Leaving the Problem to Others
OCTOBER 01, 1968 by BEN CARPENTER
Mr. Carpenter, Chairman of the Board of Southland Life Insurance Company in Dallas, recently concluded a term as President of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. This article is from his address at their annual convention in San Antonio, March 26, 1968.
In this dynamic country of ours, where things happen so quickly, where situations are changing at an ever accelerating tempo, it is extremely easy for us to lose perspective. In our fretting about how today differs from yesterday some of us somehow look back on yesterday as being "normal." Actually there has obviously been no such thing as normality during the last three centuries for the simple reason that there has been such steady and rapid change during the entire period.
This is a fact which apparently escapes many persons. Many of us are constantly looking to the past, dreaming of it, wishing for it, not realizing that if we were to succeed in taking ourselves back to the period when there was little change from one generation to the next we would have to return to the Middle Ages—back to the days of the Black Death, of hopeless malnutrition and superstition, of ignorance and tyranny.
Let us look at just a random selection of developments which change has brought us since this Cattle Raisers Association was organized under the Oak Tree at Graham. These developments include the gasoline engine with all its ramifications including automobiles, trucks and busses, farm tractors, piston driven airplanes, motorcycles, motor boats, power mowers, stationary engines, and mobile construction and military equipment of all kinds; the diesel locomotive; turbine and jet powered aircraft; oil-fueled ships; rockets and missiles, industrial equipment and machinery of many sorts; oil- and gas-fueled space heating and cooking equipment; air conditioning; the washing machine, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, incandescent lamps, the phonograph, telephone, movie machine, radio, television, radar, rotary drill, cream separator, milking machine, commercial fertilizers, antibiotics, feed additives, vacuum packing and freezing, the cash register, the atomic reactor, computers and electronic instruments, x-ray, the heart-lung machine, and the iron lung. And there are, of course, thousands of other amazing developments, which we are quick to become accustomed to and take for granted.
To Respond Intelligently
There can be no progress without change. Our task in life is not to resist changes but to intelligently respond to changes that take place. Many of the problems of our own cattle industry today are a partial result of the reluctance of many cattlemen to accept this fact. We must not let ourselves become so preoccupied with resistance to new ideas and with dreams of past golden memories that we fail to devote sufficient thoughts and efforts to respond to these new changes as they challenge us.
The most significant thing about the changes taking place in our environment today is the speed with which they are occurring. Dr. Thomas Stelson, head of Civil Engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University, tells us that half the knowledge an engineer had when he graduated in 1958 is now obsolete. At the same rate of change, today’s graduate will find at least half his present knowledge obsolete by 1978. Or to put it another way, half of the technical knowledge an engineer will need to know in 1978 is net now available to him. No one knows what it is.
Our society has traveled fast and far in advancing our technology, our physical output, and our material well-being. We have developed the most productive form of society that man has ever enjoyed. We have taken long strides into the unknown and have extended man’s influence upon his environment. But, has the swiftness of our material achievement outrun our moral and spiritual capacity?
In considering this question, W. F. Rockwell, Jr., chairman of the Board of North American Rockwell Corporation, cites the story of the American hunter who was in search of big game in West Africa. He was getting close to his prey when his hard-running native guides suddenly sat down to rest. The American protested to their leader. He threatened, pleaded, offered bribes, but the natives wouldn’t budge.
"But why," he asked the leader, "why must they stop now?"
The leader replied, "The men say they have hurried too fast. Their bodies have run off and left their souls behind. They must wait now for their souls to catch up."
Rockwell has commented that it seems to him that this could be happening to Americans today. We may be running so fast that our technology is out-running our souls.
Max Ways, senior editor of Fortune magazine, has given us this warning:
"Unless we change our thinking, we won’t be able to cope with the change that is taking place. Change, of course, has always been a part of the human condition. What’s different about it now is the pace of change, and the prospect that it will come faster and faster, affecting every part of life, including personal values, morality, and religions, which seem most remote from technology."
And this is of great concern to me. Everywhere there seems to be an abandonment of the ancient values that have sustained and restrained the human race upon this earth. The old virtues which we were brought up to respect and copy in our daily lives, are now derided and called, at best, old-fashioned and out-of-date and, at worst, "square."
Lowering the Standards
On every hand there are signs that we are substituting materialistic values for spiritual ones —the old standards of what is right and what is wrong are being discarded and, in their stead, we are establishing doubtful codes of ethics that, if followed, can only render us impotent as a people and as a nation. Riots, demonstrations, acts which show disrespect for our flag, for high government officials, and for law and order have become a way of life for far too many Americans.
And—here is what also disturbs me most of all — instead of being outraged by what has been going on, many of our leaders on the national level seem to be spending most of their time making up excuses for behavior which we were brought up to consider as obscene, illegal, perverse, irresponsible, riotous, and even treasonous.
We hear a lot about freedom these days — and we hear very little about responsibility.
We hear a lot about the right to express one’s self — and very little about the right of other people to avoid being offended by such expression.
We hear a lot about the underprivileged poor — but very little about the underprivileged taxpayer who is being made the scapegoat for the deserving and the undeserving poor alike.
We pussyfoot among a lot of high-sounding names. We call drunkards "alcoholics," we call homosexuals "deviates," we call draft dodgers "card burners," and slackers "pacifists" or "conscientious objectors," we call dope addicts "experimenters in personality extension," we call criminals "victims of society."
Some of this may be all right. Some of it may reflect a more compassionate attitude in our society. But I think the time has come when we should and must draw a line separating compassion from soft headedness, permissiveness, and timidity.
Signs of Decline
Near the end of his great book on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon lists the reasons for the dissolution of the great political force which had held the civilized world together for more than 500 years. The principal reasons included:
(1) Excessive spending by the central government.
(2) Unwillingness of the young men to bear arms in defense of their country.
(3) Overindulgence in luxury.
(4) Widespread sexual immorality and easy divorce, which destroyed the integrity of family life.
(5) The spread of effeminacy—girls looking and acting like men, men looking and acting like girls.
(6) Disregard for religion.
That was Rome, 1,400 years ago. Does the picture seem to apply to the United States today?
I have no patience with the complacent Pollyannas who pooh-pooh the idea that our moral fabric is disintegrating, and who claim that conditions are no worse today than they were 50 years ago.
When most of us were young, women didn’t live in constant fear of assault, robbery, and rape. Parents could send their children down to the corner store without dying a thousand deaths until they returned. A man could walk his dog around his neighborhood at night without fear of being mugged, or beaten up, or murdered just for kicks.
We all remember when a rape was a front page story. Now, in most large cities, it’s a run-of-the-mill story tucked away among the want ads and the minor traffic accidents. If a rapist wants to make the front pages, he has to commit his crime in wholesale lots and in an especially spectacular manner. The competition is too great.
Many of you read about the revolt last week of a large section of the student body at Howard University when a mob of students drove the university administrators out of their offices and forcibly occupied the entire administration building of the University for a period of several days. This — almost in the shadow of the Nation’s Capitol.
For an example closer to home — would you believe it if I told you that three of the cattle theft rings uncovered by this association during the past year were composed of students at Texas A&M College? Now, this is something not to be dismissed lightly with the comment that "boys will be boys," when, for example, you realize that the ringleader of one group, a student in the junior class now serving five years in the penitentiary, had developed against him convicting evidence on 62 separate theft cases, including cattle, horses, trailers, and saddles. Our inspectors recovered stolen property disposed of by this group as far away as Billings, Montana, and Fort Collins, Colorado. In between this ring’s major theft activities, it stripped automobiles on the campus.
Since the first of the year two sophomore students, an agricultural education major and a range science major, ring leaders of another theft group, operating in three counties, have been indicted with evidence developed by this association’s inspectors.
Seeds of Revolt
And violence? Violence is too common for mention. One need only glance at the newspaper headlines to realize that the seeds of revolution are being sown throughout the country today. The assault on a single day last April of 185,000 demonstrators against the Vietnam War with displays of hatred for our country and contempt for its laws and institutions is example enough. Or the 75,000 who descended on the nation’s capitol on October 21st and created mass havoc. During the past two years more than 128 American cities have experienced outbursts of racial violence.
We can’t blame the newspapers. If they were to cover all the violence in their communities in the way they used to cover it, they would have to have a special editor for rape, a special editor for armed assault, and so on.
Listen to these statistics for a moment. In the United States today there is a forcible rape every 26 minutes — and these are just the rapes that are reported.
There is an armed robbery every five minutes.
There is an aggravated assault every three minutes.
There is a car theft every minute of every day of the year. Violence has become a common thing in our daily lives. Blatant disregard for the rights and the freedom of others has become a commonplace thing.
Governments like ours were formed to substitute the rule of law for the rule of force. A government can only lose the respect for which it is held when for political reasons its public officials do not fully enforce its laws.
The freedoms our forefathers fought and died to obtain are now being used to weaken and divide our great country. Listen to these statements which were publicly made by one of the more militant civil rights leaders:
"We’ve got to tell Johnson that if we don’t get home rule here in Washington we’re going to disrupt this city completely."
"In Cleveland they’re building stores with no windows… all brick. I don’t know what they think they’ll accomplish. It just means we have to move from Molotov cocktails to dynamite."
In Chicago he said: "I’m going to Washington and take it over lock, stock, and barrel."
What used to be called treason is being accepted today as freedom of speech. What used to be called riot and insurrection not so long ago is today called freedom of assembly. And academic freedom, as a noted educator recently said, "has become a sort of Yalu River behind which Educators and Students alike are immune from attack but from which they are free to sally forth to attack everything else, including their own school and college."
Laggards for Leaders
Whose fault is this condition? In a way, it’s everyone’s fault. Too many of us have been talking about freedom without really knowing what freedom is all about.
Educators, politicians, clergymen, businessmen, farm groups, and almost everyone else — have been demanding more and more freedom for more and more people as groups — often at the expense of individual freedom. But they have failed to emphasize the responsibilities of freedom. There has been a lot of talk about so-called "Civil Rights" and absolutely no mention of "Civil Responsibilities." You can’t gain freedom by taking it away from somebody else. Freedom is something you earn and deserve and build and create for yourself.
But most of all I blame the people who should have been giving this country responsible leadership and instead have given it meaningless phrases and political slogans. For too long a time all decisions regarding the direction and destiny of our country have been politically oriented decisions. Economic decisions have been political rather than economic, social decisions have been political rather than social, military decisions have been political rather than military, foreign policy decisions have been political rather than diplomatic, public education decisions have been political rather than practical.
If conditions were different and favorable, these national leaders would be the first to claim credit, so a great deal of the blame for the saddening conditions that do exist must be placed at the doorstep of these same national leaders who have all but incited certain elements of our society to riot… and have refused to condemn such riots until they became a political embarrassment.
They have led too many of our citizens to regard freedom as meaning freedom from unpleasantness, freedom from work, freedom from discipline, freedom from sacrifice, freedom from duty, freedom from responsibility, freedom from concern for your neighbor.
That isn’t freedom at all. And those who lead the uninformed, the uneducated, and the ignorant along that path are guilty of political bribery and blackmail.
Too many of our citizens demand the right to determine what is moral and what is not. They end up determining that nothing is immoral — everything goes. They feel no obligation toward others who maintain traditional moral standards. They feel no responsibility for the young who are not prepared for exposure to the kind of immorality that they desire to preach and practice. This is not freedom; this is irresponsibility.
When men take the law into their own hands — when men, acting as individuals, decide for themselves which laws they will obey and which they will disobey, then we don’t have freedom — we have a direct and aggravated assault on all freedoms. In every society of free men there must be law-givers and law-abiders — and there must be penalties for those who will not abide.
The Supreme Court has preoccupied itself for years with the rights of the accused. It has all but rendered our police helpless. But let us examine the situation. Do we have a serious problem with innocent persons being wrongly convicted? Do we really believe that our police are seizing every opportunity to "brutalize" suspects? Is this really the problem? No, of course, it isn’t. The real problem is the abuse of thousands of innocent helpless people by hardened criminals. Why, then, cannot the Supreme Court address itself to this problem, rather than destroying the effectiveness of the police who are trying to protect us?
Not long ago a judge freed a woman who had confessed to killing her four-year-old child — freed the woman because her attorney was not present when she confessed her crime. The woman thanked the judge and he reprimanded her. He said "Don’t thank me, thank the Supreme Court. You should go to jail for your crime." The woman went free.
A patrolman in Washington, D.C., answered a fire alarm, and found a building burning. When he approached the fire, two men walked up to him and one man said, "This is the man that did it." The policeman said to the other man, "What do you have to say for yourself?" The second man said, "Yes, I set the fire." The court threw this confession out on the basis that the patrolman should not have questioned the second man without a lawyer present.
Some time ago the Washington police arrested a man caught in the very act of raping a 22-yearold government employee. This man had, on two other occasions within the previous six months, been charged with the same type of crime. In the first instance the case was dismissed because the victim committed suicide rather than go through the ordeal of the trial. The second case was dismissed by the trial court on the technical grounds that the police had made an illegal search because of their failure to first obtain a search warrant. He was finally tried, found guilty, and sentenced by the District Court, but listen to this: our very learned U.S. Court of Appeals reversed his conviction because the Trial Court let the jury see, at their request, the official weather report for the time of the alleged attack, which certified that the weather was clear, the temperature in the low 70′s, and the visibility eight miles. The basis for the Appellate Court decision was that the trial judge erred in letting the jury see the weather report after the jury started deliberating, and that the defense counsel had no way of attacking it after he had contended at the trial that there wasn’t enough light to make a positive identification possible.
This is not fiction! This is modern day America! This is law enforcement and justice under the "Great Society"? Why must it be that way? Why cannot the Supreme Court turn its resources to solving the crime problem rather than erecting legal means for the criminal to escape? Whose rights are most important, the general public’s or the habitual criminal’s? Is it any wonder that about 80 per cent of serious crime is by repeat offenders?
Downgrading the Individual
But this step-by-step erosion of America’s fundamental concepts of patriotism, self-reliance, individual dignity, and fiscal responsibility has now reached the point where it threatens the continued existence of our great country as the cornerstone and anchor point of true freedom of opportunity for the individual.
Many of our national leaders have embraced a philosophy which regards the individual as being incapable of dealing directly with the complex problems each one of us faces today. The extent to which government has already assumed responsibility for basic economic requirements has truly weakened individual initiative.
The present economic situation in which this country finds itself today must in substantial degree be charged to the so-called "New Economics" which have drastically influenced government spending and "managed" basic fiscal policy for the last 10 years. It is almost impossible today to find in a top level financial advisory capacity of our national government men who believe a debt is a debt and that a permanent program of spending above income will bring disaster to an individual, a family, a company, or a government. In our national leadership councils practical men of experience have been replaced by theoretical, academic types. They operate under a far different economic and political philosophy from that which prevailed as the basis for this nation becoming the strongest country in the long history of the world. Their philosophy does not countenance such things as balanced budgets and debt retirement. These unprincipled economists rationalize that "it makes no difference about the size of the debt because we owe it to ourselves." Nevertheless continued deficit spending by the national government has brought inflation, and none of their rationalizing can deny the fact that the American dollar has lost about 60 per cent of its buying power since 1940 — and appears destined to lose more.
Ladies can rebel, protest, demonstrate, picket, and boycott the grocery stores — congressmen can order investigations — but the real culprit is the "New Economics" of government. Some of these economists call it a "Government Managed Economy" and others call it a "Government Controlled Economy." Whether managed or controlled, they have made a mess of the financial affairs of this country from the towering Federal debt of approximately $350 billion and the swiftly rising cost of living to the deficit in our international "Balance of Payments" and the diminishing of the treasury of gold at Fort Knox.
Back to First Principles
We are at a critical point in history. On the one hand, dramatic and fast changing advances in technology and science offer miraculous opportunities to improve the creative level of mankind. On the other hand, the violence, the license, the financial and moral irresponsibility which infest our land have caused great divisions among our people. Do we have the emotional stability as a people to reject the damaging and negative tendencies of our society in order to properly and fully utilize the opportunities that scientific advancement holds before us?
There are those who contend that old-fashioned creeds, the principles of our forefathers, the founding philosophies of this country’s early days are now outmoded and inapplicable to this computerized age of space and science. Our schools have been instructed to refrain from teaching our children the power and glory of prayer. We have successfully and shamefully defended in court our children’s right to ignore the salute to the flag. Groups are hard at work trying to abolish Christmas and Easter programs in schools — eliminate Thanksgiving Day and Presidential proclamations of prayer — even working to remove chaplains from our Armed Forces.
I reject these contentions and all of this nonsense. I don’t believe that we can comfortably take pride in the scientific and technological advances of the day amidst the immorality, irreverence, irresponsibility, and violence which exists in such volume in our society today.
Toward a Solution
What can we do about it? There is no quick and easy solution. But we can make a start by taking our heads out of the ground and recognizing the growing crisis around us for what it is. We can start as individuals by abandoning the philosophy of noninvolvement in matters of public interest — an attitude which too many of us have embraced in recent years. We must be willing to accept our citizenship responsibilities. We must choose our national leaders with more care and caution.
We can start relearning the art of self-discipline — and insisting that all elements within our society learn it, also.
We must relearn and teach others that — in the common idiom —"there’s no such thing as a free lunch."
Our American society was based on a system of earned rewards and earned punishments. There is no place in our society for either rewards or punishments that are not earned.
We must learn to call things by their right names. Violence is violence — no matter what the cause in which it is perpetrated. Violence is a grievous breach of the law and must be treated as such.
Treason is still treason and should be treated as such. Anyone who gives aid and comfort to an enemy of the United States is flirting with the very essence of treason. And this should be true whether that man is a presidential candidate, a Negro minister, or a foreign agent. The same goes for sedition and for all those who preach sedition, who teach it to their students, or who seek to arouse sedition in others by burning their draft cards or defaming and disgracing the American Flag. We must stop coddling the breakers of our laws — making up excuses for them — looking complacently the other way because it is safer and easier to ignore them, or because it is politically expedient to do so.
We have tried the soft approach, and many of us hoped it would make conditions better. This has failed. Conditions have become worse, not better, and they are growing worse with every passing day.
We must grow tougher in our approach and we must tighten our financial belt.
We must rediscover for ourselves — and teach to others — the truth that freedom is inseparable from responsibility. It is a difficult thing to win — freedom; but it is even more difficult to live with it — and still more difficult, we are finding, for the individual to keep it.
A Firm Foundation
Freedom is indivisible. Any so-called freedom that impairs and impedes the legitimate freedom of others is tyranny — whether it be in the form of an all-powerful dictator, or whether it be in the form of an arrogant, oppressive, and bigoted power structure, or whether it be in the form of a violent, lazy, selfish, irreverent, and unpatriotic minority.
History has shown us that great advances have been made in civilization where there has been an acceptance of citizenship responsibility by a broad group of people on a grass roots basis. The ancient empires of Rome and Greece, for example, achieved their initial greatness when individual citizens provided advancement in such areas as science, medicine, judicial matters, education, and economic trade. Great cities in which the citizens both took pride and accepted responsibility were the foundation of these empires of the past. However, as the central governments became more and more powerful, the citizenship of the cities and the countryside abdicated their responsibilities to provide for their own progress and welfare to these central governments. Arrogant and improperly motivated but strong central governments resulted and contributed to the eventual crumbling of once great civilizations, leaving only the ruins of once great structures of marble and stone.
We must not let history repeat itself, as it sometimes has a habit of doing. We must learn from the past and realize that preservation of the integrity and dignity of each man as an individual is vital. The only avenue for the preservation of our way of life and its improvement for our fellow men lies not in more reliance upon our central government in Washington, but in the acceptance of citizenship responsibilities at the grass roots level by as many people as can be motivated to do so.
A responsible citizen is one who is aware of the creative nature of man. Of all the creatures that inhabit the earth, man is the only one that is not content to merely exist in his environment. God has given men the mental capacity to alter or change their environment. Our Christian training and background teaches us that this superior ability should be directed toward improving life for our fellow beings on earth. In this sense each one of us has a responsibility to be creative; that is, to make whatever contribution we can as individuals toward maintaining and improving the environment of our society as a whole. Unfortunately, too many of us have been leaving this responsibility to others, or worse still, have been abdicating it to the questionable leadership of a coalition of professional politicians and fogheaded, theoretical economists.
Implementing Good Intentions
I think most of us have good intentions, but we have let ourselves become so preoccupied with our own personal day-to-day problems and pleasures that we have neglected our individual obligation for active participation and involvement in those affairs of society as a whole which are shaping the destiny of our country. Good intentions and lofty desires in themselves will not solve the problems that face us today.
The trouble with so many of us is that we are always getting ready to act instead of acting; we are getting ready to participate but never really participate in public affairs.
The psychologist, William Moulton Marston, once asked 3,000 persons this question: "What have you to live for?" He was shocked to find out 94 per cent were simply enduring the present while they waited for the future. They were waiting for something to happen, waiting for the children to grow up, waiting for next year. They were waiting for another time to take a long dreamed-about trip, waiting for someone to die, waiting for tomorrow without realizing that all anyone has for certain is today!
The financial mess that we find our country in today, the violence and unrest on the domestic scene, the muddled foreign policy, the soaring crime rate, the disregard for law and order — these things haven’t been created overnight. A major trouble is that when these trends started and have progressed, too many of us have been waiting it out — hoping the trends would change — leaving the problem to others.
Each day offers us opportunities and one of life’s most precious possessions, time itself. It is a shame to forever lose and waste these most valued elements of our lives by procrastination, while our society moves headlong toward disaster. Resolve on every day of your life to give full attention to the moment right at hand, for life is made up of moments at hand, and only in this way can you live your life to the fullest, and fulfill your responsibilities as a creative citizen.
Conditions are not going to change because we want them to. The only hope for change is for you and me, and thousands of others like us, to start sounding off about matters of public interest. There must be another voice heard besides that of the Black Power mobsters and their intellectual companions. Nobody can do our part, as small as it may be, but you and me!