If you were to believe everything that you were told about contemporary culture, then you may well consider that marriage and long term union are increasingly irrelevant amongst the citizens of today. As the divorce rate in the US remains one of the highest in western civilization, with a rising number of couples also choosing not to marry before they commence a family, it is easy to draw the conclusion that individuals are finding it harder than ever to begin and remain in a stable and committed relationship.

While the situation is not as bad as often reported in the media, there are still concerns surrounding modern relationships and the evolving structure of family units. In particular, these concerns focus on the vast numbers of failing marriages and subsequent swathes of broken families, which impacts heavily on affiliated children and creates a distorted view of family for the younger generation. What further complicates the issue is that a different perspective is often held by different genders, making many problems potentially divisive and extremely difficult to resolve.

The Evolution of Equality

Ironically, one of the main issues in modern relationships is also something that has been of huge benefit to society as a whole. This is equality, which has evolved gradually over the last century to deliver equal rights and living standards to female members of society, and subsequently served to change the accepted dynamics within a relationship. While no fair minded individual could deny the positive impact of equality on society, it has posed issues to couples of a particular generation with regards to their roles and expectations.

Religion has and always will retain a significant place in contemporary culture, as various bodies of faith foster a philosophy of living for their followers. This involves the worship of specific religious icons and different perceptions of literature, which are combined to create an overall belief system and core personal values. These are important, as they govern how an individual lives their life and the moral code of conduct that they choose to adhere to, giving their existence a clear direction that is orientated by faith and cultivated belief.

However, various religions have witnessed significant changes to their ethos and attitudes in recent times, either through an adaptation to social circumstance or the development of extremist factors. While several of these changes are welcomed by many as hugely beneficial, there is a growing concern that they are rendering the religion that they represent increasingly irrelevant.

The Nature of Religious Belief

Catholicism is an excellent example of a religion that has struggled in the contemporary age, and in time being forced to address their values and attitudes to life. If we consider the concept of abortion, which was widely condemned in the faith for generations, then we see that conditions are now being applied by the religion in an attempt to accept it as a part of liberal existence.

Currently, the political climate in the US is an unstable and divisive one, as scores of citizens protest against infringements of their rights and restricted economic conditions. An inevitable consequence of this is that the nations media has become a veritable conduit for negative and damaging news stories, helping only to further cultivate the existing mood of depression and social tension. However, these reports only serve to worsen an existing social perception, and often undermine the better aspects of daily existence that help to improve peoples standards of living.

An example of such good deeds is the Underheard in New York’ project, which was prevalent in the news this week after helping to reunite a homeless man with his estranged daughter of 11 years. The scheme, which aims to give homeless individuals a voice by creating social networking accounts and giving them a prepaid mobile telephone, is a continuing entity that gives unfortunate individuals an opportunity to make tentative steps as interactives member of society.

The Good of Social Networking

Quite aside from assisting and improving the standard of living in US society, this project has also helped to reveal the role that advanced social networking can play in delivering a healthy contribution to interaction. The practice of social networking through a virtual medium is one which is often maligned as potentially disruptive, but this is largely due to the negative perception generated by media reports of instances of abuse or malpractice by users.

The concept of a multicultural population is not new in terms of its principles, and through history there have been several prominent and forward thinking individuals who have sought to remove cultural barriers in society. This is with a view to integrating all cultures and belief systems within the boundaries of nations, where citizens will live, work and procreate in harmony and without the pressures of social prejudice regardless of their creed. However, while the concept is not new, it is still one that is at the mercy of an unstable global climate and the attitudes of civilians.

Interestingly, contemporary culture has seen a significant example of a global community, and how it has contributed to a vast improvement in an individuals ability to access information, interact and seek out truth. Of course, this refers to the World Wide Web and the online revolution, which over the last 2 decades has modified the methodology that we use to undertake both everyday and complex tasks alike. This should serve as an example of how a global community can succeed, regardless of the vast differences between the virtual and the real worlds.

How the Internet Provides Hope for the Future

When a society or faction of people are exposed to something on a frequent and daily basis, it begins to lose its mystique, regardless of its capabilities and the potential for growth. It is human nature to take for granted anything that resides as a permanent cultural or social fixture, especially in an age where brand new media and technological advancements are being made with impressive frequency. However, if we consider the mechanics of the internet and what it has the potential to deliver to its users, then its possibilities suddenly become endless and unlimited.

To anyone fair minded who has the vision to see beyond their own generation, the ideal of democratic rule is the only reasonable method of government. In essence, it is government for the people by the people, and allows individuals within a society to elect their chosen political leaders while still retaining a voice and a right to protest. In theory, this should create a society of citizens who are entirely satisfied and comfortable with their nations rule, and one that is both progressive and in touch with each others needs.

However, there are issues with this ethos which lead to independent conflicts between individual factions of society and the government, which are being seen increasingly throughout contemporary USA. The main problem is that while democracy affords a voice to the society that it governs, it can not take into account each individual element of the population and the subsequent consequences of several subjective demands. This puts a strain on any liberal rule, as it is impossible to create legislation that satisfies everyone.

Fighting for Multiculturalism

Aside form the current events throughout the US, the are other underlying issues that support this theory. If we assess the continued strides multiculturalism, then we see a nation that is divided in its attitudes towards the concept, especially in specific geographically areas where both racial diversity and resource is minimal. Recent global events have only served to create even more conflict between those who support and those who disapprove of multiculturalism.

For those who only retain a passing interest in the current affairs of the US, they may well be aware of a certain level of hostility that presently exists between the government and its citizens. As online and television media continue to report the closing of schools, budget cuts and a continual rise in poverty across the southern belt line of the country, it is easy to assume that the nation is currently trapped in a cycle of slow economic growth and increasing social frustration.

However, to those who keep their finger pressed firmly against the pulse of US developments, there is a growing impression that the nation is faced with one of the most challenging sets of domestic circumstance in its recent history. Given the US states efforts to integrate cultures and reduce a debilitating national deficit simultaneously, they are faced with difficult confrontations with several factions of society, each with their own concerns about the future of the country and its direction.

The Perils of Contemporary Democracy

While some of these concerns are valid, others appear to be based on ill considered or disagreeable values, and herein lies the significant battle that democracy is forced to wager on a regular basis. Each individual or section of society has an audible voice, afforded to them by the privileges of democratic rule, and this remains intact regardless of the validity or potential consequence of their assertions. With the country in a seemingly permanent state of transition, this state of affairs is likely to worsen before it begins to foster the society it desires.

When a country is at the mercy of fiscal or social constraints, it is inevitable that a faction of its citizens will react in an emotive manner. This is indicative of any society, where certain personality types are prone to the acts of irrational and impulsive behavior. However, while this is accepted as the consequence of enhanced stress and a challenged standard of living, recent statistics have suggested that an increasing number of hate groups are emerging throughout the US.

The term ‘hate group’ is a rather generic and vague media term, but in fact applies to several different demographics of society. These groups are essentially radical right wing ensembles, who generally stand against various types of government and government reforms. Patriot and Nativist groups are relevant examples active in contemporary American culture, and share the common if misguided notion that the US state is their primary enemy.

The Facts of Right Wing Groups

The statistics are indeed significant, and reveal that 2010 saw a vast 7.5 percent increase in the number of hate groups who operated within US boundaries. It is estimated that 1002 hate groups are now active and progressive in the country, and this is the first time since these statistics have been tracked that over 1000 individual groups have been recorded. This number is startling with regards to both its volume and its presence in a liberal society, and points towards an increasingly dissatisfied public.

There have been varying stories in the media in the formative months of 2011 that have questioned the application of democratic values in the US, and whether various governing and educational bodies are losing sight of the principles that discern a liberal rule. In particular, there appear to be issues concerning individuals who fully utilize their rights to free speech and independence of thought, especially those which infringe on the accepted conventions of society.

On the back of the news that a US teacher was temporarily suspended for expressing her opinions on her profession through an online blog, a Michigan high school this week moved to announce a gender neutral prom court for their students this Spring. This is as a reaction to an incident which first took place last fall, where a transgendered student was stripped of the homecoming king title he had been awarded by his peers.

Understanding the Restrictions on Liberal Rule

The latter set of circumstances have drawn mixed emotions from those involved, and serious criticism for the schools governing principles. Firstly, their decision to deny the student the title he had earned in the first instance was dubious in terms of its democratic merit, and their response to change the entire tradition of prom court structure seems little more than an act of ill considered political correctness to avoid negative press coverage.

For those who believe wholeheartedly in the principles of democracy and liberal government, the freedom of speech is something that should subsist without any restriction or imparted conditioning. It is an accepted privilege of democratic rule, that allows individuals to express their thoughts and feelings without the fear of censorship or reprisal, and also affords them the freedom to access information in order to aid an independent quest for knowledge and wisdom.

However, if the core values of democracy are to be maintained entirely, then the freedom of speech and expression must be upheld without exception and in every viable social circumstance. If this is not the case, then the concept becomes one that actually opposes liberal rule, especially in situations where individuals are censored or punished for revealing views which are deemed to be controversial or potentially divisive. The question is whether free speech is an unconditional feature of democracy, or any applicable to those who have nothing to say.

A Case in Point

An example of this issue unfolded in the US this week, as a high school English teacher was suspending for expressing her anger and frustration on an internet blog. The text contained numerous disrespectful or insulting insinuations towards her students and the methods of teaching in contemporary society, although the writer refrained from making specific references to their place of work or individual students.

If you consider the intricacies of democratic government, then there is no doubting the size of the tasks that face officlals in the US and similar civilized societies. From attempting to represent their citizens in the most fair and balanced way to seeking to impart the principles of democracy on affiliate countries afflicted by war and by conflict, their resources are often stretched in an attempt to create a more functional world and individual societies within.

While their intentions are good, you can not help but question whether the same democratic principles that define them are also taken advantage of by certain factions of society. As the US government look to battle a range of financial and health issues, they must face up to two especially prevalent aspects of contemporary culture. Firstly, that they are unable to appease everyone in a country of such diverse cultures and requirements, and secondly that a consequence of liberal government is the diminishing of personal responsibility.

Changing Circumstance Through Education

To give an example of the inhospitable situation that democratic officials find themselves in, you need only address the range of social issues that currently blight local and global societies. As obesity, consumer debt and instances of violent crime have shown general levels of oncreae over the last 3 years, there has been intense pressure to create resolutions and move the country forward. However, there is often little done to question the individuals own responsibliltiy for their personal plight, leaving them largely absolved an any accountability.

As time progresses we are subject to the continual evolution of research, science and technology. This advancement has both advantages and disadvantages affiliated to it, as its processes impact every aspect of contemporary society. With evolution comes change, and modifications to the way in which everyday routines are conducted. This change is itself challenging to an older and less respondent generation, especially given the rapid pace with which it continues to effect and amend daily activity.

Aside from the corporeal changes to conduct and routine, there are other and less obvious consequences caused by the technological evolution. Communication and independent thinking are also influenced, especially by the growth of social networking sites and the way in which they encourage interaction between its members. This is potential divisive to inter-generational relationships, with parents finding it increasingly difficult to communicate with and understand the thought processes of their children.

Respecting the Knowledge of Contemporary Children

The processes of communication and mutual understanding are the foundation of any successful parent and child relationship. Developing this can be difficult enough due to the large generational variance, however the problem is intensified further where the environments in which each generation were raised is so diverse. Basically, this is the most significant issue concerning the pace of progression, as it renders particular generations of society entirely at odds with each other in terms of behavioral and thinking trends.

One of the most contentious issues that surrounds the World Wide Web is the surfeit of information that can be published and accessed by anyone. The intended purpose of the Internets swathes of resource is to empower and educate individuals within society, and prevent them with the factual data, opinion and objective information to aid them in an individual quest for wisdom. This is with a view to liberating society and giving each individual member the tools to further their own education on desired subjects.

To this end, Wikileaks is an international non profit organization that was founded in 2006, and strives to deliver anonymous submissions of private and covert news to a wide and uncensored audience. As they protect the source of the information they are able to seek and publish highly controversial and topical information, which is served in the greater interest of keeping the public updated with relevant data. In keeping with the nature of their operation, they have been involved at the centre of several well documented international incidents.

Freedom of Speech and its Consequences

If anything, Wikileaks is the evocation of the freedom of speech and democratic values. In its purest form, it provides a platform through which it is able to deliver entirely relevant information that would otherwise be suppressed and censored by government bodies. In effect, it takes control away from governments who wish to control what information is fed to society, and ensures that people are empowered to be as informed as they wish to be. Of course, this concept is one that has produced a vast differential in terms of its reception and response.

Of all the senstive issues which determine the success of a relationship between a government and its subjects, religion remains one of the most pertinent. These issues are enhanced in a multicultural age, as several diametrically opposed faiths and cultures subsist within a single society. Governments are therefore faced with the increasingly difficult task of finding an acute equilbrium between serving the practical needs of society and satisfying religious requirements, and there have been notable examples of conflicts emerging from particular instances.

What many faiths and bodies fail to understand are the pressures that face a government in a democratic society. Recently, a school in Michigan was forced to make a judgement concerning a Sikh student who wished to wear the kirpan, which is a small religious dagger that represents a traditional commitment to fight evil. A ban was placed on these items being worn in December due to the items being considered as potential weapons, but this was overturned after being deemed unneceesary and unconstitutional.

Against the Principles of America

The concept of religious symbols and affiliated wear is a good place to start on this issue, as there are vastly different approaches throughout western culture to regulating their usage. Governing bodies in France and similar western european countries have reacted to increasing religious uncertaintly by imposing a widespread ban on the wearing of religious garments in schools and public auditoriums, in an attempt to difuse tensions and public displays of affiliation. Similarly, a UK air stewardess was sacked for refusing to remove her crucifix during service, after the airline recieved complaints from various passengers and acted upon them.

Every fair minded and reasonable individual would advocate a democratic society, and champion a government regime that takes its peoples opinions and needs into consideration. This guarantees that a government acts in the interests of society at large, and implements legislation and policy to protect and serve the voting demographic that brought them to power in the first instance. While this is not only desirable for individual countries and communities, it would be wrong to suggest that this methodology of rule would not improve the perilous and hostile state of the world and its factions at large.

With this in mind, it is natural that many of the democratic super powers in the world seek to intervene and impart the democratic wisdom on others, and often go to great lengths to modify countries regimes to comply with their own. The US and the UK have historically taken a keen interest in foreign politics and regimes, both as a way of ensuring the safety of a global community and improving international politics at large. However, as western culture strives to battle hampered economic growth and frequent instances of violent crime, there is growing concern that domestic issues are not receiving the attention they deserve.

The Demands of Foreign Policy

The recent unrest and political protests in Egypt have only served to highlight the vast and significant role that the US continues to play in global peace. While reducing its representative presence of diplomats in the country, it is continuing to pledge aid and support to Egypt during its period of transition. In addition to this, the US is seeking to take a keen and considered interest in political reform in the country, by encouraging diplomatic values and the regulated processes of election.

What became apparent however was the sense of community and togetherness that had been fostered through hardship, as countless residents gathered to assist the Red Cross operatives at the scene. This reflected an incredible selflessness of character, as individuals put their own issues and suffering aside to help the rescue efforts and clear the debris from the roads and man the refuge centers and facilities.

The Community in its Traditional Sense

This reaction and communal spirit displayed in common is the instances of emergency and natural disaster, and serves as a comforting reminder of the best side of human nature and behaviour. However, this sense of community and selfless distribution of time raises another question, as it is at odds with the behaviour and conduct witnessed in every day life and contemporary society.

As long as they have existed, correctional facilities have been discussed in terms of their exact purpose and levels of effectiveness. Such dialogue often concerns the actual purpose that a prison should serve, whether it is to punish a criminal for their conduct or to focus on rehabilitating them to ensure a successful return into society. In an ideal world, a correctional facility would meet both of these requirements, but the truth remains that it is exceptionally difficult to strike a harmonious balance between such diverse aspirations.

The secondary issue centers on how effective correctional facilities are in achieving either aim. As contemporary facilities have leant towards rehabilitation and modifying values and behaviour through learning, there has been criticism that this ethos actually creates an environment that is far too comfortable for inmates and convicted felons. Such an atmosphere does little to encourage a criminal to learn or change their conduct, nor does it act as any form of punishment for a particular crime that has been committed.

Crime and Punishment

Many correctional facilities across the world are designed with different concepts and ideologies in mind. In Eastern European and Asian cultures, such facilities are feared and renowned for appalling conditions and brutality, whereas western prisons are far more developed and built to suit rehabilitation and personal improvement. Each has their own sets of supporters and critics, but it is the western and US correctional facilities that are considered the most effective in a civilized society.

Of all the criminal activity that causes concern amongst society, it is undoubtedly violent crime that remains the most pertinent. The statistics for violent crime in the US have fluctuated over the previous 20 years, rising, falling and then rising again since the turn of the century. There were an estimated 1.8 million instances of violent crime reported in 1995, which reduced to 1.3 million in 2003. This approximate figure has risen again to more than 1.4 million in 2009, prompting concerns of a further increase and gradual decline of social conditions.

There have been several theories forwarded for increased violence amongst society’s members, some of which have been developed since an initial explosion of violent felonies in the 1960’s. The most forward thinking and relevant today is George Gerner’s renowned cultivation theory, which emerged from his experiments and research conducted over a 20 year period. His project involved looking at the effects of television and social media has on impressionable young minds, and their reaction and understanding of concepts such as politics, ideology and violence.

A Relevant and Innovative Study

The reason that Gerbner’s work remains so relevant is the focus from contemporary society on the frequency with which young children play video games. The development of games consoles and games with violent tendencies began to peak in the early 1990’s, coinciding with the sudden increase in instances of violent crime. Gerbner’s studies examined television and media outlets in how they influenced people’s thoughts and actions, and although violence and the effects of violence were a portion of his work, his findings were significant none the less.

With instances of fraud and violent crime remaining unacceptably high through 2009 and early 2010, there is an ever intensive focus on US laws and legislation to help resolve criminal behavioural trends. However, there is another factor which influences criminal acts and conduct, one which remains less defined and yet potentially more pertinent, and this is the concept of personal morality. Completely individual to each person, these nurtured principles govern an independent philosophy of living, and help determine which acts a conscience deems acceptable and righteous. With this in mind, it is fair to question the validity of strict and detailed law when confronted with an individual’s own standards of morality.

Acknowledging Morality as a Factor in Criminal Behaviour

If we consider their core definitions, laws and morals are essentially as one. Both are sets of principles that govern what actions are deemed to be acceptable and righteous, and act as a code by which we conduct our lives and daily affairs. However, whereas laws are set by government legislation to serve society as a single entity, morals are unique to each separate member of that society. They are conditional, influenced by nature, upbringing and most crucially the surrounding environment and circumstance that an individual finds themselves in at any given time. Morals are the most malleable to a subjects situation, and are therefore are often the primary principles by which conduct is orientated. This means that in order for laws to effectively govern a society, they must serve two specific purposes: firstly, to recognise the role of morality in certain criminal offences, and secondly to ensure that such actions are met with swift and consistent consequences.

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