked beyond belief. People were doing all kinds of things that few other people knew about and the behaviors weren't that much different then than they are now. The only difference is today they're a part of the public discourse and then they weren't.

A similar situation exists with criminal behavior. Crime has been present throughout recorded history and this includes all different kinds of crime. Certainly as time has progressed, technology has also progressed so the methods have changed but not the mindset. Criminals commit criminal behavior because of a particular attitude about the law that has changed very little throughout the millenniums.

Public discourse is usually a good thing but when it comes to aberrant, unacceptable behavior I think in many cases it isn't. It isn't because the more we hear about something, the more people see it as an acceptable option. So what used to create scandals a few years ago is often met with a yawn today. And we see and hear about this kind of behavior from every social class which also makes it more acceptable.

Some athletes say they're not role models but we all know they are. Young people admire their talents and skills in their particular sport and try to emulate them. Most of us remember the "Be like Mike" commercials when Michael Jordan was in his heyday as a professional basketball player with the Chicago Bulls. And young people not only emulate the athletic skills of their idols but their dress, their persona, and their behavior away from the sport as well. So when an athlete breaks the rules or the law, there are young people watching him or her that believe its okay for them to do that too.

How does one explain to their child how Jim Tressel, the former head coach for the Ohio State football team, can write a book about ethics and proper behavior while he's cheating and withholding information at the same time? It's a hard thing to do. My high school football coach consistently told us to "Do as I say and not as I do" but, as you can imagine that advice went in one ear and out the other because we admired him so much as a coach and a person that we wanted to be just like him, incorporating his bad behavior into our psyches right along with his good behavior.

This attitude has affected relationships as well and is one of the reasons why we have the highest divorce rate in the world. We lie, cheat, and deceive those people we care about for our own ends and are often mystified why they don't understand. We make promises that are supposed to last a lifetime but they only last until we don't want to do them anymore. And in being deceptive and dishonest, we ruin other people's lives. But in this "me" generation we live in today, what "I" want appears to be much more important than telling the truth, being honest and living up to the words we say to somebody else.

Lying, cheating and deceiving have never been positive behaviors and they still aren't. But because "everybody" else is doing it, it makes it more acceptable for us to do it and the media has played a significant role in the changing of our attitudes, values and morals.

That affects some of us more negatively than others but these used to be unacceptable behaviors and today, in the minds of many, they aren't anymore.


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Mike Hendricks
Mike at Night