Hell in a handbasket

For the last hundred years or so, perspective in the United States has been shifting from a focus on the rights of society to the rights of the individual. When society as a whole has perceived rights, each individual has a responsibility toward the community. Whenever the perceived rights of an individual surpass those of the community, anything bad that happens to a person is seen as cause for punishment. This leads to the current state of our judiciary system.

Lawsuits filed over spilling coffee on your own lap make for amusing warning labels. Other cases have more drastic results. Businesses simply stop offering services because they are seen as too much of a lawsuit risk. Chuck E. Cheese and McDonald’s do away with ball pits because of the risk of disease or injury. Companies are forced to make business decisions simply to avoid the lawsuits.

People see the state of the system and begin to abuse it. Because they have no concern for “the man”, they seek any opportunity for personal gain, even at the expense of another individual or the bulk of society.

Lobbyists and interest groups gain an enormous amount of power – much more than they should have in a representative democracy. Judicial legislation occurs: the rights of a small subset of the country are allowed to dictate laws for the whole of society. Defendants who are obviously guilty of heinous crimes are allowed to get off on a technicality because of individual rights violations. Prisoners in jail feel that they have the right to cable TV, luxurious accommodations, and sex-change operations.

Currently, the community is seen as having rights toward each individual rather than the inverse. A logical extension of this mindset seems to be that anything bad that happens to a person is someone else’s fault. It’s an immature perspective which is largely caused by a lack of concern for society in general. When there is someone else to blame, the individual doesn’t take responsibility for his actions, which only leads to an immature society. Each member is a toddler, unwilling share his toys with anyone else. The good of the whole is lost in each individual’s scramble to grab more for himself.

We’ve got the handbasket packed. If things don’t change, it’s pretty obvious where society’s headed.