Clearly, we live in an era of moral decadence, a time of egocentricity, intolerance, hatred, hypocrisy, disorder, flux, strife, chaos, and fear. We have become hedonistic materialists, consumed with the pursuit of pleasure and sensory gratification, making merry with intoxicants and drugs, and adopting entertainment industry celebrities as role models and heroes.
I was reminded of our changing values not long ago while listening to four high school girls vying for the title of homecoming queen. I had been asked to serve as a judge of their 10-minute talks on the subject of “heroes.” The first two contestants chose movie stars as their heroes, while the third girl chose a professional athlete. Since movie actors are simply people trying to act like real people and athletes are play combatants, these girls chose pretenders over the real doers. Like so many others in our society, they have lost touch with reality. I was bewildered recently when I saw a number of soldiers fresh from combat lined up to obtain an autograph from a professional athlete. In effect, the real warriors were idolizing the pretend warrior. Unfortunately, fame and fortune go to the pretenders, while the real doers are just ordinary people.
I was hoping for something better from the fourth girl. However, she said that her heroes were all those people who helped her “have fun.” I don’t know if the applause that followed was out of politeness or whether the audience actually agreed with her.
Fame, fortune, and fun. If that is what the younger generation sees life as being all about, is it any wonder that the world is in such a sad state of affairs? In a keynote address at a University of Buffalo conference on “Fostering Ultimate Meaning” a few years ago, Dr. Alexander Astin, Director of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, said that developing a meaningful philosophy of life was the top value for college students in the 1970s, but that students today are more focused on material gain. He attributed the value shift to the growing influence of television.
One has to have blinders on not to see the influence TV has had on people of all ages. Life is now all about pursuing fame, fortune, and fun. The three F’s have replaced what I like to call the 10 S’s – seeking,, striving, struggling, suffering, sacrificing, surrendering, and finally, solving, serving, succeeding and soaring.
Popular author Philip Yancey states that the seven deadly sins might be renamed the seven seductive virtues, at least in the United States. The truth of his statement is evident when we stop to recognize how greed and envy drive our economy, how anger fuels terrorism, how lust is openly celebrated on television, how athletes and other entertainers go far beyond pride, arrogantly flaunting their prowess with various forms of exhibitionism. One has to have his head buried in the sand to not see how gluttony and sloth are rampant in our country.
Our heroes – our role models – should be people who promote the 10 S’s – everyday people who understand that succeeding does not necessarily mean fame, fortune, and fun but loving and serving our fellow humans even if it involves sacrifice.
Unless we have a worldwide disaster that silences the entertainment industry, things are not going to change significantly overnight, but we can at least make an effort to slowly bring about change by recognizing the people who should be our real heroes at every opportunity -- the doers.