Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 13. 1969.
Preachers and protesters alike have a fondness for a phrase G. W. Calder used in his article on obscenity last week: "Most of us agree that society in general is lick." What rubbish! "Most people" don't think about society in general at all, and those who do with any depth will be forced to the contrary conclusion.
The first question which comes to mind is: When exactly was society "healthy", if it is now sick? When in history did a society take more care of its members young and old, poor and rich, than does that in the Western world and in New Zealand in particular today? When did those members have more say in the direction of their society? When were people so honestly critical of their environment than they are at present? I suspect that those who bemoan the sick society will be hard put to tell me.
But it is not difficult to see why they have misled themselves with this impressive generalisation. Sexual licence is more accepted, and sexual abberation more tolerated. Freedom of speech and publication is constantly expanding. Criticism of religious doc-trine and church activity abound. Every act of government is scrutin-ised and often as not attacked. Very little is taken for granted, and people accustomed to send their thoughts sliding along well-worn grooves are unsettled when someone switches tracks on them.
When required to specificate their charges against society today, there is always "materialism" to fell back on. But just what exactly is wrong with taking a strong interest in material goods and achievements? It occurs to me that the anti-materialists are generally comfortably off, and they use the term when looking with distaste at other people who are wholeheartedly engaged in getting what a rigid social structure has hitherto denied them.
There is no denying that there is a hell of a lot wrong with society and with the world in general; but few problem) are being ignored, and few show no sign of a solution. That people are well aware of what's wrong is a sign that society is healthy, not an excuse for self-styled prophets to make woolly-minded wholesale condemnations. Sure, if you say you're sick when your feet hurt, or your head aches, or you've got indigestion, then society today is sick. But as for the hoary old pessimism that civilisation is breath-ing its last because Bill Maddock takes not and little Fred's first words were "... the Prime Minister": well you know what you can do with it.