All of nature has rules. Although unwritten and unspoken, in a primitive and savage way, right and wrong still exist there. The alpha wolf decides what is right in pack because it possesses physical power to exert its will. A tree may dictate what is right by exuding toxic chemicals into soil out to its root perimeter in order to extinguish competing plants. A lion takes prey from a hyena and a hyena takes it from a leopard because that is order of things and therefore right thing. Instinct and physical attributes decree this form of morality in nature.
If we were just such creatures, a similar order would be only rule over us. But we aspire to an orderly society and a higher ethic. Society, in-your-face conglomeration of masses of people possessing tools and weapons that can inflict damage far beyond that of mere fang and claw, requires different sorts of rules and more of them. Without them we would regress to might-makes-right order of nature. A brutal anarchy where weapons and muscle are “right” is not a pleasant prospect.
It is a necessary function of government to set rules in somewhat abstract arena of decency. Because it is hard to identify actual damage caused by such things as vulgarity, lewdness, debauchery, indiscretion, nakedness, sex and language, debate will always rage over what is or is not decent. Those fearing decay of society will hold to more strict standards while others want to push for more and more freedom.
It seems to me that development of decency standards helped humans rise up out of a world where only instinct ruled. But it is supposedly progressive and intellectual today to negotiate away any restrictions. But tampering with very fabric that holds civilized society together is quite opposite. It is both retrogressive and unintelligent. The libertine erosion of rules may seem to be more understanding, compassionate, intelligent, open and accepting on its face, but it unlocks gates to chaos and degradation. This is what I fear today with regard to standards of decency, particularly in media. The more that standards drop and rules are softened, uneasier I become because I sense where this could ultimately take us.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no prude. Terrible things emerge from my lips at times without my mind even engaging. I can’t help but laugh at some off-color jokes. But there are lines we all sense that should not be erased. These lines may in fact create emotional release from swearing and humor of a dirty joke. So standards of decency may even psychologically benefit us by giving us forbidden zones for these brief forays of release. (Seems like rather twisted logic to explain why swearing and dirty jokes work, but what other explanation do you have?)
When I was young, Elvis’ gyrating hips drove religious leaders and many parents crazy. It was end of decency. Sodom and Gomorrah had returned. I scoffed. The old fogies just didn’t get it. In my opinion, rock-n-roll was way too cool and certainly no more than innocent fun. I saw no danger because I had not lived enough life nor gained sufficient knowledge to understand that civilization survives only because of standards and order. Society was sensing that threat and that is why they reacted to rock-n-roll as they did.
Maybe that’s way kids see filthy language in rap, hip-hop, and sexually explicit entertainment today. So I am trying hard to see parallel and make every effort to be tolerant, not wanting to be like adult mossbacks of my youth. But everything is a matter of degree. When is “with-it” too far? Or is there no limit? Should entertainment industry keep pushing envelope until pornography is rated G and evening news gives an update from live video cams mounted in toilet bowls and under covers of latest hot group of S&Mers, transvestites, man-boy couples, necrophiliacs, homosexuals and straight-sexers?
When that becomes boring, do we go to live videos of rape, murder and torture? There are currently movies of this sort and they are justified as “artful free expression.” Really. Is watching murder and torture what we should be doing with our minds and leisure? Is that valuable in any conceivable way? Might it not be numbing and create insensitivity, particularly in our impressionable children? Since children know that adults – moms and dads – create such entertainment, might they not feel flagitious behavior is validated?
Should we bring back Roman Coliseum to get some extra flavor of real, live performance? If we can afford special front row seats, we could even enjoy thrill of hearing bones break, get sprayed with some real blood or have a lopped-off appendage land in our lap as a souvenir. The Romans worked hard to prevent boredom among people. For approximately 400 years, cruelty and gore in arena for man and beast continued, taking on every imaginable grotesque creative form in order to maintain interest of audience. Shall we go that route again?