It's this loss of idealism that I see as the greatest scourge afflicting our young people today, and my response to this situation is to teach these young people to fight, which might not seem like the most obvious solution to the dilemma to everybody. The relevance of fighting to an individual's value system might not be immediately obvious to everyone, but I do seriously believe that pugilism and idealism are intricately linked. The bottom line is that I know that it all works. I know that I've had an almost 100% success rate when it comes to taking in guys who have serious drug problems or violence problems, that by the time I get them to the side of the ring for a serious fight, they are no longer having problems with drugs or violence or any of those things, but have actually developed a real sense of who they are and what they are on about.
I know it works. I'm not sure I fully understand why it works, but I would note that if you go back to Plato's Republic, to the wisdom of the Ancient Greeks, you'll find that Socrates assigned a very high place to the value of 'themos', which we translate as 'aggression' or 'fighting spirit'. According to Socrates, no individual and no society is complete without properly developed 'themos'. Individuals and societies need to know how to fight if they are going to know real harmony and real justice.
The other authority I would appeal to today is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: " The consciousness of belonging, vitally, to something beyond individuality ? greatens the heart to the limit of the soul's ideal, and builds out the supreme of character." Chamberlain writes this out of his experience in the American Civil War - one of the most terrible wars in history. Chamberlain was, ironically, a contemporary and a colleague of William Tecumseh Sherman who coined the phrase 'war is hell' and I don't think Chamberlain would have necessarily disagreed with Sherman. But Chamberlain also found that, for all its horror, war had one very positive side effect - it gave people a sense of belonging to something that was greater than themselves and so it could bring out the best in people. Of course Chamberlain isn't the only person whose seen this.
My old dears at the church used to say it all the time. "What these young people need is a good war" they used to say. Now they weren't stupid, and they knew as well as anyone else that the last thing we really need is a 'good war', but their point was that they felt young people needed some experience like they'd had in their youth, where they were forced to work together with a broad range of people across the community and to make sacrifices together as they committed themselves to a cause which was something far bigger than any of them as individuals. Fighting has worked for me (and it's less costly all round than starting a war). Maybe it will work for you too.
Find out! See how the experience affects you. Perhaps fighting is not your thing. That's OK. Find another way to get in touch with your ideals and values. Spend more time in church.
Head up on a mountain by yourself for a couple of months and just think and pray about it. That works for some people. Just don't be content with a life that has no greater horizon than your own wealth and self-importance. We live in an extraordinary society in an extraordinary period in human history.
Think about it. At how many other points in history, and in how many other places in the world, have any group of people ever had the degree of choice about the future that we have today. Think about it. The rest of your life lies before you and you can really choose to do with it just about anything you want to! Your options are really only limited by your imagination and your genetic potential. At how many times and places in human history has that been true? If you were born a few generations back in a village you wouldn't have had these sorts of choices.
Your dad was the village Smithy, so that's what you were going to be. If you were born on a farm you were probably going to stay on that farm until you died. If you were a teenage girl you probably already had a couple of kids by now and your path was fully set. We're at the opposite end of the spectrum now. If you decide to spend the rest of your life entirely devoted to playing your guitar you can do it. You may become a great rock star, but even if you don't you won't starve.
The government safety net will still support you in the end so that you can keep doing nothing but guitar playing if that's what you really want. If you decide to devote the rest of your life to scientific research you can do that. If that's your vision and you're determined, nobody is going to stop you from giving your life to that. If you want to devote your life to feeding the hungry and healing the sick you can do that, or if you just want to sit around on your bum all day too, you can do that too! The choice is yours. But this is our dilemma.
Never before in human history have we had such a wonderful variety of choices before us, and never before, I fear, have we had so little idea of what we should choose. One final illustration from a Peace March: I trust that plenty of you guys made it to the recent Peace March, and good on you. Let me mention to you one placard that I heard about at a march. I didn't see it but was told about it. It said "nothing is worth dying for".
I thought that this was very clever at first, but then it occurred to me if nothing is worth dying for, is anything worth living for? Friends, I believe that there are things worth living and dying for. Find out what they are and live them! Live your life to the full. Fight the good fight. Keep the faith.
And the blessing of God Almighty - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen!.
Rev. David B. Smith (the 'Fighting Father') Parish priest, community worker,martial arts master, pro boxer, author, father of three. Get a free preview of Dave's book,Sex, the Ring & the Eucharist when you subscribe to his newsletter at www.fatherdave.org