The Undeclared War

As I took my daily two-mile walk the other day, I couldn’t help noticing the the beautiful countryside I was passing.  red top frmAcross the way was Red Top Farm, a pastoral piece of land featuring a large pond, farm house and barn, and a half-dozen-or-so horses grazing in the grass of its gently sloping pastures.  Conversely, opposite the farm, all along the far shoulder of the road, was a landscape decorated with every form of litter known to man.  Road LitterBeer bottles, soft drink cans, and fast food containers were the major culprits, discarded by people with no regard for their actions.  It was heartbreaking.

The Breeding Ground

What’s this got to do with a war? you ask. Everything! I respond.  Littering is simply the most easily observed example of the last war we will ever fight: Civilization vs. Anarchy. There are more aspects of this conflict in evidence, but to see them we must dig a little deeper.  Let’s start with the entertainment industry.  Which TV shows are the most popular?  Shows like The Sopranos (the study of a mafia family), Breaking Bad (high school chemistry teacher turned meth dealer), Lost (a bunch of marooned individuals doing whatever it takes to triumph over the others, at all costs), 24 (a post 9/11 struggle against terrorists), The Wire (exploring broken bureaucracy, dirty politics, and news media shortfalls), Freaks and Geeks (focusing on the lives of social outcasts in high school), and Shameless (featuring a dysfunctional family, headed by an alcoholic father). One thing all of these shows have in common is the glorification of anti-social behavior. They’re all uncivilized.  We love to watch criminals and the socially downtrodden on shows like Cops, Alaska State Troopers, and Cajun Justice.  Even the art of making bootleg whiskey has a show about it called Moonshiners.  Comedies like Seinfeld, Friends, and Curb Your Enthusiasm all promote humor via name calling and character assassination.  The more anti-social the activity, the better we like it.  

Government’s Role

Without getting partisan, politics is another prime example of the lack of regard for civility and tradition.  If Presidents don’t like the laws legislated by Congress, they use questionable executive orders to bypass the will of the people.  Eminent domain, the process of taking private land for public use, traditionally used almost exclusively for railroad and highway development, is now routinely co-opted for the purposes of commercial development, and camouflaged as being in the best “interest of the public.” Have you received a speeding ticket lately?  Good chance you were given the opportunity to avoid an insurance increase by paying a substantial fine and entering a “plea for forgiveness” (just another term for a bribe that ends up in a municipality’s coffers). Internationally, the major “civilized” countries in the world make “the worst deal imaginable” with Iran, regarding its nuclear program, despite the fact that it is the premier supporter of terrorism around the globe.  Why?  Because the deal allowed Iran to regain control of nearly one hundred and fifty billion dollars.  Immediately, multi-national corporations with no principles and no allegiance to anyone but their stockholders began lining up do business with the corrupt Middle Eastern country.  Just another example of uncivilized behavior. 

Schools Not Helping

In our nation’s schools, parents who fail to take responsibility for the lack of attention they give to their children’s schoolwork shift the blame to teachers for the pupil’s failure.  The teachers, defenseless against the pressure of school board members devoid of principle, succumb to those same parents, and promote students who should be retained.  Rules don’t matter anymore.  Ironically, lawyers have contributed heavily to our collective disdain for the law by searching for and finding every conceivable loophole available to win in court.  Notice I said win.  I didn’t say to achieve justice.  It’s all about winning, no matter what it takes (think OJ).  Civilization is becoming a fading memory. There’s a sense of hopelessness that dominates the social landscape.  Right now, we’re losing the war.  We are slipping and sliding toward lawlessness.  “But there’s nothing we can do about it,” we complain.  “What can one individual do?” we ask, rhetorically, without really expecting an answer.

Making a Difference

And that brings us back to litter.  Start with litter.  Every time you see a bottle, a piece of paper, or a can strewn along the roadside, pick it up whenever you can.  Encourage others to do likewise.  Consider each container retrieved from the side of the road a shot fired over the bow of those we are fighting.  Each time you feel prone to blame your bad behavior on someone or something else, stop and consider whether the problem might not lie with you.  Take responsibility for every aspect of your life.  If you don’t like a particular TV show that “everybody watches,” don’t watch it.  Choose to read a book instead, or listen to some classical music.  Civilization is nothing more than a collective term for all of us! We are civilization, and we can make a difference—if we choose to!

Now go turn off that TV show with the R rating for language, violence, and brief nudity, then turn on your iPod or CD player, and listen to Mozart, Ravel, or Tchaikovsky.  There, don’t you feel more civilized already?

What do you think?  Are we becoming less civilized?  Is it too late to stop our decline?  Leave a comment and tell us what you think.
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About AuthorJoePerroneJr

I am a former professional fly-fishing guide, and I write the Matt Davis Mystery Series, which presently consists of five books: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day, Twice Bitten, Broken Promises and Deadly Ransom. The series is set in the real town of Roscoe, NY, in the Catskill Mountains, where I guided for ten years. I love fly fishing, movies, cooking (and eating), and music. To learn more about me and my writing, please visit my website at:
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10 Responses to The Undeclared War

  1. There are too many thoughtful points made in your essay to comment upon in one response. A friend on mine once said, “Without self-respect there can be no respect for others.” So many people demonstrate no sense of self-respect. Look at their physical appearance, clothing, how they conduct themselves in public places and …

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree with the “self respect” aspect of your remarks. As a nation, we have also lost our self esteem, which, in turn, is reflected in our lower standing among the nations of the world. It’s time to raise ourselves up again, and get back some of our national self respect.


  2. Loved your article, Joe. This is just an aside: You cite good teachers and it brought to mind a female high school teacher I had, known for being strict. On the first day in her class, some of my fellow students continued to talk after the late bell rang. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the teacher—ranting, raving, yelling. But she simply stared at those students with a killer gaze, not saying a word, until finally they got the message and class began. I can’t imagine that scenario today. Maybe it would work, but something tells me the kids would enjoy taunting the teacher and get totally out of hand. I hope I’m wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Allie P. says:

    I do feel for the teachers in particular who are placed in that position. At the risk of coming across as socialist, it would be nice if there was greater assistance when it comes to daycare or more flexibility for working parents so that so that parents don’t have the massive financial incentive to send their kids to school before they are ready, or to keep them in a program that just isn’t suited for their child.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Providing some form of day care for working parents ought not to be construed as “socialism” (at least by me). My granddaughter goes to day care (not free, of course), but fortunately her parents can afford it. I agree that there are many working parents who could use a helping hand with that expense. I think many larger communities could probably factor in a way to provide some by allowing for it in their tax budgets, or perhaps the federal government could provide some form of tax relief or tax credit for it (maybe it already does; I’m old, so I’m not too familiar with that issue on a personal basis). I may be a bit old fashioned, but I kind of liked it back when I was a kid and mother’s stayed home, and father’s were the main source of income. We definitely had less in the way of material possessions, but the trade off was a more closely knit family life. But . . . having said that (here it comes), we can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Tap . . . Tap . . . Tap. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Allie P. says:

        I would love love love to go back to single working parent as a norm (either mother or father) but alas that is simply not an option especially when you start also factoring in care for aging parents. I am truly blessed to live so close to my mom, stepdad, and sister so I have a strong support network. Too many others don’t.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I totally agree, Allie. I was so fortunate to grow up when I did, and especially to have had grandparents who were valued so very much. You seem to have a very good set of values, and I always enjoy hearing your opinions on things. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Don Brann says:


    This is an example of your greatest work. I was brought up in the pits of NYC, the Bronx, yet we were taught the simple truth. You and only you, are responsible for your behavior, so act like you realize it!

    Of course, in the late 20’s, early 30’s, it was a different time.

    The young kids of today have no sense of personal responsibility and while parents do not teach it, neither do teachers.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Don. I grew up in the federal housing projects in Brooklyn. The residents all were relatively poor, but that didn’t matter. We did not litter. My brother and I were taught personal responsibility by our parents. We didn’t fear the police, either. We were taught that the policeman was our friend, and we learned to trust the policeman if there was trouble. The bottom line is that if children aren’t taught personal responsibility as children, they will grow up to become personally irresponsible adults. It’s the parents’ responsibility, not the teacher’s . . . but a good teacher (of which I had many) can reinforce it, if by no other way than by example.


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