Our country’s police forces have been under the proverbial microscope ever since the shocking death of George Floyd in late May.
While reforms are needed and the methods of our nation’s police forces are under scrutiny, we shouldn’t forget that officers in uniform play a hugely important role in our society. They form society’s second line of defense against criminal behavior.
Let’s leave the cops out of the spotlight for a bit and take a look at society’s first line of defense against violence and aggression.
The most important and effective form of policing for preserving peaceful coexistence and everyday stability in a society always has been and always will be self-policing. Self-policing is an inner moral code that restrains one from committing depredations against one’s fellow man. The world’s best police force can’t match self-restraint for maintaining individual safety and social order.
As Edmund Burke wrote more than two centuries ago: “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. … Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon the will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.”
Sadly, as the recent mayhem, hooliganism, looting, personal attacks, and property destruction/defacing/desecration by Antifa thugs and their ilk have shown, the moral underpinnings of our society are in a state of advanced decay today. We have a true national crisis in this front line of policing.
What are the root causes of today’s glaring lack of moral self-restraint? The answer can be found by looking to three of society’s principal institutions: families, schools, and churches.
Our educational institutions, from elementary school through graduate school, seem to be full of insidious pied pipers, luring young Americans to engage in lawless and violent behavior. Progressive educators have made it their mission to turn out armies of activists. (These educators must be really pleased with themselves, hiding safely in their ivory towers, while the youngsters they have duped do the dirty work of destruction for them.)
The cunning long-term strategy of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci to infiltrate the schools and turn them into transmission mechanisms for illiberal, thus anti-American, ideologies has met with considerable success.
Primary and secondary students have been indoctrinated into green activism (or cruel neurosis) by the official green curriculum. This warped propaganda catechizes our youth into believing that the achievement of our unprecedented affluence—the very affluence that has done so much to diminish human poverty—is wicked. It further fills them with the lurid and untrue notion that greedy modern people are ruining life on Earth by using fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Many students graduate from high school not able to write or think clearly and without understanding the foundational principles of our country (or anything else of essential importance), yet they are rewarded with “A” grades if they have internalized the lesson that prosperity is harmful, capitalism is evil, and the United States is an immoral, illegitimate disgrace.
At the university level, the intellectual and moral damage wrought by ideologically zealous professors is even more far-reaching and destructive.
The United States is continuously trashed for being—surprise, surprise—imperfect. Students are deprived of learning any context, or any hint of the realistic perspective that, in a very imperfect world, the United States has often been less imperfect than other countries.
Using a well-known Marxian tactic (Marx called it “polylogism”), professors teach students that you don’t have to debate people who are wrong (“wrong” being defined as disagreeing with “us”) because they are inherently mentally and morally defective.
Colleges further inculcate a sense of entitlement in young people to always get their way in this world by establishing “safe spaces” in which they can seek refuge if they are confronted with a new or dissenting idea about anything.
Additionally, the unremittingly negative portrayal of America in our universities leads some of the more impressionable students to believe that the only way they can make atonement for their ancestors’ sins is to tear down the entire system and start over. Of course, the universities don’t equip their charges with a whit of economic understanding or historical knowledge, so the young revolutionaries have no idea how to actually create a better society, and the actual consequence of tearing down our current society would be the devastation of millions of innocent people.
Despite the massive miseducation to which millions of young Americans have been subjected, all that progressive propaganda wouldn’t be resulting in toppling statues, beating up old men and women, torching businesses, and other forms of mayhem if our youth had been properly inoculated against these ideological viruses through proper parenting and/or religious instruction.
Even when we baby boomers were saturated with socialist claptrap in college in the 1960s and ’70s, the vast majority of us never crossed the line demarcating criminal behavior by engaging in lawless destruction. We just knew in our hearts that it was wrong. We would have been embarrassed to disgrace our parents by betraying their values and examples by descending into wanton hooliganism.
One of the first lessons we boomers learned at home was that we were expected to respect the person and property of others, just as we expected others to respect our own person and property. We learned early on that this was the basis of a peaceful, functioning society, and if we momentarily “forgot” those rules and vandalized property that didn’t belong to us, our dads would punish us severely.
Today, though, paternal authority is on the wane; three types of defective fatherhood have prevented millions of kids from receiving the moral instruction that fathers used to impart:
1. Absent fathers. There are more fatherless children today, and while some single moms deserve high praise for keeping their kids in line, in many cases, single moms just can’t completely compensate for absent dads.
2. Weak fathers. There are morally flabby dads who weaken their kids’ moral self-restraint by spoiling them rotten, leading them to believe that the world revolves around their wants and whims. These dads often adopt a “my kid is always right” attitude that breeds a sense of entitlement and superiority.
3. Revolutionary fathers. Just as early generations of communists raised “red diaper” babies, there are even more dads today who were brainwashed by the same garbage that their kids are being brainwashed with today. Consequently, these dads nod approvingly while progressives fill their kids’ noggins with delusive goals of “social justice” and other myths that the kids believe justify their acts of destruction. After all, it’s all for a good cause, right?
The other institution that taught self-restraint was the various faiths that preached obedience to the Deity. Judeo-Christian teachings inculcated respect for the precious individuality of each human being. Priests, ministers, and rabbis taught the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. They also taught that we are accountable to a higher authority—namely, God—for how we treat our fellow man. Those teachings did much to develop our individual conscience—to such an extent that we were repelled by the thought of hurting a stranger or destroying or defacing property that was not our own.
Unfortunately, church attendance in the United States has plummeted since the 1950s. Consequently, the moral rules for a peaceful society are not being instilled into nearly as many young Americans as formerly.
Referring to such religious instruction, Robert Charles Winthrop, speaker of the House from 1847 to 1849, made a statement of moral clarity that stands in sharp contrast to the current Speaker’s morally flaccid statement about the vandalization of monuments, “People will do what people will do.”
The wise Winthrop said, “Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet.”
The anarchy that is ravaging our society today is a moral anarchy. It’s the direct result of schools imparting a false morality of obnoxious self-justification and sickening self-righteousness. This moral anarchy is flourishing due to the enormous decline of fathers and churches teaching a few key “thou shalt nots” to our nation’s young people.
Looking ahead, we will either experience a moral revival that strengthens our society and uplifts the prospects for every American to prosper and progress, or things will become increasingly dark, ominous, and destructive. We are at an existential fork in the road. Which path will we take—traditional morality or moral anarchy?
Mark Hendrickson, an economist, recently retired from the faculty of Grove City College, where he remains a fellow for economic and social policy at the Institute for Faith and Freedom.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.