Improvement of Society

With my present course load of sociology courses I find myself caught in numerous debates about things that could improve society, or things that would make culture more safe. To me it seems that sociologists (and people in general) are looking in the wrong place. How can we ever expect to fix the ills of society as a whole? In my perception, “society” is not real. “Society” is a conception of the mind that exists when more than one person is involved. The problem with trying to apply fixes to the general society is that we are applying these fixes to an illusion. It is my belief that to improve society we must first improve individuals.

It is concerning to think that a person might decide to not do something because it is illegal. If a behavior is wrong, why must it be illegal before someone stops doing it? Humans for too long have functioned from survival instincts, trying to do what is best for the self, and not what is best for the species or the whole. Why is altruism not a default human trait at this point? I don’t ever think of myself as perfect, or anywhere close, but I do try to think of my actions in terms of what it means for others and whether or not I think that the behavior is “right” (or moral).

The problem with society is the individuals. Individuals are responding to what is “expected” in society, whether it is being successful or a social obligation to simply be deviant. Where is the conscience? Where is the self-control?

This line of thinking was brought about by an interesting conversation in Deviant Behavior today, about the topic of legalizing prostitution. The majority of the class seems to feel that legalizing prostitution would be a negative thing. I agree that prostitution in itself may be negative and is certainly a deviation of social expectations, but on the topic of legalization, there is a lot more to be considered. Do we really need to have laws for such a thing? Do we need to tell people what they can and cannot do with their bodies in our society? It seems to me that it may almost be beyond the scope of what a rational government should dictate to its citizens. One individual in my class said that prostitution should be illegal because she did not want to think about the prospect of her son having access to prostitutes. First of all, if it were legalized, there would likely be additional safeguards in place (such as an ID check for age verification), and second, shouldn’t this concerned mother simply be teacher her child values that would help him make good decisions rather than counting on legislative action to protect him?  Another comment on the topic that has me concerned about the state of society was this one individual who was worried about prostitutes being able to increase their revenue if prostitution were legalized and be able to “take money away from the rest of us who make an honest living at a 9-5”. To me that comment screams discrimination. Just because a person makes more money than you at something that you disagree with, why does that make them automatically a target for your hate? I personally find Justin Bieber deplorable and certainly overpaid, but I don’t have this type of animosity toward him, not do I have a desire to see laws written that would hinder his rights to sell his body in the way that he wishes.

Maybe I’m just crazy and have been around the academics too long, but I think that it is time for a different type of social reform, one which encourages individuals to be rehabilitated into society, not incarcerated, and generally a society where individuals are taught to respect each other and to exercise self-control and not be always driven for selfish gain.