Are Family Values On The Decline?

There is a deep sense of anguish and concern that pervades the hearts of all Mauritians these days.

It does not leave any one insensitive – in fact, it is disturbing. Yet it would seem that everybody is helpless faced with the growing degradation of family values in our society. The International Day of Family will be celebrated on the 15th of May. The aim is to bring the family members together, to bond them together.

From the Head of the State and the Prime Minister down to the commoner, there is like a cry of despair about the increased restlessness and violence in society, in educational institutions and within the home. Would we then agree with Eric Fromm and ask ourselves whether we are a sane society? He asked: “Can a society be sick?” What has gone wrong then? This is what he had to say: “The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots!” Is this the state we are reaching?

Mauritians are reputed to be a hospitable people with a good civic sense, barring some cases that hit the media from time to time. There is good neighbourliness feelings which are particularly seen at times of festivals and celebrations. In general people are good, stable and peace loving. One must realize that there has always been a generation gap in society. However, some decades ago, the older generations could have an upper hand on the younger ones, just as the upper classes could have domination over the weaker and those at the bottom of the ladder. But with growing education and democratization of society and human rights awareness campaigns and laws, walls have crumbled and so have the methods of control. Parental control is decried at the same time as parents are exhorted and expected to bring up their children in the best possible ways to make of them good and exemplary citizens of the world.

There are laws now for the protection of children from their parents. Parents can no longer apply the same methods of correcting their children using force or dominance as before. If they do they are discredited. The child can always have recourse to law and enter a case against them.

Who of the older generation does not remember the ever repressive ruler, the rod or cane of the teacher or the parents, or the stern look or other signs of body language which would tame or silence a recalcitrant child? These have been condemned by a seemingly ever just, progressive and avant-garde society. As a result, laxity has set in. The recent law and order stands taken by government against unruly societal behaviour has however pleased society. Then what about ‘good governance’ in the family? Do not we need equally firm and disciplinary measures regarding upbringing of unruly offspring?

It should be remembered that a couple of decades ago, there were not so many external disturbances or intrusions in the family circle. Children grew up under the care and control, and in the intimacy of their parents and grandparents. It still is so in the majority of cases. Nonetheless, today the outside world has intruded so much in the very comfort of our family hub that it detracts and brings in disturbing elements. Pornography, drugs, cigarettes and other social evils have infiltrated the homes through the social media with their negative impact, over which parents have little control.

Alcohol is a horrible scourge of our society judging by the quantum of criminal violence that it engenders. The joint family is slowly frittering away. In the stress and strain of modern life, and the competitive life style, each member of the family labours under accumulated stress. The home too has become a stressful place instead of a haven of peace, solace, comfort and love. Where to go then? TV brings in all the woes and pangs of violence, crimes, wars, terrorism and massacres. Bollywood and Hollywood, driven by their need to create more and more sensationalism, create new styles of suspense that instead of entertaining leave the nerves more jarred and the mind filled with negative impressions.

Mothers and fathers come home with all the tensions of their work situation, and children have their own strains of tuitions and assignments, and peer group pressure. Is there time to sit together and relax conveniently?

We have all types of gadgets and E-technologies at our disposal. Everybody is hooked on either to a mobile, a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet or other and newer sophisticated gadgets and games. The result is that we are cut off from nature and each other more and more. It is a life of rush and rush and more rush. Nobody disputes these gadgets. But have we become slaves to them?

Children growing in this highly strained atmosphere are bound to carry the germs of violence in their psyche. They close themselves in their rooms and shut themselves up like a clam. The result is the present explosion that seems to spill over and go beyond control, leaving everybody exasperated.

Nobody has the time or patience to listen to anybody else, whether it is at home, at work or during leisure time. Somehow, globalization, consumerism and materialism go hand in hand and if this is the culture that we have adopted based on a life full of lies and hypocrisy, then there is indeed matter for concern.

However, all is not lost. Collective wisdom and ancient values are enduring. Healthy leisure activities that can soothe the nerves like creative arts, yoga, meditation, walks in nature parks, music, dance can help to slow down the pace of frenzied activities. More togetherness and joyful living too can reduce the tension. Parents need to listen to their children and spend some quality time sharing good thoughts with them. After all, every living being is hungry for love, care and attention. A dog awaits the tender care and pat of his owner. A cat will cuddle in your lap with the mere caress of your hand. Even domesticated pets like ducks and other parrots respond to human love and touch.

Then how much more human beings, whether adult or child, ache to be loved, to be cared for, to be listened to? How much more rewarding it would be if we could have the patience to listen to our elders and youngsters equally and care for them instead of getting irritated or impatient with their demands? The pace of life is like an infernal machine that no one can stop.

Caring and sharing remain eternal values that have no substitute. What would bring an immense change in attitude and the joy of living among our youngsters? It is teaching them: to be less selfish in their needs and wants; to be more accommodative, honest, self-disciplined; to respect truth and integrity; to be more loyal to themselves and others; to devote themselves to a good cause; to be more polite and have respect for others; to have an aim in life which should be noble and valuable; and above all to believe and have abiding faith in their own selves and their ability to achieve.

Let the home and the family share more sweetness, softness, love, tenderness and understanding among its members. When people will learn to do that instead of constantly bickering over trivialities and ego-trips, the contentment generated will without doubt radiate from the home to the outside world.

* Published in print edition on 13 May 2016

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