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Why try to be good? (3)

August 18th, 2011

Last post I referenced a newspaper editorial that suggested that the recent civil unrest in England was symptomatic of a much larger malaise – a lack of ethics in public life generally.

Now a leading UK thinktank (and not a conservative one as far as I can gather) has come out arguing that English society is “badly broken”

The Centre for Social Justice assessment

The Centre for Social Justice was set up to combat poverty in Britain and to reverse social breakdown. In a recent press release it condemned the criminal behaviour of the looters, then said:

… this mayhem also exposes a broken section of British society – utterly detached from the values and responsibilities we expect of our fellow citizens …. a lost generation.

…. they project anarchy in public because it is what surrounds them at home. Many will have never known stable parenting or fatherhood role models. Such family breakdown and dysfunction has rendered countless young people damaged and directionless.

These are the actions of people who live in chaos, hopelessness and poverty. What they are doing is criminal, completely wrong and must be punished. But it is not entirely random; they believe they have nothing to lose and no one to answer to. Some even consider it normal. …. we need deep rooted social reform which understands that a section of Britain is badly broken and needs to be rebuilt.

Why try to be good?

Some of the issues the Centre has raised (e.g. poverty, family breakdown) have clear economic, social and political causes, but others (e.g. “utterly detached from the values and responsibilities we expect of our fellow citizens”, “family breakdown and dysfunction” and “chaos, hopelessness”) seem to be a direct symptom or result of an ethical vacuum in modern western culture.

Why should they be good?

4 Comments

  1. Those are both very interesting papers. The first seems to be a very fair assessment of how both believers and non-believers can have well-developed ethics, but how believers may often be stronger because of more opportunities for ethics to be taught, encouraged, and practiced.

    Rowan Williams has surely identified a major issue in modern city societies – the loss of individualism and hope for many people, and the consequent rise in image and disregard for the property of others.

    I think I will be blogging more about these things some time. Thanks.

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