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Jewish World Review / Dec. 1, 1998 /12 Kislev, 5759

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas Apathy and ignorance

THEOLOGIANS CALL THE STATE in which we find ourselves "contented worldliness,'' in which nothing matters except our own personal peace and affluence. In Dow Jones we trust.

In this condition, we can watch Jack Kevorkian kill another human being on television and not be bothered because ratings are high and what does life matter anyway? Coming soon, sponsored killing, brought to you by a pharmaceutical company or a national chain of funeral homes. Call it a marketing strategy. The big TV networks are losing audience. If profit is all that matters, why begrudge them if they want to update "Murder, She Wrote''?

Will a televised abortion be next? Hardly. That would be more disturbing to our comfort level than the snuffing out of an adult life. Besides, the man said he wanted to die. The baby has no say. Some people might change their minds about abortion if they saw one. That would disturb another group.

Democrats want to render a verdict on President Clinton's lying and obstruction of justice without any punishment save the "humiliation'' he has already "suffered.'' A judgment without punishment is like a speed limit with no enforcement. It is a meaningless gesture with no hope of discouraging similar behavior by this or a future president.

The recent low voter turnout guarantees a continuation of poor leadership and a weakened government not only disrespected at home (otherwise more people would have bothered to vote) but viewed with contempt abroad as Saddam Hussein listens to another "warning'' and laughs.

People are being turned off by professional sports as overpaid athletes and super-rich owners grab for even bigger pieces of the pie with complete disregard for the public. A New York Times survey found the current lock-out by owners of National Basketball Association teams has produced a wave of apathy among fans who apparently don't care if the players ever take to the court again. That's rather amazing, especially when you consider this may be Michael Jordan's last season.

That which now passes for entertainment once was defined as pornography. According to one survey I saw, Hollywood released 33 movies in September and October. Most were rated "PG-13'' or "R.'' Four were rated "PG,'' and not one was rated "G.'' Television is now banal at best and more often offensive to those who seek stimulation outside their erogenous zones. The latest Cosmopolitan magazine tells young women how to "unleash'' their lusts. I was not aware that Cosmo readers ever had their lusts leashed.

Things seemed better before we became rich and self-sufficient. Through wars, a Great Depression and uncertainty, families mostly stayed together, kept an eye out for their own and other children and invested some time to become at least minimally conversant with important political issues. The public media believed they had a civic duty to shield audiences from things that would appeal to our lower natures. People were supposed to care about things that mattered. Now, if you care about anything, you risk being labeled ``intolerant.'' Once there were more examples of people who acted out of conviction instead of trying to avoid conviction. Who now would pay any price or bear any burden? Today we are about paying no price and ridding ourselves of anything burdensome.

"Just say no'' has been replaced by "just say nothing.'' Does O.J. Simpson get off? Shrug. Will President Clinton escape accountability? Shrug. Is someone murdered on TV? Shrug.

C.S. Lewis, born 100 years ago this Nov. 29, warned that we should not be infected by our own propaganda. About prosperity, he said that it "knits a man to the world. He thinks he's 'finding his place in it,' while really it is finding its place in him.''

We are richer than ever, yet we are more impoverished than ever. We don't care about much of anything but pretend that by not caring we are not being "judgmental'' (an even worse sin, if we believed in sin, which we don't). For those who would blame Bill Clinton for this mess, they are looking at the wrong man. He's not the cause of our decadence but the result.

The old joke tells of the opinion poller who asks a woman about ignorance and apathy. "I don't know and I don't care,'' she responds. That's us. But who cares? Welcome to 1998 America!


11/19/98: Ken Starr's moment of truth
11/19/98: The fall of journalism's empire
11/17/98: Republicans drift while conservatives float
11/13/98: Supreme Courtupholds freedom of school-choice
11/10/98: The revolting Republican 'revolution'
11/06/98: Hulk Hogan for president?
11/03/98: Clinton's greatest peril isn't Monica
10/30/98: Mother Teresa was right about killing
10/27/98: Clinton to Netanyahu: 'You're despicable'
10/21/98: A 'peace' agreement: Wye not?
10/19/98: Vanity Fair snubs some of the greatest women 'leaders'
10/14/98:The mean machine
10/09/98: Impeachment: an outside perspective
10/07/98: The corruption of the Secret Service
10/02/98: Land erosion in Israel
10/01/98: The race panel: lies in black and white
9/18/98: The Clinton strategy and the Clinton legacy
9/18/98: Stopping him before he sins again
9/15/98: Repenting when the end is near
9/11/98: Faithfully executing: Congress vs. the President
9/10/98: The degrees of separation between Dan Burton and Bill Clinton
9/08/98: Joe Lieberman and the Democrats' conscience
9/04/98: Clinton vs. Reagan and the struggle for power
9/02/98: If only Bubba had been a Boy Scout
8/31/98: Liberal clergy and the Lewinsky affair
8/27/98: Combating the terrorists among us
8/25/98: The president as 'Chicken Little'
8/20/98: That was no apology
8/18/98: Big government's crab grab
8/14/98:Untruths, half-truths and anything but the truth
8/12/98: Lying under oath: past and present impeachable offenses
8/10/98: Endangered species
8/04/98: In search of an unstained president
7/31/98: The UK is ahead of US in one area...
7/28/98: Murder near and far
7/21/98: Telling the truth about
homosexual behavior
7/17/98: One Nation? Indivisible?
7/14/98: Who cares about killing when the 'good times' are rolling?
7/10/98: George W. Bush: a different 'boomer'
7/08/98: My lunch with Roy Rogers
7/06/98: News unfit to print (or broadcast)
6/30/98: Smoke gets in their eyes
6/25/98: Sugar and Spice Girls
6/19/98: William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China
6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.