Family is the basic unit of any human society as well as the first school for any child. It serves as the main source of informal education, a thing much more important than the formal education (that deals only with the facts and suppositions) as it is in such informal setups that a child learns the values of life. Just like any other institution, it runs on certain principles and rules that all its members are required to learn, follow, and abide by. Every human institution needs some mechanism to maintain discipline and control over its members in order to keep it running, family not being an exception. However, this institution is almost at the verge of collapse in the Western world, partly due to the state intervention and partly due to the popularization of a materialist culture (owing again to the state’s role in promoting the corporate sector, serving as a handmaid of capitalism), with everybody being so enamored by the idea of individualism that they have neither time nor willingness to think collectively, or about the collective welfare. This has resulted in making young generation self-centered, extremely autonomous, and very independent, along with becoming egocentric, close-minded, and lazy in the quest for knowledge. Professor Allan Bloom, who has spent a great deal of time and effort to explain today’s youth in the light of modern trends and their impact on college going generation rightly observes in his book The Closing of the American Mind (1987): “people sup together, play together, travel together, but they do not think together. Hardly any homes have any intellectual life whatsoever, let alone one that informs the vital interest of life. Educational TV marks the tide for family intellectual life.”
State intervention mostly occurs in the form of regulations regarding the education in general and the parenting in particular wherein the power to have control over a child’s education and upbringing has been shifted to a great extent from the hands of parents to the state via a number of strategies, public education being one of them as well as the radio and television that have pervaded each and every home. Bloom has aptly exposited all these influences of modern life that make parenting a battle for conscientious parents as he remarks:
“Along with the constant newness of everything and the careless moving from place to place, first radio, then television, have assaulted and overturned the privacy of the home, the real American privacy, which permitted the development of a higher and more independent life within democratic society. Parents can no longer control the atmosphere of the home, and have even lost the will to do so.”
There can be no truer description of the situation. A hundred years ago, parenting was much less stressful, simplified and was not so governmentally controlled. There was no television, no internet, little mass communication, fewer mixed messages and more family solidarity. Today, the scenario is much different. Homes are bombarded daily by television and internet where violent and sexually explicit programmes equal entertainment. The educational system has invaded the privacy of the home by taking liberties to teach morality. Instead of teaching abstinence in sex education courses or during discussions of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, the public education system hands out condoms to children. Mixed messages like this from the education system, media and political domain should make one feel only sympathy for the young people growing up under such misguided thinking.
In one way or the other, governmental laws pertaining to parenting and education have become inclusive in the West. With the rise of social services and professionals, parents are told that spanking (punishing) their child will mean ‘child abuse’ and hence a punishable offence. This is a touchy subject because although there is a need to protect children from real physical or sexual abuse, these laws have done more harm than good from the perspective of most parents. Parents have lost control of their own children. Young children are learning toll-free numbers that give them access to local child protection agencies in case they get any type of punishment from their parents. . What is a parent to do if “time out” does not work? To some, this may sound as though one is asking for the license to beat his/her child but this is not at all true. Parents punish their children not to hurt them, but keeping their own good as well as the larger good of the society in view, and that’s too mostly as the last resort. Moreover, such punishment is usually mild, not severe, and much different than the real ‘child abuse’ (both in action as well as intention) wherein a child is physically harmed, maimed, neglected, or treated inhumanly. Reward and punishment both have an equally crucial role in the process of learning, major part of which takes place during childhood. Just as government needs to punish the criminals in order to maintain a healthy, ordered system, parents sometimes need to punish their children in order to teach them good conduct as well as to make them refrain from the bad one so that they grow up as good citizens.
Absence of parental control has, thus, given rise to a morally and spiritually degraded generation entrenched in all kinds of social and sexual anarchy. Today, college campuses across the western world are experiencing a new generation of ‘alcoholism’. Alcohol abuse breaks up marriages, causes infidelity, helps fuel young teens into premarital sex, and deadens the morality of all who partake in it. However, this grave problem is neglected, intentionally or unintentionally, while giving more space and weight to much less serious and less urgent problems like ‘Smoking’. A smoker does not become abusive, disoriented, and mentally or emotionally impaired, neither smoking kill brain cells. And finally although smoking is (no doubt) a health hazard, it does not lead a person into becoming a destitute, a mental case or a street bum. But it is given a lot more attention against that of alcoholism that poses a much more real threat to the health and stability of an individual, of a family, and thus of the society as a whole. Media’s “war against drugs” has been replaced or followed by the “war against the tobacco industry”. Drastic measures have been taken to reduce and prohibit smoking. Most western workplaces, public buildings, restaurants, and commercial airlines now prohibit smoking. West is increasingly and actively getting engaged in a number of ‘wars’ against a number of things, but where is the “war against alcohol” amidst all this hullabaloo?
The progress and advancement that usually characterizes the West is worth its achievement only if it is done not at the cost of other larger and more essential values. However, it is not actually ‘Progress’ that is doing the harm, but the ruthless attitude and choice of means to get the end. Progress, if done sensitively, intelligently, and humanly, does not mean families have to be forfeited. The real enemy is the man-made system, which arrogantly steams ahead disregarding the woman and man’s mind to truth and religion.