Does liberty mean the licence to debase oneself and in the process undo the social fabric? The uncensored and unbridled exhibitionism of the lowest instincts of human animality on the big and small screen and in the print media, with graphic illustrations to add to the horror, is surely a self-destructive trend. Today most of us tolerate the wide exposure given to sex and crime in films, TV and literature, without effective protest. This silent tolerance, even if unwilling, is a sort of condoning and connivance. What society tolerates today will surely overtake and annihilate it tomorrow.

Would we allow strangers to force their way into our houses, to use filthy language and to unrobe and have sex in front of our family? Surely not. Then how is it that the silent and decent human majority has not, in one righteous sweep of indignation, boycotted and banned the scripts and screenplays of the film and TV producers and porno writers who are vitiating the minds and hearts of young and old alike? How is it that we allow our children to witness numerous murders, rapes and vicious tortures in shameless detail?

This is not a plea to curtail human liberty of thought and expression. But why have we crossed the limits? Why have we crucified decency, and why do we suffer this shameless exhibitionism? We are bound to imbibe and assimilate what we see and hear all the time, if not consciously, at least subconsciously. All prudent people try to protect their children from bad company, but how is it that we allow them the benefit of the worst type of company for hours together through print and visual media?

Crime graphs are rising with a rapidity which is not at all baffling. Research in many countries, stretched over many stratas of society, has proved it beyond any reasonable doubt. When young people from well-to-do families, with no criminal backgrounds and for no obvious reasons, loot, kill, torture and rape, it is due in no small part to the influence of this exposure. This modern phenomenon has become quite prevalent.

Is the collective world conscience dead? Even the weakest and smallest nation of the world vigorously defends itself against an invasion: then what is it that holds the mightiest and most powerful nations and peoples on earth from putting out of business these merchants of obscenity and gore? Is it not a fatal inertia which is surely and steadily corrupting and destroying our moral purity?

Today the intellect of modern, shallow and consumerist readers rejects all serious reading. The great thinkers, be they Plato or Aristotle, Emerson or Thoreau, are not read by the modern masses. The daily overwhelming dose of crime and sex in the print and visual media has so deadened their intellects that they want larger and larger doses of the poison. While sublimating and uplifting books find no publishers, astronomical sums are paid for publishing the lives and experiences of serial-killers and scamsters.

This modern malady which has gripped even young children of seven or eight who commit murders for a kick is not so baffling after all. We know its causes, yet do nothing to stop the decay, to stem the rot, which is eating away all decency from the human psyche.

Sadhika Kumari is a renunciate, teaching and writing at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, in Pondicherry, India.