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Lawlessness contributing to society's problems

By Jason Belnap
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 18, 1999

To the editor,

The discussion ensuing from John (A. Ward's) article "It's all about me" brings up issues that are extremely important to our society. Although John only hints at it, the real issue at hand is the change in our society's view of right and wrong, which is being reflected in current law proposals.

It is true that our society's problems are increasing. John attributes this to people failing to acknowledge God. He then argues that accepting God and the reality of an afterlife would instill more accountability into people, because they would act knowing that in the life to come they will be held accountable. In making this statement, John is correct. The more accountability we have for our actions, the more of an influence there is toward making responsible choices.

There are two problems in relying solely on the justice system: Our ability to enforce laws is not powerful enough motivation, and our laws are not stable enough to use as a basis of right and wrong.

Additionally, our laws are frequently changed. If enough people want to be allowed to do something that is currently viewed as wrong, they only need to go about changing the laws. Remember that we are in a republic, not a democracy- it doesn't require a majority to change the laws. It would be naive to think that our government wasn't fallible. Determined people will always find ways to change the laws to allow what they want to do.

Our society has slipped into a downward trend. People try to blame it on religion, corruption, single families, etc, but the fact remains that our sense of ethics is the cause. We have slowly changed our basis for determining right and wrong. In the past our society used different methods for determining what is right and wrong such as: That which benefits the majority of people is right; or The Bible determines right or wrong. I'm not saying that either of these must be adopted, but I can say that they at least provided a pretty stable basis for determining right and wrong. Lately, however an ever growing number of people have forsaken stable ethical codes in exchange for "ethical relativism" - the idea that right and wrong differs from individual to individual, and that only the individual can determine what is right for her/his own situation.

Upon the basis of "ethical relativism" anyone can justify almost any behavior, and anyone that differs and tries to discuss it has no grounds to stand on, because this person determines right and wrong for his/her self. We see it in people's justification for breaking the laws; we see it in letters to the Wildcat; and worse, we see it slipping into our laws (in the name of "freedom").

People want more and more to be able to do whatever they want without any accountability. They use the name of freedom as their banner. They claim that if the laws say you can't do it, then their individual freedom is being compromised. Their next logical conclusion is that their actions should be "legalized." What really is happening is that more and more people don't want to be held responsible for their actions. They want to be able to do what they want and only suffer the "natural" consequences. This is neither good for the individual nor good for the community as a whole. We must stop avoiding the consequences of our actions by changing the laws and instead avoid the consequences by simply choosing not to do what brings about the consequences. When we do this, we will finally get an up and coming generation of responsible individuals who base their decisions on a stable ethical foundation and who choose their actions responsibly.

Although this isn't enough to solve all of our problems, it will at least give us common ground again and turn us in a positive direction. We will then be better equipped to fix our remaining problems.

Jason Belnap

Graduate assistant in teaching

Department of Mathematics

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