Summary: A whistlestop tour of the factors that have made us and our culture (in the UK) as we are. (turned us into individualists and consumers, basically!)

Our culture. WBC 12/5/02 am Seeker Service Judges 2:8-16

I’ve wanted to say something to you on this subject for some time

- understanding who we are… and what made us like this… brought us here is

- so very important

- SO fascinating!

1 Are things worse?

Here’s the big question. Are things worse, today, than in the past

- than the Viking era

- middle ages… with feudalism

- WWI and II?

- Work pressure of today (compared to workhouses of 18C)

- Wars and rumours of wars

ARE children worse?

’Today’s children are tyrants. They disobey their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannise their teachers.’ Socrates circa 400 BC

Or do we just know more?

- is ‘awareness’ (and the guilt that comes from it!) the issue?

- The WORLD and it’s problems is now in my back yard

- Ignorance USED to be bliss

What do you think?

Interestingly enough I interviewed about 30 people on the street about this a few years ago

- tremendous diversity of opinion!

- Some, for example, who felt the fabric of family life was crumbling. Others:

- “no. Things are better” Rising divorce figures show people (women) no longer have to live in hellish marriages

- Similarly- there were sincerely held, divergent opinions over crime (we’re better at detecting it), single parent families, drugs… pornography

People held incredibly PERSONAL opinions on things. They were very diverse. Very subjective

- though, to many of us, the facts speak for themselves

- rising crime figures

- 98 % of children admitted that gory TV & video games had a harmful effect on their behaviour

- 87% said they copied what they saw (cf ‘child’s play’ -> Jamie Bolger murder)

So- why can’t people agree whether things are better or worse… about what’s right/wrong?

- maybe this is significant in itself? part of the issue? Maybe this is part of our culture… and we can’t see the problem because we see WITH the problem

- maybe the fact that we have so few goalposts, and what we do have is so individual and personal… and MOVING… is something we need to understand

- have you noticed the goalposts move… become blurred?

2 Shifting goalposts

Let me take you on a whistlestop tour of our culture and it’s developments (from an amateur’s stance)

100 years ago- world view/culture of GB was significantly different

- people believed in absolutes.

- ‘truth’ (and the opposite of it was ‘false’)

- There was right and wrong. They were worth fighting for/against

- = basically a ‘modern’, ‘enlightened’ view

- everyone operated on these presuppositions (Xian or not)

- and it worked!

The ‘enlightenment’ was really bearing fruit. Science, education and facts were all important and were yielding great progress. It was a time of great encouragement. The future looked bright- and it was modernism not orange

- Man was really ‘growing up’, coming of age.

- give us enough time and we could bring paradise on earth!

Then came World War I. Fighting for right. Ideals. Values

- philosophy and sociology came down to earth with a thump

- the true nature of humankind was seen

- reason hadn’t been able to stop the bloodshed

- the rightness of fighting for your perception of right/wrong seemed dwarfed by the wrongness of suffering

- NOBODY had won

Personal beliefs, rights & wrongs became something we would not fight for or against again.

- society started to ‘weigh anchor’ on its absolutes. Understandably

something else happened- more to the UK than USA.

- A combination of ‘growing up’ and despondency set in

- A despondency from which we have never really recovered

- Which, at the end of 2 world wars, leaves us quite different from the US (who didn’t so much have wars on doorstep)

- Who have kept a ‘teenage optimism’, unaffected by our middle-agedness

But another influence did come from the US to us.

- as a result of Freudian psychology

- through the most influential but unheard of man in history. Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, the inventor of ‘PR’

- who, in the 20s, used the insights gained by Freudian psychology to exploit people’s inner/base desires

- to make them buy things they didn’t need

- cf Suferagets and cigarettes

He started targeting INDIVIDUALS

The free thinking (and ‘drifting’) about morals and absolutes continued and was enhanced by WWII… Vietnam

- something might be right for YOU- even though I might know it to be wrong… illogical. That’s your right

The post WWII boom (“we’ve never had it so good”)

- and the discovery of a new target group who had spare money and were easily ‘manipulated’


- And even greater targeting of individuals, and their supposed ‘needs’

- To make money

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