The images and stories that top the list of influence in our culture are packaged by Hollywood and the entertainment industry in the form of movies, music, pornography and gambling. These “recreational” exposures are shaping the values and character of our culture, and more subtly, that of our next generation.
The film in our mind’s camera portrays the choice of our exposure. Like film we reflect the image of what we “click” on. The imprint is indelibly fixed to mold and shape our mind, emotions and behavior. We become what we choose to see and think. Our god is whatever preoccupies our thoughts and shapes our choices and values.
The profound impact of story content and imagery on the minds and psyche of our culture, particularly our young people, has far reaching implications. We are being more shaped by our culture than we are molding and shaping our culture. The drift is without a rudder on a sea of uncertainty just blowin’ in the wind at the mercy of the current.
On a recent trip to Asia I encountered a merchant that asked, “Are all Americans rich, greedy and sex crazy?” I asked him where he got that idea and he said, “TV, movies and the Internet.” This perception or misperception, however you view it, is reality to them and is now coming back to bite us like a giant viper. “Our entertainment industry is the number one culprit,” according to Mortimer Zuckerman, Editor of U.S. News and World Report.
The entertainment industry is driven by what sells. The images projected by pornography, promiscuity, arrogance, greed and moral decadence all leave a residual odor wafting around the world which clouds the virtues of freedom, democracy and opportunity. The lost values of what is good, pure, true and noble have given us a dark side image obscuring our virtues.
President Obama said at Hampton University in southeastern Virginia, “iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations become a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,”
Has America, once the envy of the world, become the enmity of the world? Should we be surprised by the growing hatred and America bashing? Have we not given the Al-Qaida reason for their violent revolutionary theory and practice? Our democratic message of liberty without responsibility and moral substance seems hollow and hypocritical.
PEW Research Center published their thirteen country poll which clearly shows America’s image in decline. “Favorable opinion of the United States has fallen in most of the countries surveyed. It has dropped most dramatically in Europe, India, Indonesia and especially in Middle East countries.”
Listen and you will hear the foreign voices saying, as I have, “You Americans are preoccupied with pleasure. Your families are disintegrating. You create and peddle pornography. Your per capita crime rates top the world charts. You appear to be self righteous, greedy, arrogant bullies.” We have aided Bin Laden’s propaganda promotion and given him a weapon to recruit terrorists around the world.
America has been at its best in times of great challenge. We forge a future of hope, not by our poverty of creativity and imagination, but with a passion to turn our problems into opportunities. America’s image can be restored with friendships that refute the misperceptions of Hollywood’s fantasy as reality. How do you eat an elephant?–one bite at a time. How do we replace our bad image around the world? We engage in cross cultural relationships–one person or family at a time. We can also give Hollywood a message in the pocketbook to improve the content of their stories to build character with enduring values and virtues.
Arnold Toynbee said, “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good people to do nothing.” As individuals we cannot do everything, but each can do something. If not you, who? If not now, when? We can mold the course of events that shape our image and influence our culture and others. The Bible, the worlds best seller but often the least read, tells us, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious-the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. The Message Phillipians 4:8
One of the most treasured experiences of our family is to volunteer as a host family for foreign students studying at colleges and universities nearby. It is like the world come to our doorstep. It makes world history, geography, language, culture come alive. The exchange has great educational value and forges lasting friendships that endure for a lifetime. Our children were motivated to understand other cultures, travel and study which has enriched their lives. The true character of an ordinary family can do more for creating a true image of good will in contrast to the counter culture often projected by Hollywood.
American families, as ambassadors of good will, can inquire through their local service clubs, places of worship international relief and development organizations how to establish a cross cultural relationship match with an individual or family almost anywhere in the world.
Imagine the impact of each American doing one small thing each day to make a difference in their neighborhood, community, country and world! We can take back what has been lost. We can together create a whole new reality show of America the beautiful for the world to see. Imagine Hollywood on a new mission to restore the virtues of character and the triumph of good over evil. It has been done, it should be done and can be done. If done well it will sell and provide a much needed image adjustment for the USA.
A proven method of education is “don’t tell me–show me” This is the show we need to put on the road. Give up one hour of TV or a trip to the casino for one hour of relationship building a week and see what a world of difference you can make for yourself and others. Make that phone call to your local college, place of worship, service club or international non profit organization today and get connected to an international student or family. Check out the websites and email connections and join the revolution to restore the reality image of the true greatness of America, liberty and democracy.