People have been saying “society’s falling apart” for some time now… hundreds of years, really.
Usually, just pointing that out is intended as a refutation that things are actually getting worse. The underlying argument being that how could it all be falling apart for that long without it actually ALL falling apart?
But I guess the flip side is, what if they’re right? What if things have been going South for some time now, and it’s just taking longer than we thought?
That’s not to say there aren’t improvements. I mean people are living longer, we’re all safer, more clean water, etc. But speaking more sociologically, what is the health of our society (America, specifically)?
Back in 1964, Paul Harvey wrote an essay called “If I were the Devil.” He recorded a version for radio in 1965 and updated it fairly frequently to keep it modern.
It’s a fairly famous essay/recording – mostly because many point to it as being a fairly accurate, if not unsettling, depiction of what is happening to the country. Up until yesterday, I’ve been feeling a bit lost and confused about the direction we’re heading, and this kind of describes why.
In short, it’s about courtesy, respect and morality. Social media is said by many to be bringing us closer, but it’s also enabling us to think more about ourselves and less about others. It’s also removed much of the decorum and politeness that used to exist (things that are now often described as old fashioned).
What do you think? Here’s the transcript of the original essay with a recording of one version of the radio broadcast below that:
“If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness.
I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — thee.
So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.
I’d subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers.
With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.”
To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square.
And the old, I would teach to pray after me, “Our Father, which are in Washington …”
Then, I’d get organized, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting.
I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.
If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed.
And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.
If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I’d tell teachers to let those students run wil. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.
With a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and them from the houses of Congress.
In his own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.
If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious.
What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?
I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun and that what you see on television is the way to be.
And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures.
In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.”