Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Self Discipline, Focused Goals Needed For Information Age

February 26, 2007

We live in a breathtaking age of information that is revolutionizing the way we live. Recent telecommunication breakthroughs have gone from fax machines, cellular phones and email to Ipods, BlackBerries, Podcasting, Blogging, YouTube, MySpace, and HDTV. We google earth and each other.

How information changes the world. The world is literally at our fingertips through the Internet and the lightning speed of modern news gathering organizations. We can receive a world class education in our homes.

- Countries can't defend their borders against the onslaught of new knowledge. This is revolutionizing cultures, economies, science, governments, and relationships. The world is becoming a global village.

Asia catches the flu and the western world worries about pneumonia. Asia flexes its economic muscle and we shudder. We integrate third world economies as suppliers of cheap labor and products. We export entertainment and high end goods and services and educate the elite of the world.

- Organizations have become democratized, more efficient and consolidated into larger and larger competitive entities. New markets are limited only by lack of imagination.

- We know more about our bodies and the environment that sustains us. We are revolting against tobacco, drunk driving, drugs, fat and pollution. We have discovered wellness, exercise and nutrition. We are awash in self-improvement books about relationships, intimacy, recovery and spiritual uplift. We are counseled to live our lives in balance. The good are becoming better.

Health care is a marvel despite its big price tag. Medicine continues to lengthen and enrich lives as its price tag threatens economies.

Declining moral values. Despite all this new knowledge, the world is becoming more aimless and antisocial. The entertainment industry markets ever-increasing numbers of distractions that masquerade as real living. In the midst of stunning and highly moral uses of video technology to lift and inspire us, we have a dizzying array of trash and evil. It is memorable only by its quantity.

- Violence, ill-mannered discourse and impulsive self-gratification abound in theaters, on television and in video stores. Sex is packaged in bolder, rawer and less loving displays - exhibitionally portrayed well outside of traditional marriage.

- Pornography floods the Internet and seeps into homes and minds where it doesn’t belong. It reeks havoc, misery, addiction and broken-hearts.

- Gambling, formally confined to Nevada and Atlantic City, is as close as your nearest Native American or riverboat casino. Gambling is state sponsored and promoted. Internet gambling is as available as your computer.

- Hollywood and its celebrities decide smoking is cool and edgy and quickly young minds are impressed and imitate. Living together has become an acceptable form of dating.

- We are lured into passivity, material consumption and spectator mentality. Sports can be a time robbing obsession as powerful as any other obsession. Computer games become personal obsessions for both young and old. We apparently need a harder and hard fix of arousal of emotions and sensations to supplement lives that lack active learning, growth, service, contemplation, worship, and loving relationships.

The challenge: The knowledge explosion accelerates economic dislocation and change. Skills, industries and companies can quickly become obsolete. The global economy creates its own brand of stress and pressure. The need to learn and keep up will be even greater in the midst of the information explosion. There will be a premium on flexibility and education.

- Self discipline and focused goals will become essential to keep us from drowning in this sea of information. Without purpose or attention, we yield to a world of trivia. We already waste huge chunks of time on dazzling home entertainment systems and big screen TVs. If we compulsively add surfing the Internet to channel surfing, we subtract time from other worthwhile activities and relationships.

- We need to be self-disciplined and clear about the values of life we are living. We live in a self-indulgent world. Our children suffer from a subtle emotional neglect as they gravitate to this entertainment focused lifestyle. Many modern teens and young adults feel uneasy and bored with the normal course of life.

- Parents need to be strong themselves so they can offer strength and direction to children who are in desperate need of identity and structure. We need to label evil "evil" and not be seduced by it. Children do not raise themselves, especially in this media-saturated world.

Workaholism and materialism rob time from important relationships. What is all that striving about? If it is about self instead of love and service to family and community, it is a blind alley. Actually, it is more like a super freeway with no speed limit and glittery, inconsequential destinations.

- It is in family, friendships, marriage, parenting and grandparenting that we find true joy. It is in service to others that we learn to love. Wealth, talent and knowledge need purpose. Talents and accomplishment can flourish within a context of a family, spiritual and community-oriented life.

- Modern technology unlocks the door to goodness as well as a Pandora's box of evils. Does the tail wag the dog or does the dog wag the tail? The challenge is to take the good from technology and use it for good. To be passive and directionless in times like these will cause people to fritter away their precious lives on that which is of no worth.