Last week’s blog was a general overview of the reasons for cultural toxicity. This week we’ll get into more specifics. Ultimately, Society is made up of individuals, so the change in society begins with you.
Two general factors contribute to societal toxicity, but the underlying reasons are almost the same. And, there is only one basic reason for the ills in society regardless of which group is addressed. The first group is people that have a decent income or more, and the second is the people living in poverty, or close to it, or who are homeless. The underlying reason for both groups contributing to the ills of society is the same. Both groups are addressed this week.
The first group, the one that represents main stream society, has it’s inherent ills just as the second group does. The cause is the same but application is different. That is, the underlying cause manifests itself differently in main stream society. Practically all thinking in both groups relates to the individual person’s strong desire to accomplish something in life, to leave his or her mark on he world. Tied to accomplishment is a sense of worth and value. The results of work is the criteria for self esteem. A person too impressed with his own work comes to the false conclusion that life is one large scorecard. The focus of a person’s life then becomes focused on running up the score of accomplishments in life. The person sells his or her freedom to the grade givers, whoever they are.
The grade givers become an idol, or boss or whatever the individual thinks they are. Life becomes more and more dominated by superlatives, by bragging rights, and a person’s identity is sold to the world. Entertainers are an obvious example, because their success in their business is directly proportional to the value the grade givers place on them. Ultimately their grade givers are us, you and me. If we don’t go to their concerts, buy their albums, go to see the movies they star in or watch their TV programs, or otherwise rate them highly they are out of business.
In business the grade givers are the bosses, the people who are responsible for the hiring or firing and who determine who will get promoted and who stays in the same job for twenty years and retires with a meager pension. In service businesses we, you and I, are also grade givers. If customers don’t like the service they receive from a waiter or waitress, or the person who repairs our car or installs new windows in our home doesn’t do a good job we complain the the bosses, and most likely won’t use that company again. That employee won’t keep his job for long because the grade givers are displeased with him.
Legislators and government officials are very conscious of what the grade givers think of them. The result is that they often opt to use a short-term band aid fix for problems rather than using longer term solutions for societal problems, because the short-term band aids look better to voters. The band aids get them reelected because voters are happy with their performance, or so they think. The negative results of band aids falls on the next person in that office or job, of if it falls on them in the next term they try to convince us that it’s a new problem, and they slap on another band-aid to fix the problem.
The result of all this giving our identity, our soul, to the grade givers is that we build a house of cards with no firm foundation. We believe that we have to keep presenting a better performance to our grade givers to get ahead. And for many, this leads to unethical, immoral and even illegal practices to stay ahead of the game. It is society that suffers from their actions. Some of these people get all the way through life without the house of cards falling to any significant degree, at least not publicly. However, most of these people have other problems with family, friends or relatives. They become so obsessed with keeping the grade givers happy that they treat their spouse and children the same way they treat competitors in business.
Sometimes the public feels the results of their unethical behavior in a dramatic way. A number of decades back a construction company in Kansas City, Missouri, used smaller load-bearing plates to hold up a hotel balcony than it should have. The result was that when a large convention was held at the hotel and people crowded onto the balcony it collapsed and dozens of people fell to the main floor. Many people on the floor were caught under the falling balcony. Several dozen people were killed and many more seriously injured. Within two months several other structures built by this company also collapsed, but luckily with less dire results. The owner of the construction company was civilly sued by injured persons and the families of those killed, and the state of Missouri criminally prosecuted the owner of the company and the executives that shared responsibility. All that harm was caused by the owner of the company trying to save money by using substandard materials to inflate his bottom line.
The consequences of this rush to appease the grade givers come home to roost on the individual personally. In the 1950s the actor who played the original Superman on TV committed suicide because children recognized him in public, and he couldn’t perform up to their expectations. His ultimate grade givers, the children who watched his program, were disillusioned, and he couldn’t dope with disappointing his public. No one likes to disappoint children, and over time his frustration with his inability to satisfy his grade givers became more than he could bear. Likewise, the mental and legal problems of rock start and other entertainers we hear about stem from the same cause of keeping the grade givers happy.
The flip side of the coin is the low income people and the homeless. These people suffer from a lack of identity and self worth because they don’t see themselves as contributing to society. And, if they have no value to society they have no value to themselves. They become frustrated because they don’t have the tools to better their lives. Almost all lower income people suffer from a lack of a fundamental education which would help them obtain better employment. A lot of crime, and especially violent crime like robbery, assault and homicide, is committed by these people. robberies, burglaries and other thefts are often committed simply feed their families. Much of the violent crime is committed out of fear. Fear that they will never have any self esteem, fear that they will never have the respect of other people. Disagreements and arguments are seen as being disrespected by the other person, and they respond with violence because that is the only way they know to respond. It is the only tool they have for coping.
The common thread running through both groups is frustration, disillusionment and fear stemming from the inability to satisfy the grade givers. The fundamental problem is that all these people, homeless or rich, are placing value in the wrong grade giver. It is society’s loss of the reality of God that is the underlying cause of crime and other societal ills. Our true worth and value is in Christ as Savior, not in other people. We each, who make up society as a whole, need to place Christ Jesus on the throne of the ultimate “Grade Giver”. We cannot come to God on our terms. That doesn’t work. We must come to Christ on His terms. When a man told Jesus that he would follow Him after burying his father, Jesus told him to let the dead bury the dead and come follow Him. Jesus meant that the man should let those who are dead to God bury the physically dead.
Being in Christ our Savior is more important than having physical things or having the admiration of other people. God tells us that “if My people, who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land” ( 2 Chronicles 7:14; see also, Jer. 30:17; Hos. 6:1; Deut.10:12; 11:22; Is. 55:9). In the Old Testament as now God’s people are the Jews. However, in the New Testament Christians are called by Christ’s name and are also God’s people. And turning to God means a total, 100% commitment on His terms not ours.
Jesus gave us the Great commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Some years ago a popular bumper sticker said, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it”. The error in that statement is that what God says is settled whether we believe it or not. It borders on blasphemy to imply that God’s sovereignty is dependent on His creation’s sanction. All of society needs to come to God as directed in the New Testament, to love God completely and our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus said those two commandments sum up the whole of the law. This means that everyone needs to repent and make Christ their ultimate and only source of value, worth and identity. And society coming to God starts with you as a member of society. And there is no better time to start than right now.
Next week in part three we’ll see what can happen to a society that completely comes to God.