Why Is the Quality of Life Declining?
WHAT does a better “quality of life” mean to you? Does it bring to your mind a nice home, a fine car, a well-paying job and plenty of leisure? Most people think of it that way, in contrast to poor living conditions, poverty and hunger.
Many have worked hard to get those things, and more people have them than at any time in history. But does this bring them a genuinely superior “quality of life”?
One answer comes from prosperous West Germany. There, reportedly, the people “are making more money than they have ever made.” But a news correspondent in Bonn reports: “They are profoundly anxious and irritated and are concerned about the future. . . . they yearn for stability and security in an age when there is little of either.”
And across the Atlantic, Pulitzer prize winner Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., observes that America “is suddenly conscious that the quality of life has actually been in decay for some time; the streets have grown more dangerous; the mails and telegraph are worse; . . . household service has become a fading memory; electricians and plumbers a vanishing occupation. It is almost as if the American dream were caught in a downward spiral from which there seems at the moment no very obvious means of escape.”
Why the Paradox?
Why does this seeming paradox exist? Why is the quality of life declining at the same time that what is called “the good life” is spreading?
Because a good “quality of life” and what has popularly come to be viewed as “the good life” are not the same thing. Ironically, some of the forces that have brought abundance to the industrial nations are the very ones that are ruining the quality of life. The British historian Arnold J. Toynbee recently explained that industrial society has pursued a philosophy that holds that “the selfish pursuit of private interests would create the maximum benefits for society.” There have been material benefits for many. But even though a person may have plenty of material things and leisure time, how enjoyable is life if the people with whom one associates are selfish, lacking in concern for others?
In their pursuit of material possessions and pleasure, people are trampling “human values” underfoot and replacing them with “money values.” Now they are learning that, even with an abundance, life can be of very poor quality when one is surrounded by undesirable people, a polluted environment, crime and disease. As Jesus Christ observed nineteen centuries ago: “Real life and real living are not related to how rich we are.”—Luke 12:15, The Living Bible.
Real Indicators of Life’s Quality
We work, play, eat and live with people. Take your family, for example. Are they a rewarding part of your life? Do you look forward to being with them? Or do you prefer the television set? Is the atmosphere of your home tranquil and appealing? Or loud and contentious? Or perhaps just silent and bitter? Divorce that ends about two out of five U.S. marriages answers those questions for many families.
Do you really enjoy contacts with other people? Or do you feel defensive, generally expecting crude and impolite treatment from strangers and often superficial warmth from friends? Lamenting that mankind has “managed at last to achieve a graceless society,” Marya Mannes, in a guest editorial for Newsweek magazine, says: “In more and more adults, whatever manners they once possessed have been eroded by the sheer pressures of daily living: crowds, noise, brutality on a massive scale in life, on screen, in print . . . have murdered [manners]: the social lubricant.”
How about your work? Is it a wholesome way to spend nearly a third of your life? Or are you surrounded by foul language, complaints, pornography, alcoholism, dishonesty and the “I don’t care” spirit? Statistics show that the productivity of American workers suffered its worst decline on record during the first quarter of 1974. Employee dishonesty grows at the rate of 15 percent a year. Workers now steal seventy times as much on the job as criminals do on their “jobs”!
Meanwhile management sets the example. “Never have kickbacks, bribes and conflicts of interest been such a dominant factor in . . . business,” reports the head of a prominent international management consultant firm. To raise profits, greedy businesses often reduce quality. Seldom can one get the “small services” that characterized craftsmanship and integrity of bygone years. They are not “profitable.”
Fear of crime creeps into more and more of life’s activities: the kind and amount of insurance we buy, when and where we walk, whether we go alone, and so on. In New Zealand, Auckland’s police commissioner reports that drastic crime growth alone is “capable of destroying the quality of life we lead.” And projections of the spiraling U.S. murder rate indicate that babies born in 1974 are more likely to be murdered than an American soldier was to die in combat during World War II!
As crime and violence become more common, “the individual’s capacity to be shocked by corruption or wrongdoing is progressively shrinking,” writes Norman Cousins. Many try to insulate themselves from reality and live out their own lives with some degree of normality. Others hope that somehow the problems will go away. But will they?
The facts are that the youths of today are actually being prepared to further the decline! Note what a Texas high school teacher writes, as published in The National Observer: “Guardians [the teachers] of the minds and personalities of our young are products of the same system that produces the businessman who cheats, the housewife who shoplifts, the worker who free-loads, and the public official who with impunity rakes in a little on the side.” How can it be expected that, with such guidance, the youths of today will produce a better world tomorrow? True, many of them are revolting against the present arrangement of things. But is the record of these youths one that reflects genuine concern for the person and property of others?
People used to believe that political or technological solutions would bail them out of any dilemma. But now confidence in governments and other institutions is also plummeting. A New York Times news analysis comments:
“It is obvious that leaders everywhere have lost authority and credibility. . . . governments of all kinds, in all kinds of countries, are in trouble because they do not evoke trust in their ability to solve the problems that are most worrying their people.”—May 15, 1974.
No, they do not have the answers. Well, then, do the churches? If you are a church member, what does your own experience reveal? Is genuine concern shown for the well-being of fellow church members? Is the standard of sexual morality among those in the church really higher than among those outside? When you do business with someone who belongs to the church, can you really feel confident that you are going to be treated honestly? After his eighteen years of Senate crime investigating experience, U.S. Senator John L. McClellan observes: “In my judgment, some churches no longer demand a truly high standard of integrity and morality today.” Religion is actually part of the decline. It is noteworthy that the Bible foretold that in the “last days” of this system of things people would be “preferring their own pleasure to God.” They would “keep up the outward appearance of religion but will have rejected the inner power of it.” That is the condition that prevails today.—2 Tim. 3:1, 4, 5, Jerusalem Bible.
But it is not only the situation in the churches that fits the Bible’s description of the “last days.” Open your Bible to 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 5, and read for yourself its description of the decline in the quality of life that you yourself have seen. These things, it foretold, would mark the “last days.” Not the “last days” of mankind or of this earth, but the “last days” of the present unrighteous system of things and of all who prefer the kind of life that it offers. God himself will bring this about, and his Word foretells that the extent of the destruction will be global. But is that going to improve the quality of life?
It is an unavoidable necessity if real improvement is to come. It is obvious that not everyone now alive is concerned about the quality of life of other people. Not everyone is willing to give up selfish pursuits. Thus it is only when God takes action to cut off the wicked, those who lack love for God and for their fellowman, those who selfishly think only of themselves—only then will persons who long for what is right be free of those who spoil the quality of life for others. (Prov. 2:21, 22; Ps. 37:32-34) When that is done, God also promises that he will richly contribute to the quality of man’s life by liberating the human family from bondage to sickness and death and by blessing the work of man.—Rev. 21:3, 4; Ps. 67:6, 7.
Improving the Quality of Life Now
Even now there is much that can be done to improve the quality of one’s life. Millions of people are reversing the declining quality of their own lives in matters that they can control: family and social relations, manners, morality, language, cleanliness and other things in life that matter most. Though they appreciate the value of material things, these are kept in their place. (Eccl. 7:12; 1 Tim. 6:7-10) Who are those making such changes in their lives? From Quebec’s Journal de Montréal of July 27, 1973, consider this newswriter’s description:
“Jehovah’s Witnesses are very, very civilized people. Courtesy is their way of life. Neatness, cleanliness, and decency also. And this was easily noticeable at their assembly. . . .
“You almost feel as though you were in paradise, as the atmosphere is relaxed, peaceful, and serene. . . .
“And especially, no discrimination. People of all races enjoy fellowship together. There is no one with hidden motives or reservations.
“Decidedly, there is a great lesson to be learned from the conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In observing them, one would think that America has been transformed.”
It is not America, but these Christians who have “been transformed.” What transformed them can transform anyone who wants to improve his quality of life now. The Bible explains how: “Do not conform outwardly to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.”—Rom. 12:2, Today’s English Version.
Personal study and application of the Bible’s principles can ‘transform a person inwardly,’ motivating a complete change of personality. It can reverse one’s self-indulgent attitudes that now destroy the quality of one’s life. As the Bible advises, you can clothe yourself with “the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new.”—Col. 3:5-10.
Accurate knowledge of the Bible also helps people to view realistically those things that are beyond their control: pollution, crime and violence, the behavior of others, and so on. Rather than being disheartened, they rejoice in the knowledge that these things are evidence that “destruction of the ungodly men” and their ways is very close. Then God’s kingdom will bring in the righteous conditions that are so much desired.—2 Pet. 3:1-7, 13; Isa. 65:17, 20-22; Luke 21:28-31.
This knowledge gives these Christians a truly positive outlook. The Trenton, New Jersey, Sunday Times Advertiser marvels: “In an age of doubt and uncertainty, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are very certain. Through the apathy of the 50’s, the chaos of the 60’s and the disillusion that has already accompanied the burgeoning 70’s, they have continued to be very certain and to spread . . . a way of life governed by a word-for-word adherence to the Bible.”—April 7, 1974.
Thus, God has already set in motion the reversal of man’s declining quality of life. Right now He is raising the quality of life of the people who will enjoy life in His “new earth.” As if noting this, the London Sunday Telegraph says of more than 50,000 of them assembled at Twickenham Stadium:
“Undoubtedly there is none of the gloom traditionally associated with those who declare that ‘The End Is Nigh.’ Nigh it may be. In the meantime everyone seems to be enjoying himself in a sober, upright, Godly but cheerful manner. . . .
“If the present world order really is about to break down, the Witnesses at Twickenham seem well prepared to organise the new one.”—August 5, 1973.
You can improve the quality of your life too. Prove for yourself that the Bible’s principles really work in an age when everything else seems to have failed. Accept Jehovah’s witnesses’ free offer to help you to learn from the Bible how to enjoy things in life that really matter.