has been said that we live in the Age of Information,
so called because of the worldwide communication exchange brought
about by computers.
From a sociological point of view,
I would call it the Age of Distraction.
In almost every avenue of our lives
we are being distracted from what we need to focus on, and for this
reason our personal and social problems proliferate.
Alcohol and drug abuse are obvious
distractions from the responsibilities of living. But so is television,
which consumes so many hours of the day which might otherwise have
been productive. Basketball and football games gain our complete
attention, while the problems of our loved ones garner half hearted
grunts of recognition.
The fruits of competition distract
us from how we might be hurting other people, or the environment.
Endless party bickering and scandal
mongering distracts political leaders from the kind of policy decisions
that we desperately need them to make.
The abortion issue dominates national
attention as the debate between pro-life and pro-choice go nowhere.
The problems of unwanted pregnancies, teenagers having babies, failed
marriages, poverty and overpopulation are ignored.
Discussions about race issues distract
us from the simple fact that you can't generalize about race, no
matter how well-meaning, without supporting racism. Whenever you
speak of race, you carry the assumption that everyone in that race
thinks and feels exactly the same way which is completely
untrue and we all know it. It's not true to the race you belong
to, why should it be true of others? Categorizing people does not
promote healing and brotherhood. It segregates the world in people's
minds. We then wonder why the nation is unable to heal.
Sometimes we are so distracted by
ambition for our children's future that we fail to see their present
The media forces us to focus on a
topic like gay marriage to generate controversy. Opinions abound,
along with tempers. Meanwhile, heterosexual marriages, the backbone
of our society, are failing at an alarming rate, and are often marred
by abuse and abandonment. Which problem is more devastating?
In dealing with social issues, we
distract ourselves by our own efforts. We worry about the drug addict,
the alcoholic, the high school dropout, the teenage mother, violence
on the streets, spousal abuse, rape, and the youngster just arrested
for a crime.
Our response? Costly treatment centers,
endless therapy, more welfare, more police, more judges, more prisons
In this way, we feel we are doing something, even though the problems
persist and even thrive. We are being distracted by our own efforts
from taking real action that we need. We can't end social problems
by finding better ways to tolerate them. That stops us from taking
the problems seriously. We have to go to the source. Something in
our society is generating these problems. That's what we have to
A few years ago, a radical idea hit
the field: Prevention! We need ways of preventing
children from getting into trouble. How do we do it? By distracting
them, of course.
It was a popular idea, but difficult
to fund. Government resisted putting money into a program that could
not demonstrate its own success (how do you prove that so many children
were saved, and from what?).
In my opinion, the very focus on prevention
was misplaced. We need pre-prevention. We need to
eliminate, as far as possible, the problems that plague society.
It's not right to focus on protecting only the chosen few, while
the problems continue to flourish all around us.
We don't need another distraction
from doing what we have to do. As a society, it's time we grow up.
We have to take away the glamour of doing what is wrong. We have
to stop rewarding antisocial behavior. We have to develop a culture
that is more humane. We have to start with the choices we make every
day, and not allow ourselves to be distracted from the truth.
We need the moral integrity to withdraw
our support, no matter how passive, of what is wrong. We should
refuse to profit from anything that hurts people. We should oppose
the mindset that tries to distract us from (and so protect) the
source of our problems. Only then can we serve as positive role
models to our own children and neighbors.