Moralty is defined as virtuous behavior in conformity to accepted standards.. Besides being somewhat of an oxymoron, I defy anyone to define "accepted standards." In fact, anyone know what they are today?? Virtue is easier to define, comprising good characteristics such as self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, honesty, loyalty, courage, friendship, work (oh, yes!) and even faith. The problem is that, while these characteristics may be found in some individuals, they are conspiculously absent in the public sector and society in general.
In politics, it would take Diogenes to find even one of these virtues in the typical politician, regardless of party. Conservatives and liberals alike profess allegiance to a high and moral philosophy of government while in actuality compulsively only seeking endless reelection and the concomitant acquiring of campaign funds. Campaign promises are notoriously unfulfilled. The voting public is virtually powerless to make an informed voting decision, being befuddled by the blizzard of mendacity.
In business, the bottom line is king. The founder of my former employer (the last one), James Cash Penney, built a retail empire on one simple principle, the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. His first tiny store in tiny Kemmerer, Wyoming, was named "The Golden Rule." One of his cardinal principles was to charge not what the traffic would bear, but rather a price that would provide only a fair remuneration for services rendered. [Have you stopped laughing yet?] At the time, this was an unique concept in stores and resulted in droves of grateful customers. Old JC is no doubt spinning in his grave to see what his beloved company, and the retail industry in general, have become. Most retail establishments today spend huge advertising dollars to convince the public to take advantage of fake sales of foreign-made merchandise, marked up 100% or more to what the traffic will bear. (My old company is ostensibly turning over a new leaf and offering "a square deal" with low prices and without the sham sales. Time will tell.)
Most businesses today are obsessed with "the bottom line," an euphemism for "as much profit as we can squeeze out of the customer." When the bottom line would benefit, jobs and operations are moved to a lower-cost venue, usually overseas, regardless of the ensuing hardship. Automation is installed, not to improve the product but rather primarily to eliminate jobs. Patents are stolen, bypassed or just simply violated, relying on protracted and costly litigation to wear down the legitimate holder or betting on an uninformed judge/jury to countenance the thievery.
The public schools are hotbeds of immoral behavior, ranging from sexual promiscuity--I think the euphemism is "sexually active"--to outright violence. While many school districts claim no drug "problem", the students laugh and claim "You can get anything you want." Discipline has been cancelled due to an overreaction to a few instances of excessive punishment. Without enforcement tools, administrators are helpless to enforce classroom discipline, with the result that little or no learning takes place other than teaching the periodic performance evaluation tests. In the inner city, it is nearly impossible to attract high-quality teachers who refuse to enter an environment of survival rather than education.
I am repeatedly amazed and apalled at man's inumanity to man. Individual events involving cruelty and depraved indifference abound in our so-called civilized society. The elderly are neglected or warehoused in institutions chronically understaffed with underpaid attendants. I have personally witnessed cases of "inmates" ignored by family or visited once a month for an hour or two. Even home care is often left to hired caregivers with little or no participation by family members. It's difficult to escape the conclusion that our parents when becoming old and/or infirm are seen as an impediment rather than a loving obligation.
Incidents of outright cruelty and abuse appear regularly in the news. The recent example of a 15-year old girl confined for years in a basement without sanitary facilities, starved (she weighed 71 lb.) and sexually abused, while shocking, sadly is not unique. Babies physically abused and injured or killed because they "wouldn't stop crying" are tragically frequent occurrences. I will never understand what motivates individuals to inflict cruelty on other human beings. I am mercifully omitting reference to pedophilia and abortion.
Groups of young people gather in spontaneous cell-phone gangs to trash some shopping center or disrupt a neighborhood event. (There's a name for this that escapes me.) School fights are becoming more common. (We had them too, but they consisted of a lot of name-calling and threatening gestures. Little actual fighting took place.) Gay students are outed on Facebook or other media, even to the extent of driving the victim to suicide. Oh, it's just a "boyish prank."
That brings me to something I call "inappropriate response." An innocent school insult results in cell-phone calls that bring a more dangerous element to the scene and we have a police incident, or worse. The "outing" of a gay student complete with video results in the subject committing suicide. No level of embarrassment justifies self-murder, especially of a very young person who has his or her whole life ahead. Even worse is the resort to this tragically final act over a lost boy- or girlfriend. A desire for an article of clothing results in lethal violence. What kind of athletic shoe is worth shooting someone for? Parents at youth sporting events respond to a coach's or referee's decision with physical confrontation and sometimes actual violence.
All of these examples represent an absence of morality. Modern social philosophy advocates "moral relativism," which is no morality at all. (Remember, "accepted standards?") Moral principles are not taught in school or, sadly, in many homes by overworked parents who think carting junior to endless extra-curricular activities is real parenting. Heaven forbid that we should be judgemental!
Morality is not really dead, despite the title of this post, but rather is locked away out of sight. So long as we keep it locked away, societal behavior, both public and private, will continue to deteriorate. The lack of morality inevitably results in immorality.
You may ask, "Well, that's all to the good, but who sets those standards of behavior?" Perhaps you noticed that the last item on the list of virtues is "faith". In our society, accepted behavior is, or used to be, based on Judeo-Christian principles. Much of what used to be morality is based on the Ten Commandments and the Beautitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. Most other religions do not address moral behavior except in the violent extremism of Islam. (Many Muslims eschew the violent aspects, but the fact remains that Islamic writings justify and in some respects encourage violent enforcement of so-called moral precepts. "Honor killings" are a case in point.)
So, where has virtue gone? Well, it left with the teaching of moral precepts and--yes--religious principles in the schools and in the home. I have witnessed through the years the increase of inexplicable acts of inhumanity as religion was systematically and deliberately stuffed into one hour on Sunday morning. The fictional "wall of separation between church and state" has become a rallying cry of the unchurched as morality declines and society coarsens and sinks inexorably into depravity.
Yes, there is virtue outside of religion, but it suffers from disorganization and controversy, muddying the message and containing massive loopholes. Without firm standards of social conduct based on universal religious principles, the moral structure becomes a house of sand. The Judeo-Christian religious ethic provides the firm structure necessary to guide and control human conduct. It may not be the only way, but it's the only one I know of that's been tried and tested by experience.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" needs to be more than an outmoded retailing slogan.