The Age of Indiscretion and the Broken Window Theory

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Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal seems puzzled as to why we’re in “The Age of Indiscretion.” That’s the title of his latest column, and its subtitle is “GSA partiers in Vegas and Secret Service revelers in Cartagena make it clear that discretion is dead.”

Six years ago in a post titled “The Broken Window Theory” I attempted to explain a concept that might have helped Mr. Henninger understand what’s going on. That piece was one in a series addressing some of the confusion regarding morality and behavior and yes, homosexual so-called “rights.”

Henninger struggles in his column:

Past some point, it becomes pointless to ask, What were they thinking? That people exist who still ask this question suggests there’s hope. Maybe.

Carousing Secret Service agents, thought to be an oxymoron in a slovenly time, was one we didn’t see coming.

His conclusion:

Wondering what were they thinking is a statement, not a question. The better question is: Does anyone think anymore that what they are about to do is, at the least, a mistake? Yes, but those who do look before they leap are a dwindling tribe.

Morality is all one piece; attempt to divide it at your own peril. Whose morality you ask? Oh, please. What used to be common sense told us that the easy ones – lying, stealing, and murdering – go right along with the traditional ones like keeping your private life, especially your sex life (and all the ways you like to achieve an orgasm), private.

When society decides to cast off restraints – such as throwing away traditional morality and dropping the wall between private and pubic life – it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that even honored institutions fall into depravity.

Here is what I had to say in the summer of 2006.

Bad News for the “homosexual rights” movement — The Broken Window Theory

Societies around the world fall on different points of the spectrum – ranging from civil and just – all the way to chaotic and barbaric. There are no guarantees that our nation will maintain its relatively good position on that spectrum.

Civilization is behavior. Everything else is a discussion about which behaviors are conducive or destructive to a healthy social fabric. It’s a simple and unoriginal premise that sexual behavior is one of those that has to be handled in a mature fashion lest it negatively impact society.

I agree with what Tammy Bruce wrote in her important book “The Death of Right and Wrong”:

“Ultimately, we are engaged in a war to determine the future of virtue. The failure of a culture does not always happen on a battlefield—sometimes a great civilization collapses from within.”

Those of who oppose the advance of the “homosexual rights” agenda have been forced into the role of teachers in a nation-wide remedial education class explaining why morality matters.

At this point it’s easy to hear the wails from the segment of society that humorously sees itself as enlightened: “‘Homosexual rights’ are a threat to civilization? The slippery slope argument? You’re nuts!”

Those same people probably doubt that a broken window can impact the crime rate. After all, what’s one broken window?

In the 1980s criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling put forward the Broken Windows Theory based on their argument that crime is the inevitable result of disorder. Writer Malcolm Gladwell sums up the theory nicely in his book “The Tipping Point”:

“If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes. In a city, relatively minor problems like graffiti, public disorder, and aggressive panhandling…are all the equivalent of broken windows, invitations to more serious crime.”

Gladwell also writes of the discovery by New York officials that when they cleaned the graffiti off the walls of the subway cars and cracked down on those who jumped over the turnstiles in order to avoid paying the fare, the ripple effect was profound. The crime rate was actually reduced as a consequence.

Most people born and raised in the U.S. have had the luxury of ignoring the social fabric and its preservation. The fact is it’s not just the result of wild luck, but rather built upon a foundation constructed with specific materials.

The following quote from President John Adams is similar to many such sentiments spoken by the Founders:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Was he just being mean to those who wished to live alternative lifestyles in the middle of the public square? I don’t think so.

Adams was merely recognizing a reality that Malcolm Gladwell succinctly articulated later in his book:

“We are actually powerfully influenced by our surroundings, our immediate context, and the personalities of those around us. Taking the graffiti off the walls of New York’s subways turned New Yorkers into better citizens.”

That last sentence seems ridiculous, but it turned out to be true. Those who oppose the “homosexual rights” agenda believe that just as graffiti is connected to crime, the public promotion of unrestrained “alternative sexual lifestyles” negatively impacts society. Again, civilization is behavior.

There are those who see “sexual liberation” (or sex at anytime in any public place) as true freedom. They believe that the only objections come from unsophisticated types wrestling with repression issues. On the contrary, I’d argue that those of us who prefer to keep our sex lives to ourselves are actually the more well-adjusted bunch.

At this point it’s important to remind readers that defenders of traditional morality didn’t start this fight. We’re not the ones attempting to experiment with society. We’re the ones looking to preserve what has been proven to work best.

©2006 John Francis Biver

 

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