Today’s tech and social norms aren’t what they were in my youth. It’s exciting. Or bewildering. Or unstable. Or dynamic. or any of a myriad other options.
Change happens, even if I don’t approve. What matters is making good choices. More about that later.
Taking a stroll down memory lane lets me revisit the best times, places, people and experiences. It’s a ‘best-of’ selection.
I certainly don’t yearn for the days before social media, smart appliances, and online search software.
Maybe it’s hereditary.
Or an attitude that’s been in the family for several generations.
One of my ancestors, Arba Zeri Campbell, was the first man in his part of Illinois to have a telephone. I’ve been told that he waited quite a while before a neighbor got one, too.
Folks don’t always use today’s tech wisely. I don’t blame the tech. I remember folks bewailing newfangled gadgets like the telephone and television.
Simpler times and the ‘good old days’ weren’t.
They still happen, but are more avoidable now. Or should be. And that’s another topic.
I like it, on the whole.
Today’s tech makes doing just about anything easier.
That’s good when we’re doing something that makes sense. When we’re not, it’s not the tech’s fault. Folks, some of us, were misusing technology long before the Web.
I ran into venom-spitting Christians in my youth, and still do. ‘Christian’ radio’s screwball version of faith sent me on a search that led me to become a Catholic. Eventually. Along the way I met vehemently non-Christian folks with similar attitudes.
That was in the 1960s. I’m pretty sure we don’t have more folks spouting nonsense today. Or fewer. Not by much, either way. They’re easier to find now, thanks to information tech.
I’m not sure who coined the phrase “malignant virtue.” It goes back at least to the 1860s:
“There are times, Charles, when even the unimaginative decency of my brother and the malignant virtue of his wife appear to me admirable.”
(Lord Peter Wimsey, in “Murder Must Advertise,” Dorothy L. Sayers (1933))
“…counting every thing which the most malignant virtue could shrink from, I have culled eighty lines. Eighty lines out of nine thousand!…”
(“The Good Gray Poet. A Vindication,” William Douglas O’Connor (1866))
The attitude is ancient. So are misbehaving VIPs. Ordinary folks who misbehave and claim virtue aren’t particularly prominent in the Bible. I’m not sure why. I found both in Isaiah:
“Your princes are rebels and comrades of thieves; Each one of them loves a bribe and looks for gifts. The fatherless they do not defend, the widow’s plea does not reach them.”
“The Lord said: Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, And fear of me has become mere precept of human teaching….”
‘Fear of God’ isn’t being scared of the Almighty. It’s more like respect. (March 26, 2017)
I could compose screeds against “…scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith….” (May 7, 2017)
Or denounce wackadoo environmentalists. Or folks whose chief offense is liking music I don’t. That last might be hard to find. As one of my kids said, ‘your opinion doesn’t count, Dad. You like everything.‘ She had a point. As usual.
There’s no shortage of offensive attitudes and beliefs, now or in any age. I might enjoy impersonating an incensed Old Testament prophet. While the performance lasted. But my heart wouldn’t be in it.
My rap sheet is long enough without adding to the list.
Ignoring trouble isn’t an option either. Not a good one.
Deciding whether my actions are good or bad is a good idea. Preferably before I do them. Choosing depends on having some notion of what “good” and “bad” are.
So is sliding through life without adding to the starter pack. I wouldn’t say that’s wrong, but can’t say it’s the best choice.
One of the cardinal virtues is justice, so part of my job is noticing what other folks do. That’s the easy part. Deciding whether actions are good or bad gets tricky. So does deciding how to respond. (Catechism, 1776–1804, 1905–1917, 2401–2449)
The idea is hating the sin and loving the sinner. Judging persons is God’s jurisdiction. (Catechism, 1861)
The basics are simple.
Remembering those simple principles and acting like they matter? That’s hard.
Behaving myself is a good idea, but my job doesn’t end there.
I’m part of a society, like everyone else. Benefits are part of the package. So are duties. One of those is paying attention what others need. How I respond depends on what’s needed, and what I can do. (Catechism, 1878–1885, 1928–1942, 2199, 2238–2243)
In a society where justice and mercy were perfectly balanced and love abounded — we haven’t managed that yet. But we keep trying. I see our efforts as a good thing.
As I see it, one of the tricky parts is dealing with differences. And recognizing our equality. That’ll take explaining.
America’s experiment started a few years before the French one.
We’ve survived a major internal war since then and eventually corrected some problems. I like being an American, mostly. But we don’t have a perfect society today.
If I thought we lived in a Golden Age before 1965, 1954, 1933, or 1848 ruined everything, I’d be trying to drag us back. If I thought today’s America was perfect, I’d be striving to uphold the status quo. It’s not. It’s never been.
Like I keep saying, there’s not much I can do to change America. Much less the world.
But I can suggest that we can do better. And that working with all people of good will makes sense.
It won’t be easy. Particularly since even folks who think change is needed don’t all agree on details.
And some apparently simply don’t like change. They’re not all Christian curmudgeons. Or Catholics yearning for yesteryear.
Despite how some Catholics act, our faith isn’t all about grimly clinging to antique habits.
There isn’t one ‘correct’ culture. Or political system. We can eat with or without forks. Our leaders can be queens, emperors, presidents or whatever.
That hasn’t changed, and won’t. The idea of universal and unchanging natural law was ancient when St. Thomas Aquinas discussed it. Rules we use to get along keep changing as our circumstances change. (Catechism, 1952–1960)
Loving God and neighbors, and seeing everyone as a neighbor: that’ll always be important.