The above video is fascinating. It is also very revealing.
The experiment above is relatively benign. But when i watched it, I couldn’t help but immediately tie the results into an answer to a question I have often asked myself: “How could the acceptable standards of what is moral and what is not decline at the precipitous pace it has in the last few decades?”
We are all conditioned in many ways. This doesn’t make us unthinking robots, but it is a natural part of our sense of community. And I think God wired us that way so that we can condition ourselves rightly so that we can do good as a natural reaction without even thinking. Of course, in a world where both good and evil resides, one can also be conditioned wrongly.
We need to take responsibility for our own conditioning, but it is without question that we are also greatly influenced by others, and we may not even realize it. Parents try to form good habits in kids so that these kids just learn to do them. Saying “please” and “thank you” is an act of conditioning. I remember arguing with someone once about the value of doing simple things like opening the door for someone. He argued that it wasn’t really “doing good” because it wasn’t so much an act of kindness or will as it was conditioning. I argued that if someone cares enough to be conditioned or to have conditioned themselves to do a perpetually good thing that it doesn’t lose its value because you’ve made it a natural habit. That’s ridiculous.
Unfortunately, as much as we’d all like to argue that TV, billboards, advertising, movies, music, etc. do not affect us, the reality is that it is probably nearly impossible to make that case. Now, I will say that if you are morally grounded, confident in your faith, and resilient then it is entirely possible that you can consciously recognize when things are projecting their influence upon you, and it is more possible to ward off their impact. But it would be silly to believe you cannot be influenced in the things you do, think, and believe by the culture and other influences around you.
And, truth be told, as God has been moved out of the public sphere and the minds of others, the moral code that people live by is a hodge-podge of ideas to start with. So, now you start to introduce an acceptability to immodesty, different views on marriage, on sex, on violence, and so on can it really be as amazing as it seems to be that we’ve flipped our thinking upside-down on previously long-accepted ideas?
A perfect example of applying the concepts of the video above to the acceptance of cultural decay as something well and good is the typical University. While there are some outstanding Catholic, Christian, and Conservative Universities we all know that these are exceptions. It is a fact of the day that most Universities hold progressive views of what the rest of us see as cultural rot. The administrations and faculty not only accept it themselves, but are open about it, promote it, and will in many cases shout down opposing opinions – ironically enough – in the name of tolerance.
If those who agree join in the vocalic of those positions while those who disagree stay silent, it will not take long for the pressure of conformity to kick in. How many parents have lamented the fact that their “good kid” came back home after a year or two at school with all sorts of goofy ideas that go directly against the values they were raised with? All those years, undone in nearly an instant.
As a parent, I watch this video, and I realize I need to share it with my kids and explain this very thing. This happens not only with meaningless physical response, this is a very real and natural inclination. Whenever your thinking and your beliefs are challenged and you seem to be standing alone, it still doesn’t mean that everyone else is right, or even makes any sense. And they may not even know why they believe what they believe.
And on the flip side, this may be a good opportunity to evaluate whether or not any of us are accepting what we shouldn’t because it was just so easy to…