Monday, August 15, 2011

"If You Want Peace..." A Primer

This past week in Britain, and in several less-reported instances in locations across the United States, we have seen the outbreak of violence from a generation of teens and twenty-somethings who, whatever their motivation, had no excuse for wreaking the violence and destruction that they did.  As I sat, browsing news article after news article, each offering a different slant on the unfolding situation and playing the "blame game," I couldn't help but try to probe each perspective looking for a common thread.  Surely, there must be something to explain why all of this pent-up (fill in the motivation) was coming to a head and finding its expression in such senseless violence against fellow citizens, their property, and their livelihoods.

It did not take much longer to figure out what drove them, or better, what did not restrain them from lashing out: a sheer, unadulterated lack of conscience.  Max Hastings put it perfectly in his August 10 U.K. Daily Mail article, "Years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalised youngsters," when he said:

"They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong.
They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others."
Where are these rioters' consciences?  Did it not cross one of their minds that acting this way--invoking chaos and destruction--is evil no matter what the supposed justification?  Had they no shame?

Sadly, for many of them, the short answer is no. Growing up in an entitlement, me-me-me, I-I-I, now-now-now culture, many--even those who did not want for anything and had promising futures--either never had theirs properly formed to begin with or, worse, checked them at the door when they decided to step foot into the street.

This topic of conscience and the questions that follow from it are exactly what the Holy Father tackles in Chaper 5 of Values in a Time of Upheaval, an essay entitled If You Want Peace...: Conscience and Truth.

What is our conscience?

How does it function?

What is its purpose, both within our individual self and in the whole of human society?

What is our responsibility to obey and to form our conscience?

Look later this week for an unfolding of the Pope's discussion as he explores and probes the answers to these questions and more in If You Want Peace.

Until then...


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