Re-‘writing’ our ethics

We might live in a culture that embraces expression as well as freedom, but has it gone too far?

Katharine Hargreaves

It’s been quite an interesting month for me. Though usually I’m all about sharing my biggest, deepest and darkest secrets if it means writing a good column, in the interest of everyone involved in this specific situation I’ve decided to keep my mouth shut. Arguably, a tell-all of recent events would make for quite a dishy read. However, I’d rather share with you the lessons I’ve taken away from the drama – and not the drama itself.

The thing is, I was recently in a situation with a friend that put into question our values – both hers and mine. I’m not one to say what another’s values should or should not be, but I do believe that there’s a standard baseline on which most people base theirs. For instance, some friends of mine think that open relationships are tomorrow’s answer to monogamy, while others find this to be insulting and disrespectful to their own monogamous relationship – neither person is wrong, but each chooses a relationship that’s best for them based on their value system. Who am I to decide what’s right and wrong as long as there’s mutual consent and maturity on both sides?

However, it’s easy to stand by something when it’s not being challenged. I found myself being confronted with a moral system that I didn’t operate by, and though it was a situation where to me, the solution seemed cut and dried, we were unable to reach both an agreement as well as a happy ending.

My question is this: As a society, have the moral and ethical standards changed? Are we redefining what morality means to us?

We live in a divided age. Though – like my own situation – things are never as black and white as we’d like them to be, it does seem to be a time defined by opposition: atheism vs. fundamentalism. Exposure vs. privacy. Advancement vs. regression. We live in a culture that – with the help of George W. Bush, the “Super Church” and the heightened threat of global devastation – seems to be heading toward religious fanaticism, yet we tend to irrationally fear those whose religion isn’t just Sundays and Christmas, but a way of life. At the same time, apathy for religion in general is at an all-time high. Either the issues we face are more divisive today – leading to drastic schisms in our beliefs – than they were 10 years ago, or it’s suddenly become cool to reject religion.

I went down to South Padre Island in Texas two years ago. While I don’t consider myself or my good friends conservative by any means (do your male Republican friends wear spandex and/or fanny packs out in public?), we all were shocked – not so much because we found ourselves swarmed by underage perverts claiming to be from “Girls Gone Wild 10” as soon as we set foot on the beach; but because girls freely walked around sans shirt solely in order to earn beads. I could understand money, the promise of marriage, maybe even a nice handbag, but BEADS? PLASTIC BEADS? Hahaha, I kid, but seriously – where are America’s morals? It seems that women these days cite feminism as the reason they’re so liberal with their bodies, but I’m sorry: That’s not progression, that’s regression.

We might live in a culture that embraces expression as well as freedom, but has it gone too far? I’m not in any way suggesting that we all go back to the 1800s or even the 1940s, but it seems we’ve embraced our newfound (naked) selves a little too much without giving our morals time to adjust.

In no way could I begin to do this topic enough justice with just my column, but do yourself a favor and consider it food for thought.

Kat Hargreaves welcomes comments at [email protected]