Today more time is spent in watching television than in working. Brutality in sports is taken for granted. America and Britain are going the way of Rome — and, like Rome, they don't know it!
"'LET'S LIVE IT UP' has become the password of our time," writes noted sociologist Howard Whitman. Famous historians, political and religious leaders are deeply concerned over the maddening rush of Americans to satisfy every twanging sensual impulse while trying to hide from the awesome dangers of the nuclear age. What has gone wrong? There seems to be no end to senseless, idiotic antics on the part of our youths, from piano smashing to the latest fad of "shooting" cough medicines into one's veins to "get a kick." Americans of all ages are literally being DRUGGED INTO DREAMLAND in front of their television sets — so much so that the weekly man-hours spent in TV viewing now surpasses the total weekly man-hour output of all productive labor by 27%. Think of it! A fantastic 2,600,000,000 man-hours a week are flitted away before TV — or as they say in Britain, the Telly. WHAT AN ENORMOUS WASTE OF TIME AND TALENT!
We have all been born or absorbed into a ready-made society. We have taken completely for granted all aspects of our way of life, including our forms of entertainment and pastimes. Only on rare occasions does a person stop and ask himself, "Why do I do things that I do — and should I be doing them?" Americans have a notoriously short-range view of history. "When any nation has become overly pleasure-seeking, history has already begun its epitaph," continues Mr. Whitman. Yet few are aware of this basic historical truth. The ominous fact that TWENTY-ONE past civilizations have crumbled to the ground because of a gnawing, cancerous decay from within is consciously forgotten by most of our people. The late Roman historian Theodore Mommsen, asked to comment on American life, answered, "With two thousand years of European history before your eyes, you have repeated everyone of Europe's mistakes." Mommsen said that over fifty years ago! How much more applicable are his words today.
The Deadly Parallel
The mounting craze for pleasure and the love of brutality in sports and entertainment that has sprung up in our society mostly in the past ten to fifteen years was also one of the five major vices that brought the collapse of the Roman Empire. Few people realize just how closely contemporary American life parallels that of Imperial Rome just before its collapse. Here, from the book, Those About to Die, by Daniel P. Mannix, are some startling revelations about the last days of Rome: "In a sense, the people were trapped. Rome had over-extended herself. She had become, as much by accident as design, the dominant nation of the world. [Exactly the position the U.S.
The five reasons outlined by Edward Gibbon in his famous text The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire were: 1. The rapid increase of divorce and the breakdown of the family. 2. The spiraling rise of taxes and extravagant spending. 3. The mounting craze for pleasure and brutality in sports. 4. The building of gigantic armaments while failing to realize that the real enemy was the moral decay from within. 5. The decay of religion into a mere form, leaving the people without any guide.
found herself in at the conclusion of World War II.] The cost of maintaining the 'Pax Romana' — the Peace of Rome — over most of the known world was proving too great even for the enormous resources of the mighty empire. [Just as today, the U.S. is asking its rebuilt allies to help foot the military and foreign aid bill] But Rome did not dare to abandon her allies or pull back her legions who were holding the barbarian tribes in a line extending from the Rhine in Germany to the Persian Gulf. Every time that a frontier post was relinquished, the wild hordes [Communists today] would sweep in, overrun the area and move just that much closer to the nerve centers of Roman trade. "The cost of its gigantic military program was only one of Rome's headaches. To encourage industry in her various satellite nations [or our allies] Rome attempted a policy of unrestricted trade, but the Roman workingman was unable to compete with the cheap foreign labor and demanded high tariffs. ... The government was finally forced to subsidize the Roman working class to make up the difference between their 'real wages' (the actual value of what they were producing) and the wages required to keep up their relatively high standard of living... the free workmen's demand for short hours and high wages had grown... great... "With the economic and military position of the empire too hopelessly complicated for the crowd to comprehend, they turned more and more toward the only thing that they could understand — the arena. The name of a great general or of a brilliant statesman meant no more to the Roman mob than the name of a great scientist does to us today. But the average Roman could tell you every detail of the last games, just as today the average man can tell you all about a movie star's marriages [or the latest baseball standings] but has only the foggiest idea what NATO is doing or what steps are being taken to fight inflation." Even a modern sociologist analyzing present-day American life could not come up with a better description. Unable and unwilling to cope with mountainous personal, national and international problems, and with no one seemingly able to show them the way out of them, Americans are wallowing in the midst of a pleasure binge unprecedented in history. "It is easy to predict we will go down in history as the fun lovingest people on earth," exclaimed one newspaper editor.
Billions for Fun
The current annual bill for fun is in the neighborhood of 41 billion dollars — about four-fifths of the yearly outlay for defense. This covers all forms of leisure-time activities. The impact of television alone on this country has been so tremendously all-encompassing that 89% of all U.S. homes now have television sets — 14% more than those with telephones, and even 4% more than those having hot or cold running water, indoor toilets or bathtubs. "I think more people want to watch television than take a bath," commented the U.S. Census Director sadly on this pathetic statistic. In Britain eight times as many homes have television sets as have refrigerators!
The Most Tragic Trend
Mere escapism, drifting away from reality, is bad enough, but human nature is never satisfied with time-killing fantasy. In Rome, as the empire was wobbling on its last legs, "death and torture were the only spectacles that could really gratify the people's longing. Death and sex were the only emotions they could still really grasp" (Mannix, p. 1). Today, just as in Rome, an ever-widening torrent of blood, mayhem and sex is spewing forth from our entertainment media in a frantic effort to satisfy depraved desires that constantly demand newer and more exciting thrills. Hollywood competes with television and the publishing industry competes with both in an effort to carve a greater slice of the entertainment dollar. The last few years have seen the mushrooming growth of the slick-papered, "sophisticated sex" men's magazines as well as other forms of outright pornography. Not to be outdone, the "legitimate" movie industry is now dealing with all forms of sex fantasy and sex aberration never before seen on the screen. Renegade producers of "art films" are finding increased acceptance of their trash. Few people are cognizant of the full impact of the sex revolution that has been taking place in the English-speaking world in just the past few years. The famous British author J. B. Priestly said recently that "eroticism flourishes in our society on a scale never known before, NOT EVEN DURING THE DECADENCE OF IMPERIAL ROME." Yes, even worse than in ancient Rome! "We have deliberately perverted ourselves, transforming honest sex into... nasty autoerotic stuff.... More and more men are crowding into this blind alley, not demanding more and richer relationships but only a barren titillation" (Saturday Evening Post, April 27, 1963).
Not only a preoccupation with sex, but a consuming love of violence now characterizes the modern American scene. Not only is crime on a continual yearly upswing but there is another kind of violence gripping our people. It is a strange sort of violence — a vicarious violence that is the paradoxical end-product of a soft, painless way of life. "Never in the history of man has any generation been as free of pain as ours," wrote the distinguished author, Jessamyn West, in the January 1963 issue of Red-book. "We lose teeth, have babies and undergo five-hour operations, all without pain. We are not only pain-free, we are comfortable. The air is conditioned, in home and cars; the bed preheated when we get into it; and the rocking chair, if we like, wired to oscillate with; out any effort of ours. AND NEVER HAS ANY GENERATION... SPENT SO MUCH TIME WATCHING OTHERS EXPERIENCE PAIN AND SUFFER DISCOMFORT. Never has any generation tried harder to hide from itself the fact of death — and at the same time been so absorbed in watching others die." The movies are doing their best to fill this strange void. For each halfway-decent film produced, there are at least four sordid, sadistic shockers. Via television a child is often exposed to more violence in 30 minutes than he would normally witness in an entire lifetime. The TV diet for one particular week in Los Angeles was found to contain 161 murders, 60 "justifiable" homicides, 192 attempted murders, 24 conspiracies to commit murder, 83 robberies, 15 kidnappings, 21 jailbreaks, 7 attempted lynchings, 6 dynamitings, 11 extortions, 2 cases of arson, 2 cases of physical torture, and 2 suicides. (Los Angeles Times, May 30, 1963) All in one week! At times the majority of this mayhem has occurred during the so-called "children's hours" between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays.
The Horrible Result
The present generation of growing young people are becoming completely inured to the stark reality of life with its pain, suffering and death. Death to them is only a game. They vicariously experience the thrill of landing the blow or firing the shot, without imagining that the victim is capable, in real life, of suffering excruciating pain. How many examples have you read of small children shooting their brothers or sisters or even parents to death — and then realizing afterwards they really were DEAD? The end result of this "education" is the production of cold, hard individuals, incapable of feeling any natural love or compassion for their fellow men. God said this would happen in our day. The Apostle Paul was inspired to write, "This know also that in the last days, perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves... unthankful, unholy, WITHOUT NATURAL AFFECTION... despisers of those that are good... lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (II Tim. 3:1-4).
Sports Becoming Brutal
Television and motion pictures are by no means the only offenders. Just as in Rome, spectator sports are also becoming increasingly popular and more brutal. Each major sport sets a new attendance record almost every year while at the same time our soft, flabby youths have trouble struggling through three or four push-ups. The situation in the U.S. is strikingly similar to the days of the Roman philosopher Seneca, who said, "The art of conversation is dead. Can no one today talk of anything except the skill of various charioteers and the quality of their teams?" (Mannix, p. 14.) Just as the Roman games degenerated from the rather innocuous horse and chariot races in the beginning to utter savagery and slaughter just before the Empire's ignominious end, so the rot has begun to develop in the once-heralded field of American sports. Boxing continues to take its toll of dead and mentally-maimed human beings. The recent death of Davey Moore in Los Angeles was the 216th fatality in the ring in the last 18 years (Wall Street Journal, April 15, 1963). The raucous cries of "reform" (how can that be done) and abolition of the so-called sport have all but died down in the ensuing weeks, with promotion going on as usual. But boxing has been around for a long time. It is in the other sports that one notices the most disturbing trends. Professional (and often even college) football has now become so rough that some top players openly admit that something has to be done quickly to stop the trend toward anarchy. To win cleanly is a long-forgotten principle. "You play as hard and vicious as you can," confessed one "all-pro" defensive star. "You rap that quarterback every chance you get. He's the brains of the outfit. If you knock him out clean and hard on the first play of the game, that's an accomplishment. For that matter we try to hurt everybody... " The college football mania is producing such an intense competition among schools for talent that top prospects are virtually assured free room, board, tuition, books, all fees — plus $10 to $15 a month for laundry. The saddest part of all is the effect the sport is having upon its enthralled fandom. About 50,000,000 spectators hunch before their television sets each Sunday in autumn to watch the "Game of the Week." Additional hundreds of thousands pack the stadiums to see the fierce battles in person. "And while they're telling you that the fans come out because they enjoy the fast-moving, beautifully complex nature of the modern pro game, some of the pros will quietly admit that they know what many fans are really after. Says one: 'It's the same reason people will pay a hundred dollars to see a prize fight. They want to see violence and blood" ("Sunday's Gladiators," Saturday Evening Post, November 24, 1962).
Even basketball, a game which was founded partially in protest against the roughness of other round-ball sports, "has to have doctors standing by with needle and thread and bone splints the same as any other," acridly penned Los Angeles Times sportswriter Jim Murray, with only slight exaggeration. This fine sport, which should be a joy both to play and to watch, almost witnessed its first KILLING a few weeks ago. In a rugged pro battle between St. Louis and San Francisco (remember this game is supposed to be non-contact), one outraged player nearly stomped an opposing player to death right on the court. He was restrained by fellow teammates just in time. Not only players but spectators are becoming increasingly difficult to control. Mass hatred of the officials is becoming so serious that it caused one college referee to write an article in a nationally circulated magazine appealing for sanity by schools and fans. The personal abuse he has taken is absolutely appalling. "The stuff that's been thrown at me would fill a garbage truck," he said. "I've needed a flying wedge of police to rescue me from a red-eyed mob at the University of California. I've torn rib muscles while pinned under a pile of fighting players at Gill Coliseum at Oregon State University.... At the University of Idaho I was knocked down, kicked and beaten by 200 fans who charged me screaming their determination to make me eat my whistle. At Southern Methodist University in 1557, a red-hot 50-cent piece, one of a barrage of coins thrown from the seats, hit me in the eyeball. I could name other injuries, but why go on? Basketball officials across the country take similar beatings..... This embattled referee, Al Lightner, concluded by saying that unless drastic clean-up efforts are taken soon, "this great game — already crippled by scandals — could be killed for good" (Saturday Evening Post, January 12, 1963).
Even Our National Sport
Baseball has always been noted for its frequent "rhubarbs" and occasional brawls, but here, too, one sees signs of deterioration. This spring has seen a definite increase in the number of incidents of pitchers deliberately throwing at the batters. Complained sportswriter Murray, "Only one man has been killed in combat in major league baseball history [and that was by an accidental "beaning"] but the game seems of late to be trying for two. It only costs you $50 for deliberately throwing at a batsman. It could cost your club a million (the pennant) if you didn't. According to the law of athletic economics, honor lies on the side of the dollar. The batter must take his chances" (Los Angeles Times, March 5, 1963). We could go on and on about other sports such as ice hockey and auto racing, but it isn't necessary. The above examples are illustrative enough. The great benefit and value of athletics — especially the lesson of TRUE SPORTSMANSHIP — is being undermined by professionalism and the dog-eat-dog, win-at-any-price philosophy. Truly a national tragedy!
Where Are We Headed?
Just what does the future have in store, as we see this maddening rush into all forms of permissiveness, perversion and violence? Just where will it all stop? The ominous trends of the near future are already here. A stirring column written by Los Angeles Times television critic, Hal Humphrey, on May 2, 1963, entitled "Isn't Anybody Awake Out There?" gives us a good clue as to what to expect. He wrote: "The TV audience either has gone to sleep or it is becoming more mature than Madison Avenue ever thought it would. A recent episode of [a popular courtroom series] showed [the attorney] defending an alleged murderer who sneeringly told him he was guilty — just as the jury brought in a 'not guilty' verdict. The exonerated murderer then clinched with his wife and walked out of the courtroom. "Now it has long been an unwritten law in TV that murder, mayhem and shoplifting cannot go unapprehended.... Yet, when [the attorney's] client walked out on him, not a single viewer in the Los Angeles area called CBS to complain." Critic Humphrey then proceeded to blast a recent, spate of programs dealing with condoned mercy deaths, dirty jokes and other off-beat material. Even such TV fare, he concluded, "can get awfully boring too, if were treated to too much of the same." Yes, what ghastly thing will producers and promoters think of next to spark the interest of a narcotized public? "How long will it be before you see the sex act on your television screen?" asked an angry Paul Molloy, noted television critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and a father of eight children. "How long before perversion and degeneracy come across the tragic lantern in full detail and perhaps in living color?" Where will TV gets its "late-late show" replacements when the present supply of old movies is used up? From what Hollywood is grinding out now and in the future? Molloy then prophetically asked how long it will be until the following hypothetical situation takes place in the average American home: "You and your children are watching what has become known as a 'realistic' drama. Your fourth-grade daughter turns to you and says: 'What are they doing now, Dad?' and you reply: "The bad man, dear, is raping the girl. Now hurry and finish your supper; the soup's getting cold" (Pueblo Star-Journal, December 18, 1960). SHOCKING, I KNOW! A horrible thing to contemplate, yes! "Impossible — won't ever happen!" we might be tempted at first glance to say. But again we face the fact that at Rome's end, violence, death and sex were the only emotions the people could grasp. And our nation is going the way of Rome!
Is God Blind?
Is there a God in Heaven who is aware of what is going on? Yes, there is, and He is MIGHTY ANGRY! "The wicked and him that loveth violence His soul hateth" (Psalm 11:5). Punishment by the Almighty is near at hand! The great God who created the earth and placed mankind on it, knew far in advance that our people today, once we had repudiated His laws which would have brought us peace and happiness, would end up on the trash pile of civilization just like all the other great empires of the past. God inspired His prophets centuries ago to record warnings for those today who would listen. The prophet Ezekiel pinpointed exactly the time we are living in now. Ezekiel was commissioned to warn the nation of Israel. But he never reached ancient Israel — the people had gone into captivity over 100 years before his time. His message is a prophetic warning for us, the modern-day descendants of those people (If you have not seen the proof of this, read our free booklet, "The United States and the British Commonwealth in Prophecy"). Notice the seventh chapter, beginning at verse one: "Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me saying, Also thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel... "Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send my anger upon thee... and will recompense thee all thine abominations." What are some of these abominations God is angry with? Verse 23, "... for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city [Jerusalem as a type of Israel today] is full of violence." Notice next Chaper 9, verse 9 of this same book: "The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah [Yes, these are not one and the same people] is exceeding great, the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say" — notice, this is what most of our nation says or thinks today, "The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD teeth not." No, God is way off. He doesn't really see us wallowing in all kinds of muck and swill, people reason. But God DOES see! And He is getting mighty sick of it! What is God going to do about the situation? Verse 24 of Chapter, 7 says, "Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen [a coming foreign powerhouse rising up in Europe right now] and they shall possess their houses." Yes, invasion is coming! National captivity lies ahead! Now notice Ezek. 12:19, Moffat translation: "... the land is to be stripped of all that it contains owing to the violence done by ALL its inhabitants." Yes, God is not condemning just those who commit actual crimes, but here includes the vast majority who are vicariously committing violence every night in their own living room or chanting "Kill 'em" in the nearby stadium. In the article by Jessamyn West quoted elsewhere here, the author, trying to analyze America's cold-hearted acceptance of violence, asked an amazing question: "Is a generation of Americans being prepared for the routine and casual killings of concentration camps and gas chambers, of death marches and saturation bombings, of mass evacuations and 100-megaton explosions?" A horrifying thought to contemplate! But the answer your Bible gives is a thunderous "YES!" These things are coming! Even this author could sense it.
What Can YOU Do?
Even though stern punishment is coming upon this land, God holds out a promise of protection for you if you will turn from this world's ways and start obeying His laws. God is not some harsh, evil-eyed monster, looking everywhere for someone to inflict punishment upon. "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?" (Ezek. 18:23). "But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die" (v. 21). Now let's get down to "brass tacks." What specifically can you do so that you will not be swept up into the maelstrom of violence coming over the land? Analyze yourself. How much violence have you seen on television lately? How many gory movies have you attended in the past six months? And that last sporting event you attended — did you really go to see the sport? Or did you go in the hopes of seeing a bloody battle? How you answer these questions may well determine whether you will have God's protection in the coming turbulent years. Entertainment, recreation, athletics, in themselves, are NOT WRONG! FAR FROM IT! They are NECESSARY parts of a well-balanced life. It is the WRONG USE to which they are being put that God condemns. God expects us to perform all things within the two great foundation stones of His Law — love toward God and love toward neighbor. One cannot fulfill this second great point while watching a constant parade of killings, muggings, mayhem and sex. Learn how to use your leisure hours profitably, keeping in mind the command about "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16). Instead of having others entertain you with what all too often is just degenerate nonsense, get in the habit of devoting several hours a week to wholesome, planned family entertainment and outings. Instead of just being an "armchair detective" or "armchair quarterback," get out on that handball, tennis, or basketball court, softball diamond or football field yourself, just to name a few activities. Get yourself in shape. Send in for our free article, "The Seven Laws of Radiant Health," if you have not read it already. Keep your mind alert, AWAKE to the momentous events shaping the world — not asleep at the switch as is the vast majority of our people (and as were the citizens of ancient Rome). Finally, continue reading the pages of The PLAIN TRUTH, and checking up what you read in your Bible. Find out how you can have an active part in the coming WORLD TOMORROW, a time of peace and abundant joy, and also a time in which "violence shall no more be heard in thy land" (Isa. 60:18).