Our conscience develops as a result of early training by parents, caretakers, and significant others. We are taught right from wrong, good and bad and often with consequences for those behaviors. Our parents and caretakers also incorporate and are significantly influenced by the ideas, messages of the local and national culture. Since the turn of the 19th century, we have witnessed large-scale wars, it seems, on a regular basis. In fact, I remember years after the H-bomb being a pupil at Wayne Elementary school and going into its basement during an air raid drill. We didn’t hide under the desk, we simply heard the bell, lined up and the class, in single file, marched to apparent safety. This was the Cold War with all those nuclear devices from Russia pointed in our direction. What about the commandment “thou shall not kill?”
It’s not uncommon for someone to lie or cheat, especially but not limited to politics. I remember hearing a Congressman, shouting out during one of President Obama’s speeches that he lied. I would call that “thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” There’s even a current political ad criticizing or accusing a politician of keeping company with prostitutes.
Our capitalistic economy, allows the competitive nature of man to get ahead. We now know that roughly 1% have acquired much wealth and possessions. There was a recent movie with Leonard DiCaprio titled “The Wolf of Wall Street” that depicted many of the 10 Commandments being broken and ignored. I would hate to believe that this film depicts the majority of Wall Street or the 1%ers.
In spite of religion, or spiritual teachings, it’s no wonder that the development of conscience has suffered. Religion may say, “Thou shall not kill” and yet the government says our biggest budget expense is the military-industrial complex. Lying and giving mixed messages seems to be more universal as well. And it does not seem to matter, even if on TV. In fact, there’s even “fact checks” after the so-called presidential debates. These presidential individuals model inconsistencies in their version of telling the truth. And these are potentially our leaders. If they can distort the truth, without any consequences, that’s a pretty clear negative anti- 10 Commandment message.
It’s no wonder that our conscience has been weakened and that’s likely a big reason and explains in part man’s destructive behavior toward fellow man. Man’s instinctual nature and need structure hasn’t undergone major changes; man’s intelligence and understanding has leaped ahead, but his interpersonal and humane treatment has suffered. We see and hear far too much death and destruction that it seems commonplace. Yes, we are becoming numbing to that reality. Perhaps, the pursuit of happiness is an illusion and not attainable for the masses.
Some might wonder if we’re headed in the wrong direction. Because if we are, that suggests to me that things are not getting better. And perhaps the political divisiveness is a symptom of growing insecurity, helplessness and insignificance to make a difference. A number of years ago, the existentialists wrote that God is dead. What that suggests is that our moral compass might be on a very different path from what our spiritual profits talked about early in our history of civilization. And, perhaps, these early Commandments are not applicable to our present day. If they’re not applicable nor followed by our leaders, then we have to stop pretending their importance. In any event, to make a change in the moral aspect of man with an intact superego or conscience, individuals, society and the culture have to lead the way. That likely means that individuals have to first, if they can, begin treating themselves in a more rationally, physically and psychologically healthy way, in order that they can treat others more appropriately. If interpersonal behavior becomes more humanistic, then the treating of others, becomes more of the same.