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Are there remedies for a morally sick society?


Published in

AltoAragón Newspaper

Gerardo Castillo Ceballos

Professor at the School of Education and Psychology at the University of Navarra.

There are those who believe that we live in the healthiest and happiest society in history. They argue that, thanks to the enormous progress of science and technology, people are living longer and enjoying greater material well-being. Thus, we would have finally acceded to a supposed right to happiness. But we forget that the noise of the material is drowning out the silence that requires reflection and the voice of conscience.

A society where material things become a permanent obsession, where having is more important than being, where discrimination against others destroys feelings of solidarity, is neither human, nor happy, nor livable. Happy is he who contemplates the (spiritual) good that he loves. No materialism has been source of happiness throughout history. For those who believe that we are programmed to be necessarily happy, any hint of unhappiness will make them sick.

Pascal Bruckner argues that, paradoxically, the society that has given most importance to individualistic happiness is the one with the most dissatisfied and unhappy people. Erick Fromm called it a "sick society" in his Psychoanalysis of Contemporary Society.

Many experts claim that society (especially in the Western world) is morally sick. They refer, for example, to the fact that pressure groups force us to position ourselves with the theorists of the single thought. They also refer to the culture of narcissism. Individual narcissism grows parallel to cultural narcissism: the individual molds the culture according to his own image and the culture molds, in turn, the individual.

In today's society, the hedonistic mentality predominates over the ethical vision. Fashionable values: individualism (each to his own), sensitive pleasure, money or material well-being. Forgotten values: truth, good, beauty, honesty, honesty, effort, discipline, responsibility or service. Values have never been as changeable as they are today. This is, in part, a consequence of "liquid thinking", which dilutes ethical principles and replaces them with others that are more convenient or utilitarian at any given moment. Groucho Marx is credited with this phrase: "These are my principles and if you don't like them, I have others".

One of the objectives of Education has always been the social adaptation of citizens. A person who is maladjusted to the society in which he lives has, in principle, a problem. But what happens when that society is morally sick? In that case to adapt passively would be to become infected with that disease. "It is not healthy to be well adapted to a profoundly sick society" (Jiddu Krishnamurti).

To alleviate the ills of a morally sick society, it is fundamental promote at all levels to respect human rights, since they are the means to carry out the projects of our lives in a free, peaceful and solidary way.

Secondly, it is urgent to regenerate the sick social fabric by regenerating each of its cells, the dysfunctional families or those without family life. This task corresponds not so much to politicians as to educators, especially parents. "Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics" (Victor Pinchuk).

This thought is a great praise of the transforming capacity of Education and of culture, since they make possible in each person positive attitudes that avoid polarization in the negative aspects of life. I am referring to such simple things as, for example, the contemplation of a sunrise, a sunset, a starry night or the laughter of a child.

At a general level, it is urgent to maintain a social dialogue between the State, the Ministries of Health and Education and the parents' associations, to design a plan with the purpose to incorporate the moral, spiritual and psychological training in the school curriculum as a transversal subject . This curriculum would include ethical values such as truth, kindness, justice, respect, solidarity, honesty and responsibility.

The parenting schools that exist in some schools are often a good instrument for well-understood family orientation, but they need to be multiplied and their teachers need to be well trained.