What Are Morals Like Today?
One morning in April 1999, the calm was shattered in the town of Littleton, near Denver, Colorado, U.S.A. Two youths in black trench coats entered the local high school and began shooting at students and teachers. They also detonated bombs. Twelve students and a teacher were killed, and more than 20 were wounded. The perpetrators ended the massacre by taking their own lives. They were only 17 and 18 years old and had a deep hatred for certain groups.
SADLY, the example mentioned above is not an isolated incident. Newspapers, radio, and television report similar events throughout the world. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 11,000 violent incidents involving weapons in American schools were reported during 1997. In Hamburg, Germany, reports of acts of violence increased by 10 percent during 1997, and 44 percent of the suspects were youths under 21.
Corruption among politicians and government officials is common. A report by European Union (EU) commissioner Anita Gradin in 1998 revealed that the cost of corruption within the EU during 1997 was estimated at 1.4 billion dollars. This involved everything from having parking tickets dismissed to fraudulently receiving agricultural or other EU subsidies. Large-scale money laundering and the smuggling of weapons and narcotics had been allowed, and EU employees had been bribed by criminal organizations to keep silent. The entire EU Commission resigned in 1999.
However, it is not only those at the highest levels of society who cheat. A report from the EU Commission regarding illegal workers revealed that up to 16 percent of the EU’s gross national product consists of income from businesses that are not registered and that do not pay taxes. In Russia illegal income is reported to be up to 50 percent of the total. Furthermore, in the United States, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners stated that American companies lose well over 400 billion dollars annually because of employees stealing money or property from them.
The Internet has been used by many pedophiles who seek to lure children and minors into illegal sex activities. Concern about child pornography on the Internet has been increasing, according to a spokesman in Sweden for Save the Children. In Norway in 1997, this organization received 1,883 tips about child pornography Web sites on the Internet. The next year the number of such tips skyrocketed to almost 5,000. Much of the material is produced in countries where governments or local authorities cannot control this despicable activity.
Was It Better in the Past?
Many people who are horrified by the bad state of morals in the world today may think back longingly to the community spirit of their parents’ or grandparents’ day. Perhaps they have heard that people lived a much calmer life back then and that honesty and other aspects of morality were highly valued at all levels of society. Older folks may have spoken about the time when hardworking people helped one another, family ties were strong, and youths felt secure and assisted on their parents’ farm or in their workshop.
This leads to the questions: Were people’s morals really better in the past? Or is there simply a feeling of nostalgia that distorts our memory of days gone by? Let us see how historians and other social analysts answer.
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In these articles the word “morals” is used in the sense of relating to principles of right and wrong in human behavior. This includes honesty, truthfulness, and high standards of conduct in sexual and other matters.