A coworker and I recently had a conversation about the moral values of younger generations, Gen Z and Millennials. As a baby boomer, he emphasised the importance of traditional values like diligence, integrity, and deference to authority. Unlike these younger generetions, people from his generation were brought up to appreciate their families, communities, and countries.
He notices that the world around him now differs from the one he grew up in. He observes young people participating in actions that he views as immoral, such as drug usage, casual sex, and disdain for the law. He is astounded by how young people dress and carry themselves, with things like piercings and tattoos that were formerly frowned upon now being accepted. He was especially concerned about how younger generations value individuality above social duty and society. He says, “I’m concerned that this attitude change will harm society.”
This conversation with my coworker made me wonder if Gen Z and Millennials are contributing to what is seen to be a loss in moral principles. It’s a subject that has generated a lot of discussions and has been the subject of opposing viewpoints, both online (aka Twitter) and offline. Since significant generational disparities apparently exist in values and views, regardless of where one stands on this controversy, it’s essential to consider how these distinctions could affect our common morals and values as society develops and changes.
The emergence of Gen-Z and millennials, frequently seen as more socially liberal and politically progressive than previous generations, has resulted in increased behaviour that some perceive as morally dubious.
It is difficult to say whether there has been a decline, so to speak, in moral values. We are therefore left to interpret the growing moral acceptance of different lifestyles and ideas as either a moral advancement or a weakening of conventional ethical principles. The prominence of issues like gender identity, sexual orientation, and religious freedom has increased recently, for instance.
The dissolution of conventional social institutions is one of the leading causes of supposed moral decline. In the past, guidance and support were offered by families, religious institutions, and community organisations to help promote moral values. Yet, in today’s society, these foundations have deteriorated, creating a feeling of moral ambiguity and uncertainty.
The emergence of individualism is another element contributing to moral degradation. It has resulted in a society that favours individual gain above the welfare of others since the focus on individual rights and liberties has led to a lack of concern for the common good. The conventional moral standards that guide human behaviour, such as honesty, respect, and responsibility, have been disregarded due to this mentality.
Millennials and Generation Z were born and nurtured in a world where technology has permeated every aspect of their existence. There is a feeling of alienation from face-to-face engagement as social media platforms, and instant messaging applications have taken over as the primary communication channels. This distance has led to a loss of empathy and sympathy, which has resulted in what is seen to be a moral decay. Technology advances have offered new chances for people to engage and communicate with one another, but they have also introduced new difficulties. For instance, the emergence of social media platforms has sparked worries about online harassment, cyberbullying, and the transmission of false information. Bullying, harassment, and incorrect information were not new, but because of the internet’s instantness and omnipresence, their consequences are far more widespread.
Likewise, certain formerly prohibited behaviours have become more commonplace due to social media’s widespread use. Many people behave against social and moral norms because they feel pressured to comply and want to be accepted. As a consequence, society is now more accepting of formerly immoral behaviour.
The extent to which members of Generation Z and millennials are to blame for the loss of morality is up for debate. They may not be entirely to blame, but they nonetheless play a role in the seeming decline. The views and values of today’s youth are radically and unexpectedly different from those of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations because of the events and situations they are exposed to. Thus, it is essential to investigate the potential impact of technology and social media on moral development.
Rebuilding our communities’ moral foundation and fostering future generations’ sense of accountability and compassion are tasks that must be taken on by society as a whole.
The African Context
African culture has historically prioritised communal values and social cohesiveness. However, these traditions of reverence for elders, devotion to family, and a solid bond to the land and nature, are under threat as the moral compass of the world shifts. They are being eroded due to the fast modernisation, globalisation, and urbanisation rate.
This decline has had a wide range of effects on African culture. Rising socioeconomic inequality, for example, is one way that the disintegration of old social institutions has weakened communities. Traditional values will continue to dwindle as more people put their needs above those of their communities due to the growth of individualism and materialism. Meanwhile, similar developments seen worldwide are anticipated in Africa since Gen-Z and millennials in Africa are often exposed to the same trends and problems as their counterparts in other regions of the globe.
As mentioned, modern influences like the internet can erode long-held cultural norms and values. The traditional norms and ideas that constitute African culture may be challenged by exposure to global trends and ideals, leading to cultural displacement and identity crisis.
Fortunately, many Africans are making concerted efforts to protect and share their history and culture. A rising backlash against modernisation fuels a drive to rediscover and restore age-old ideals and customs. The continuing promotion and preservation of African culture may assist in developing a feeling of community and social cohesiveness, which can buffer the effect of the seeming deterioration of morality in society.
Are Morals Declining Anyways?
The subject of whether or not people’s morals are declining is a complex debate. Depending on how you perceive things, you may interpret the current state of affairs as an indication of deteriorating moral principles. On the other hand, you might consider it in terms of changing, expanding, and redefining moral values.
One may argue for the former by pointing to increased unethical behaviour, crime, drug usage, and violence. People are less inclined to behave morally or ethically because society has lost respect for authority, honesty, and civic duty. Simply put, moral values are rigidly defined, and thus any divergence from the norm is a step backwards.
On the other hand, you might argue for the latter by claiming that society’s values are evolving rather than deteriorating. Moral norms may improve if individuals become more accepting of diversity, tolerance, and individual liberties. Old values give way to new morals that reflect how society develops. Simply put, moral values are not declining but evolving as they always have.
What is deemed ethical and moral is subjective and varies from person to person and culture to culture. Cultural and religious beliefs, societal conventions, laws and regulations, personal values, and each person’s conscience all impact ethical and moral standards. Several faiths, for example, offer a set of moral principles that advise individuals on how to behave. Moreover, laws and regulations are often founded on moral principles, and social norms may significantly impact how individuals behave ethically. Nonetheless, several commonly recognised ethical concepts, such as autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice, allow us to assess the morality of acts and choices generally.
When people speak about declining morals, they speak in relation to traditional standards. Thus, if they talk about declining morals, they speak in terms of the increasing acceptance of diversity, tolerance, and individual rights. These can either be seen as a positive moral shift from traditional moral values (that is, changing moral values) or as a regression in traditional moral values (that is, declining moral values). Either way, the traditional moral view is being affected, and it is a matter of leaning towards either the conservative perspective of decline or the liberal perspective or shift.
It’s also important to remember that a person’s morality can be affected by their own cultural and religious beliefs, societal norms, laws and rules, personal values, and conscience. Some religions, for example, have rules for life called “guiding principles.” Also, laws and regulations are often based on moral ideas, and social norms can significantly impact how ethically people act. A person’s view on whether or not moral values are changing may depend on their culture, economy, and history.
Many perspectives on good and wrong are also provided by philosophy and ethics. A consequentialist sees morality as how one’s behaviour affects other people. Deontological viewpoints emphasise that certain behaviours are right or wrong, no matter the outcome. However, the cornerstone of ethical behaviour is moral character and human qualities, according to virtue ethics.
Ultimately, what is considered ethical and moral is subjective and can depend on individual perspectives and cultural contexts. Thus it is difficult to conclude that morals are declining and not simply shifting. As such, it is important to approach discussions of morality with an open mind and a willingness to consider multiple perspectives. ∎