The title requires some elaboration because I could mean a lot of things by it. What I specifically have in mind is the way people are unwilling, reluctant, afraid or just not motivated to speak up or say anything when they see something wrong. I mean this especially with regard to family where they truly have an obligation that can not be excused by unfamiliarity with the person. This also applies to leaders and organisations who refrain from dealing with bad actors who they are responsible for.
This topic comes somewhat under the umbrella of complacency but it is actually worse than this. It is also yet another topic where in writing I have to be immediately clear that I am not making an exception of myself. I’m just as guilty of what I will be talking about here though I have been actively training myself not to for a while.
What might be the first institution to come to mind would be the Catholic Church which has many within the church and institutions including priests and bishops who are often committing heresy if not outright apostasy without consequence. This is certainly not limited to the clergy though as charities, schools and other organisations are also staffed with those who are often lukewarm at the very best to the mission of the faith. I have very direct experience with this. The Catholic Church is just one example though as many similar organisations, companies and clubs have similar problems.
How does this happen? It can only begin with someone in charge being unwilling to do something about it. The church certainly couldn’t have started without people committed to its mission and companies certainly don’t become rich by employing people who are counterproductive to profit making. It can really only happen by someone seeing something wrong, not trying to stop it and then seeing it cascade into something much worse. Someone has to let it happen in the first place. Vox Day has discussed this at length concerning organisations being converged by what we now put under the general umbrella name, “SJWs”. I believe I have covered this a fair bit too so I don’t want to dwell on this area for this post. I am merely noting that it is certainly related.
What is of more concern is what goes on at the family level and this can be seen everywhere. Divorce, adultery, unmarried cohabitation and sodomy were still scandalous for many within living memory. This is not so for my generation and the people for whom it was are now all grey-haired; but this is still a remarkable change. All of these things are now normal and the latter is considered something of a modern virtue. How could something like this happen within such a short time? This is a question worth asking no matter where you stand because the shift was so rapid. One can plausibly blame it on higher-ups, conspiracy, the devil and a variety of other things but something going from wrong to accepted can only really be allowed if people remain silent and let it in the first place.
Something I noticed is that if you have succumbed to something in the past, you find it difficult to tell someone that it is wrong lest you be branded a hypocrite. But a hypocrite isn’t someone who realises what he has done is wrong and knowing this tries to warn another from the same mistake. A hypocrite is someone who does something while telling others it is wrong. There is a very obvious difference but today with the past fused with the present, you are not allowed to escape your past no matter how much you have changed. So one explanation is that parents who remember their childhood are unwilling to warn their children about their mistakes and let them make their own mistakes.
The above strikes me more as an excuse than a reason though. Of course it can be good to let your boy get bitten by some ants so he knows not to mess with ant nests but one wouldn’t take the same approach with a wild dog or a busy road. There are things you need to protect your children from whether or not they will understand at the time.
Wherever it started though, it is now even worse. The only thing I can think that will generally get a public rebuke is being racist to someone. That is about the only thing I can imagine where you will almost certainly have someone go out of their way to let you know how wrong you are. And the cynic in me believes it is more for the person to display their own virtue than any sincere wish to set you straight.
On a regular basis I see people throwing trash on the ground, speak loudly and rudely on public transport or play music loudly with the obvious intention to disturb others and dare someone to do something about it. Most of these people would immediately abuse you if you were to say something and often want you to so they can. So many people don’t. But these are in public and people have more incentive and a preference for minding their own business.
To get back to home and use an example of people not leaving the home, consider the generation of men and women who still live with their parents. In Japan these (mostly) men (for children they are not), are known as “hikikomori”. When I first heard of these people I stated plainly that this could be solved simply by telling them they either had to work or starve. The only problem really is the parents being reluctant to actually do anything about it. Excuses about not wanting to hurt them or make them suffer do not matter. You don’t love someone when you allow them to destroy themselves and it is in your power to stop this. If they will not try to help themselves then it is all on them. There is a similar adult population allover the West and the relative lack of job opportunities and financial strain only goes part way to explaining it. The main reason is people who are responsible, are not willing to do anything about it apart from fret and worry.
The same is true of a variety of other problems. The reason binge drinking is now socially normal is because people stopped showing discomfort and disgust towards those that engaged in it. Being a raving, drunken buffoon as I will readily admit to being on many occasions used to get you ostracised from polite company. One or more people would probably tell you directly what you were doing was wrong. I was shown by my own thought and the Grace of God that it was wrong. I am ashamed of it now but nobody in society ever gave me much reason to be. Nobody said anything.
This is now increasingly true of the use of drugs. It is in living memory for me that someone bringing out marijuana or something harder at a social gathering would get a horrified reaction. Now, depending on what it was you might notice mild discomfort in most circles but increasingly this will be welcomed and encouraged if it isn’t already. This is also why drug education in schools was so ineffective. You would be taught and told the facts and why it was wrong but it was obvious when I was in high school that there was no teeth to any of this. While certainly illegal, a recreational user was unlikely to get into any trouble if caught with these substances. Parents mostly adopted an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. Despite what the law might say, most drugs are effectively legal. This brings to mind tobacco which will probably provoke complaints from the public more frequently than the use of objectively worse substances.
The point of all this is not any of the examples in particular though I do think they all of the things I’ve mentioned are wrong. The point is that above all else, these things have been allowed because people stopped saying anything against them. And because we gave up on so many big things; even little ones no longer provoke much protest. The disapproval of the people close to you is far more powerful than any law or government can ever hope to be. Most people don’t want to be seen to be doing wrong by those they are close to. And if people are allowed to grow in an environment where this is inverted or if they can at least escape censure, it will be very hard for them to change.
We do need to start speaking up and saying things. We need to deal with the tantrums of our children, the hostility of uncouth commuters and the abuse of drunk family members. If you can’t even deal with small things, then how can bigger ones even begin to be dealt with?