John Humphrys: It’s the “why” that’s tricky.


John Humphrys’ report in the weekend’s Telegraph about shameless legless boozers seeks answers to why we are living in an age of social and moral meltdown. Humphrys’ reflection goes part of the way to answering the question:

But none of this properly explains why so many people are prepared to set out for a night’s boozing utterly determined to get so drunk they will no longer be in control of themselves and remain utterly unashamed by it. Which takes me back to where I started: the absence of shame.

That’s the big change, isn’t it? We seem no longer to be as constrained by the social mores as we once were.

The absence of shame is clear. What Humphrys need to do is press his logic further and ask “why do people have no shame” and “what produced the old social mores which in turn generated shame?”

The reason why people get drunk is because it is fun to party hard, at least until the point where you throw up and pass out. I know because I’ve been there, in the gutter. The desire to binge drink on a night out is driven by wanting to have as much fun as you can before you die. For hedonists, the only real shame is to lead a boring life.

Moral shame requires commonly held public standards, “social mores” as Humphrys gently put it.  The binge drinker will demand to know why she should change her behaviour for the sake of some social more, “why should I stop having fun just because you say its wrong?”

The old social mores were produced by a biblical worldview.  People were once taught that the purpose of life is not to have fun but to glorify God.  We can have fun in a million ways that glorify God and being sick in the gutter after a night of wild partying is not one of them.

Romans 9:33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

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