Are We as a Society Falling Apart?

“Falling apart” is the opposite of being, or even becoming integrated.

But what is involved in integration?  Those of you who have read any of my books knows my mantra for integration: it requires mutual trust and respect (MT&R).

It took me forty years to develop and test how to build a culture of mutual trust and respect in companies and organizations.  It takes people who command and grant MT&R, a collaborative process, a diversified structure and a common vision and set of values.

The irony is that after refining and codifying all the components I have begun to realize that we, in western society, are losing MT&R; it is under threat and is declining, and here is why.

Let us start with the first variable: people. For a culture of integration we need people throughout the system, from top to bottom— managers and workers, executives and staff, parents and children— who command and grant respect.  For that to happen, individuals should have the character that generates trust and respect. Our education system, I suggest, is producing the opposite: accumulated information; we teach to know, not to be.

I believe that in more primitive societies, and indeed in many poorer societies, the elders teach the children to show respect, and to be trustworthy.  At least that is how I remember my upbringing seventy some years ago.  There was order at home and respect for our elders. I had to address my grandfather in the plural form of you and kiss his hand when first greeting him. I could not leave the table after a meal until excused. Never interrupt grown-ups when they were speaking. Release a seat in a bus to the elderly who just came aboard…..

That is all gone with the wind. Watch what children view on TV today. It is shocking what is being transmitted: disrespect for authority; for elders; for anyone, as a matter of fact.

Analyze our present day teaching curricula. There is nothing on how to be. And I am not referring to courses on ethics. I mean learning respect and trust experientially. Our education is dedicated to building knowledge; passing along information, not values. Not behavior that manifest respect and trust. In some schools, teachers are physically scared of their students.

How about the second variable necessary for integration: collaborative processes? Again our education is becoming more and more specialized.  We increasingly speak different “languages.” By that, I mean we develop different perspectives and tools to analyze and in the process also develop different expectations from life. We increasingly do not understand each other.

As far as structure is concerned, at least in the USA, the richer are becoming richer and the poor poorer. Change is a centrifugal force, and the middle class is shrinking. That is a structural change which I believe must have repercussions for MT&R.

How about common vision and values? I do not think I am revealing anything new when I say we are confused about what is or should be the right vision for society. Socialism bit the dust and capitalism is dying, only to be replaced by government intervention or so called government capitalism.  And that is under attack as a system too.

Our values are also in turmoil. Materialism is out (??) and supposedly spiritualism is in.  But on closer inspection spiritualism is only in transition. In the meantime, the situation is murky.

As a result of all the above, mutual trust and respect is in decline and as a consequence, I believe that we as a society are falling apart.  It is manifested in the lack of respect for the President of the country. No trust in our authorities.  A high-divorce rate. Declining voting rates. It is not strange that the Y generation seems lost.

Just thinking.


Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes