There is an old story that captures an aspect of induced vice. There is yet another, an observation, that captures how society communicates its conduct and, for good or for worse, maintains status quo. Both are telling and both deserve to be taken into account. Both of them are from an ancient place and time.
First, the apocryphal story: There was an honorable man and there was a vivacious woman in the same town. The latter had taken note with some concern, disbelief and umbrage that her beauty and sensuousness could be brushed off unnoticed by this supposedly holy, upright or decent man. It posed a challenge for her ego and she determined to make matters right. That meant that the “holiness”, the “uprightness”, or the “decency” of the man had to go. She had to be noticed. She had to be desired. She had to be taken by the one and the same man. The harlot was going to own the untouchable man, plain and simple!
So, a trap was hatched by a latter-day temptress to trump Potiphar’s wife who went after the Biblical Prophet Joseph. In that earlier event, the temptress trapped Joseph in a room shutting off all the exit doors. However, she failed for the holiness of Joseph was more than a mere airbrushing. It was bestowed and protected by God, upon Whom was Joseph’s trust and reliance.
So, with the trap set, the man was corralled, so to speak, in a closed space with the beguiling woman, a young boy and a bottle of wine all in close proximity. This man, as his label would suggest, did not drink and was averse to injustice and violence. The temptress gave him an option that would allow him to exit from his trapped circumstance. He could fornicate with her. He could kill the boy. Or he could take a swill from the bottle. Which was it going to be?
Now, this man knew instinctively that he would not and could not stoop to fornication or killing for anything whatsoever, not even for freedom. He figured that drinking was the least of the evil presented to him. So, that was the option he chose. However, alcohol has a mind of its own. Its job is to deprive man of sound, functioning mind. Soon, the man was inebriated and snared. And that led from one thing to another. He fornicated with the harlot and proceeded to kill the innocent boy.
The moral: While fornication, murder or mayhem is evil, the evil inherent in alcohol has the potential to exceed those. It is the mother of all evil!
Functional lesson: As individuals and as a collective, the humankind should not only be protective of life, property, religious freedom, good name, etc., but also find a way to protect the wholesomeness of the human mind. Minimally, anything that causes an aberration in a person’s intellectual and judgmental capacities should be viewed with suspicion and kept at a distance.
And as to the observation, there is a proclivity to herd mentality, to stampede as it were, among humankind. So, an old adage says: In face of society’s decency, vulgarity hides its ugly face. On the other hand, when society is vulgar, decency is surreptitiously lived!
Thus, for example, in the past generation pursuing virginity prior to marriage became a novelty and an extinct state of affairs. So, the occasional virgin is ashamed and hides this embarrassing condition zealously. Thus, virginity is a sign of being a social misfit or possessing a medical condition. It makes one a brunt of jokes and satire and of concern to even one’s parents. This “condition” is kept guarded as one would have had she/he contracted HIV!
Functional lesson: Just because a society’s mores are one way does not necessarily mean it is the only way or the best way. Further, just like individuals who constitute society, the collective can mask its disabilities and failures under the shell of its abilities and successes. For example, access to technology, wealth and representative governance can be used to brush away other profound and abiding shortcomings that in effect feedback by making shallow the gains from technology, wealth and representative governance.
Do you recall where you read or heard the adage before?