Monday, February 07, 2011

Lord of the Flies

On a Facebook post during the week of ice, snow, and enforced time with family, one father wrote that, left unchecked, his sons quickly developed a “Lord of the Flies” mentality. “Lord of the Flies” mentality refers to the book by William Golding, first published in 1954, about a group of British schoolboys who find themselves on an abandoned island with no adult supervision. Although they first try to cooperate, this immature society eventually degenerates to a point where brutality takes over.

I laughed at the post, and figured he wasn’t the only one dealing with such things. It takes much work and maturity to civilize our children. Real civility goes against much human nature that says, “me, first,” or even, “me, only.” Civilization says, “Everyone matters.”

Last week, in the midst of our snowbound lives, many Egyptians became unbound as protests took over. Some indicated a willingness to fight to the death in order to bring democracy to that country. President Mubarek has ruled there for 30 years. During that entire time, the constitutional rights of the people have been suspended, censorship legalized, and the government has retained the right to imprison people for any period of time and for any reason.

The people have finally said, “enough.” Perhaps a more open leadership will be established. But it will be a long, complicated, messy project. It always is for any people who have essentially lived under slavery, where a tight, power-hungry few make the rules.

Rarely is such a situation stable, and often another set of power-hungry people end up reliving the history of tyranny.

Only when there is a common shared value of decency and moral understanding can a society build itself well. While I’m not sure that the US was necessarily a Christian nation, it did from its inception have a common core of understanding. The foundation and the glue that has given us the privilege of being somewhat civilized have been the moral and governmental principles found in the Bible, particularly what are known as the Ten Commandments.

Summed up, they say “Love God and Love Neighbor.” Specifically, they remind us to move past the “me, first” or “me, only” orientation. They explain fairly simply how to do this: Remember that God is God, we are not, and neither is anyone else, or anything in the created world, including money, time and power. Remember that others, especially our parents, are people too, and need to be honored by truthful, faithful and honest actions. Be aware that envy of others will bring us down, because envy destroys relationships.

Once those shared values are lost, so is civilization. I don’t think we in this nation are far off from leaving civilization behind. Fewer and fewer people live by those values.

We’re in trouble because we are simply not teaching these things well to our children. By an increasingly ridiculous stretching of the meaning of the separation of church and state, our school children are no longer given instruction in the basic principles that civilize us and hold us together. With fewer and fewer parents honoring the need to bring their children to church schools, the future decision makers in this country will lead the nation without the firm foundation of knowing that some actions really are not negotiable.

I say it again. We are in trouble. As I cheer on those brave people in Egypt who have had enough and want to build democracy, I also suggest they not look at the present state of this nation for a model and pattern. We could not pull off a revolution here again without turning into our own version of “Lord of the Flies.” I just don’t think we have what it takes any more.

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