The threat to the sustainability of society is represented by different social diseases, including crime, poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction, human rights violation, etc. The failure to resolve these problems represents a threat to the future existence of people, undermines any basis for further development and survival of humanity. This paper aims to describe most acute social problems that hurt society.
What Hurts Our Society
The modern world is characterized by the emergence, spread, and worsening of the problems regarding economic, social, cultural issues. Since the second half of the 20th century, the world has experienced the greatest achievements of industrial civilization in its scientific, technical, and cultural development. However, people became familiar with complex problems resulting from the contradictions within the society which directly or indirectly affect whole humankind.
It should also be noted that some of the problems that are considered as global accompanied humanity throughout its history, and it would be wrong to assume that they emerged only in the modern time. These problems include environmental issues, epidemics, social inequality and others. They had local and regional character in the last century. However, all these problems have become truly global due to the unprecedented scale of world reform activities, contradictions of the modern world, and the need for cooperation and unity of all people.
The threat to sustainable development of human civilization is not only connected with the exhaustion of natural resources and environmental degradation but also with the internal problems of society, although it is almost impossible to separate them. On the one hand, a number of social economic and political problems and conflicts, as well as psychological problems of modern people, are caused directly or indirectly by intensification of the struggle for natural resources and narrowing of living space due to rapid population growth and urbanization. On the other hand, the degradation of the resource base and environment is often associated with the false world outlook, low culture, ignorance, and inability of people to cooperate.
At the same time, the unresolved social problems can be a threat even with a sufficient amount of natural resources. The most striking example is war between states or civil war. In human history, they have always been resulted in serious consequences and often destroyed the entire states and civilizations. In the 21st century, in the conditions of economic and informational globalization, any private conflict is even more dangerous because it grows to an international scale issue inevitably.
At the same, the threat to the sustainability of society is represented by social diseases not caused directly by war or natural disasters. These diseases include crime, alcoholism, drug addiction, moral degradation, social pessimism, etc. In the conditions of free distribution of information and goods these disasters become global. In addition, in the last few centuries the lifestyle of humanity has undergone drastic changes and the process of fundamental changes has not yet been completed. Humanity today faces new challenges and stresses. This paper is an attempt to describe most acute social problems that hurt the society. Since it is impossible to define all problems and categorize them by the level of importance, the only option is to describe the most universal ones.
Alcoholism is a real plague of the 21st century. As it was stated by World Health Organization, alcohol causes nearly 4% of all deaths in the world (WHO, 2011). According to the experts of the organization, increase in the level of income has become a catalyst for the increase of alcohol consumption in densely populated countries in Africa and Asia, including India and South Africa.
Alcoholism is among the most common psychiatric disorders in the general population: the lifetime prevalence of alcohol dependence, the severe form of alcoholism, is 8 to 14 percent (Enoch & Goldman, 2002, p. 441-449).
In addition, WHO experts say that alcoholism has long been the scourge of the developed countries. At the same time, control over consumption of alcohol is not a priority of social policies in most countries. According to the data of the organization, the diseases related to excessive alcohol consumption cause deaths of about 2.5 million people annually (WHO, 2011). Alcohol has negative impact on young people. In addition, WHO’s data points out that alcohol is one of the key factors regarding the deaths of men aged 15 to 59 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion (CDC, 2013).
The problem of alcoholism is common throughout the world, but there are some countries where the problem of alcoholism is acute. Alcoholism occurs worldwide, as a rule, in those countries that have a low social level, poor social support of the population, etc. This problem is primarily a psychological disease. Addiction to alcohol occurs at the background of certain mental disorders. These disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, such as heavy labor, emotional stress, which subsequently causes emotional instability. People drink alcohol to relax, escape from their problems, troubles, and public issues. According to World Health Organization, about 11% of alcoholics in the world are subject to weekly drinking bout. The ratio of men and women among alcoholics has determined as four to one (WHO, 2011).
In May 2010, the departments of health from 193 countries agreed on the introduction of measures in an attempt to control the growing menace of alcoholism. In particular, one of the measures to control alcohol abuse is to increase the cost of alcohol, as well as limit alcohol brands advertising campaigns.
Alcoholism among young people is a very acute problem of modern society. The number of young people using alcohol is growing every day. Reasons for the use of alcohol by young people range from emotional instability, poor development of individuality, subjected to negative emotional impacts, and imitation of the activities of adults and the desire to seem older. The solution to the problem of alcoholism among young people involves proper upbringing, as well as creating an associative image of troubles, problems and diseases that accompany the use of alcohol. Alcoholism in the society, and especially among the youth, is developed by watching television, listening to the radio, the Internet, etc. Most of the modern movies, consciously or not, promote alcoholism. In almost every movie the character, who is upset and wants to relax, drinks alcohol and smokes cigarettes. This gives individuals the false notion that it really helps with the problems and emotional disorders.
Attempts to control the spread of alcohol in different countries have passed their own ways of development, but there are several basic common ways such as economic, formal, and informal control. Economic one involves the control over the prices of alcohol, and formal control is based on licensing laws. As for informal control, it can be attributed to a certain established social customs and moral concepts of time and the amount of alcohol.
Despite the fact that the history of poverty can be traced since the history of society, in modern times the threat of poverty is a global social danger. Unemployment, economic and social instability, unrealistic expectations, collapse of plans, etc. intensify the marginalization of the population. The state of poverty does not allow society to realize its potential to develop. That is why it is associated with regression in social development. In many respects the problems discussed in this paper are directly connected to poverty.
The problem of poverty has always been in the spotlight of economists, sociologists, politicians, and ordinary citizens. This issue has given rise to heavy debates. However, despite the diversity of opinions, there are two main directions of economic thought. Some theorists find the cause of poverty in natural conditions of human existence, and others consider the cause of poverty as the evil of social system, which generates this social and economic phenomenon.
The first point of view was most fully expressed by Thomas Malthus. He believed that poverty was the inevitable result of discrepancies between population growth and decreasing reserves of resources, especially food. According to Malthus, population is growing exponentially and resources only by arithmetic progression. Hence, poverty, misery, social conflicts appear. Malthus grounded this conclusion on the statistics of the time, when neither industry nor agriculture had the capability to produce such amount of products which they have now. Today, the possibilities of the economy and life itself refute the idea of Malthus. However, the problem put forward by him is important in terms of population control, which is now being implemented in some countries (China, India, and several countries in Africa).
Another point of view belongs to Karl Marx. He believed that poverty was a product of capitalist society based on maximizing profit not the welfare of the workers. Marx argued that over time the process of impoverishment would increase. The poor will become poorer and the rich will get richer. To date, this prediction has not completely come true, though such tendency exists. The capitalists have made the necessary conclusions and share a part of their profits to improve the situation of workers, pensions, and other social needs. This is made not only for humanitarian reasons but for purely economic reasons. Providing acceptable living conditions for workers increases their return, their productivity in the conditions of scientific and technological revolution.
Still, poverty has remained a significant phenomenon of every society both ancient and modern. Poverty is spread even in the richest countries, including the United States. Some people believe that total elimination of poverty will be possible in the future by means of harmonization of social and economic development, ensuring that every citizen is guaranteed some standard of living, rational consumption of all types of goods, physical and mental health, and all parameters by which human dignity is manifested.
However, at present moment, the process of social differentiation is growing rapidly. The rich people get richer, and the poor get poorer. The result of this process is the formation of two worlds with their own social and cultural values, ways of life, and standards of behavior (cultures). The world of the rich and affluent class appears alongside the world of the poorest people (outsiders), officially known as losers. Life perspectives are radically different for the representatives of different social layers from the social growth and official status to family relationships and career interests. Loss of social life orientation is associated with the level of income and quality of life.
The main danger of division of the world into zones of wealth and poverty is that, in the context of global transformations, the ties between poverty and other global risks and threats (illegal migration, international terrorism, and growth of transnational crime) are strengthened. Miserable existence as well as unsanitary conditions and chronic diseases promote various infections and epidemics, which are dangerous for the representatives of rich countries (HIV, Ebola, SARS, and other pandemics).
The problem of poverty is exacerbated by the development of demographic processes. Despite the fact that by 2030 in most developing countries the population growth rate will slow down, it will not lead to the reduction of poverty and misery. In 20 years, the world population will increase by nearly 1.5 billion people. More than 97% of this growth will occur in developing countries. In particular, the increase in the population of sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty has become stagnant and hereditary, will be 250 million (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2004). Thus, poverty is a complex, economic, social, cultural, political, and international issue with great potential for destabilizing of the global balance.
One of the problems that bring together all countries of the modern world is a global problem of drug addiction. It is worth noting that despite the scale of the problem, the struggle against it in each country is performed according to own procedures due to the difference in mentalities and attitudes of citizens.
According to 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2010 there was an estimated 22.6 million Americans over the age of 12 that were current or former illicit drug users within the last month when the survey was given; this equates to about 8.9 percent of the population aged 12 or older (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2010).
Drug addiction is a disease caused by the systematic use of the substances included in the list of drugs and is manifested in the psychic and physical dependence. Also it refers to the total (i.e. affecting all the inner and outer world of individual) destruction of personality, in most cases accompanied by complications of physical health. This means that a person, who follows the way of a drug addict, gradually destroys the best moral qualities, becomes not quite normal mentally, and loses old friends and family. A person is not able to get a job or forgets his skills and profession, is involved in criminal activity, brings a lot of misery to other people, and finally, destroys his/her body and mind slowly and surely.
Another feature of addiction is that it is a pathological condition, which is largely irreversible, and the negative consequences that have occurred in the human mind as a result of drug abuse remain with him/her forever. In addition, the effects of drugs are not only imprinted in memory but also in the body of drug users. While each drug produces different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common: repeated use can alter the way the brain looks and functions (Robinson, Smith & Saisan, 2012).
Drug addiction is spread among those layers of population which are vulnerable at a psychological level. In other words, socially secured people having the opportunity to study, work, have a family, a house and so on will never turn to the use of drugs, not seeing the point it. People, who are unable to live normally in society for various reasons, start using narcotic substances in order to create the illusion of peace and good life, at least for some short time.
This theory is confirmed by the current state of the problem of drug addiction in the world. Most of the drug trade, as well as the direct use, is carried out by people who do not have the means to exist otherwise. It turns out that drug addiction as a social phenomenon is quite logical and expresses some kind of acceptance of social strata’s division in developed countries. It means that drug addicts is a certain caste of people, who have come to terms with their own futility and have chosen the world of illusion instead of the real world, in which they, unfortunately, have no place.
The UN experts have estimated the total turnover of drug industry as $400 billion a year, which, in general, is about 8% of the turnover of all international trade (UNODC, 2012). If this picture takes place in future, the addiction will increase. The result of this activity will cause a social and physical degradation of the active population. This threatens the future of all countries. Indeed, in most cases, a premature death of young people using drugs occurs between the ages of 16 and 25. Most female drug addicts die without giving birth to children. Mortality of male drug users is also the fact of fertility decline. Drug addicts are extremely exposed to different blood diseases, viral hepatitis, AIDS, infectious diseases, which eventually leads to significantly reduced life expectancy of drug addicts, as well as endangers the lives of other people.
One of the most pressing global issues of our time is the existing high levels of crime. To some extent, it is common for all countries without exception, and in this sense it is a global threat to everyone. In brief, crime is a violation of law and order. Naturally, there are a lot of forms of such violations. In criminal laws of many states the most serious crimes are the state ones (treason, espionage, political terror, sabotage), crimes against personality (murder, bodily injury, rape, etc.), crimes against personal property of citizens (burglary, robbery, theft, fraud, etc.).
It should be noted that different types of illegal activity are not separated. They are linked through a system of protection and organized crime. Revenues of the shadow economy gather in politics to support the campaigns of those who are willing to cooperate with organized crime, defending its interests. In addition, this money is used to bribe the police, which become corrupt and dependent on these payments. In this way crime turns into chain reaction.
Crime has become an international issue since the Second World War. Demographic calculations show that the population in the 21st century is growing by about 100 million per year, i.e. by 1-1.5%, while the crime rate is increasing by 5%, or 3-5 times faster. For the last 30-40 years it has increased in the average by 3-4 times (in the U.S by 7-8 times, in the UK and Sweden by 6-7 times, in France by 5-6 times, in Germany by 3-4 times, in Japan by 1.5-2 times, etc.). According to UN data, the increase in crime in the world is 5% per year in the average (UNODC, 2012).
Experts underline several trends in the global crime including crime professionalization, intensification of crime, structural changes in the increase of the proportion of organized crime, crime intellectualization, wide spread of new, previously unknown forms and methods of criminal activity, strengthening the self-serving orientation of crime, increasing armament and technical equipment sophistication level, increasing proportion of serious crimes involving violence and destruction of property, fusion of government and criminal organizations, increasing survival and self-protection of the criminal world, rapid expansion of the social base of the crime due to increased growth of certain population types (the unemployed, the homeless and other categories of people who are below the poverty line), criminalization of TV content, transformation of criminal behavior into the everyday and essential attribute of everyday life, especially among young people. According to Muncie & McLaughlin (2002), media discourse is saturated with crime. Crime consumes an enormous amount of media space as both entertainment and news. Whether it be TV cop shows, crime novels, docudramas, newspaper articles, comics, documentaries or ‘real-life’ reconstructions, crime, criminality and criminal justice appear to have an endless capacity to tap not only into public fear but also public fascination (p. 44).
There are objective reasons to think that in the coming years the deviant behavior and other background events will increase. It will expand the causal basis of crime. Thus, according to specialists, the overall crime situation in the world in the nearest future is unlikely to improve. The expected average rate of registered crime in the world within 6-8 thousand for 100000 people is extremely large. Each year human community registers 400-500 million crimes (UNODC, 2011).
Crime is an illegal, socially dangerous criminal act, and the most dangerous and severe type of violation of the law. Crime inflicts a considerable damage to the individual, society, and the state. It affects the most important interests protected by the criminal law.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, “in 2010, more than 11,500 terrorist attacks occurred in 72 countries, resulting in approximately 50,000 victims and almost 13,200 deaths” (NCVC, 2013).
Terrorism is one of the most dangerous, complex, and unpredictable phenomena of our time, which is transforming into a variety of forms and growing to impressive scales. Acts of terrorism often lead to mass murders, destruction of property, and discord among nations. Terrorism provokes wars, mistrust and hatred between the social, religious and national groups, which sometimes cannot be overcome in the life course of whole generations.
Terrorism has moved beyond the national boundaries and acquired an international dimension. It has become an effective and, of course, a spectacular instrument of intimidation and destruction in the eternal and irreconcilable dispute of different worlds, radically different from each other in their understanding, knowledge, sense of life, moral norms, and culture. If terrorism has a real social, cultural or political problem in its basis, some segment of the society, which are sensitive to this issue, will sympathize with terrorists, their goals or ideas that they protect. The phrase “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is a view terrorists themselves would gladly accept. Terrorists do not see themselves as evil. They believe they are legitimate combatants, fighting for what they believe in, by whatever means possible to attain their goals (Terrorism Research, 2013). Without the support of at least a part of the community terrorist movements fade away. Accordingly, the resolution of acute problems removes the split in the society and deprives terrorist movements of the necessary social base.
It is very frightening that for many people, groups, and organizations terrorism has become a simple way to solve their political, national, religious, subjective, personal problems, etc. It is often used by those who cannot be successful in open struggle, political rivalry, realization of their delusions, rebuilding the world and gaining universal happiness. Interstate scale of modern terrorism is manifested in the fact that terrorist decision-making and terror act preparations can be made in different countries. As in the case of hijacking the events may unfold in different countries before they reach their violent or peaceful end. Similarly, weapons and explosives may cross many national borders before they arrive at their destination.
The spread of international terrorism occurs due to the growth and improvement of communications and interaction of countries and peoples. Even separated from each other by long distances, people find themselves in the same house, but the neighbors do not always live in peace, they can ignore, envy, hate. Many acts of international terrorism are directed against the leaders, public and political figures. This is one of the reasons for the governments to force cooperation in the struggle against international terrorism. No country, no state or public figure is immune to terrorism, as well as any civilian is a possible target for terrorists.
Human Rights Violations
Human rights activists argue that 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is still more a dream than a reality. Violations occur in all parts of the world. For example, according to the report of Amnesty International and other sources, in 2012, people were subjects to torture or ill-treatment in at least 81 countries, unfair judicial harassment in at least 54 countries, restriction of the freedom of speech in at least 77 countries (Amnesty International, 2012). In particular, women and children are subjects to various oppressions. Although over the past six decades some results have been achieved, human rights violations are still extremely common in the modern world.
Human rights exist as they are defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in a number of international human rights laws. Human rights are the articulation of the need for justice, tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity in all of our activity. Speaking of rights allows us to express the idea that all individuals are part of the scope of morality and justice (Maiese, 2003).
They are recognized by the majority of the states and are included into constitutions of many countries. But the reality of today’s world is far from the ideals reflected in the Universal Declaration. For some people the full realization of human rights is a distant and elusive fact. Enforce international laws on human rights is not easy, and investigations of the complaints may take years and a huge amount of money. These international laws perform a restraining function but they are not sufficient to ensure adequate protection of human rights, as evidenced by the harsh reality of violations committed daily. Discrimination around the world has reached appalling proportions. Thousands of people have been imprisoned for expressing their beliefs. Tortures and imprisonments for political reasons, often without trial, are widespread; they occur with the tacit agreement even in some democratic countries.
Currently, there are a number of global and vital problems that hurt our society, which require urgent solutions. This primarily refers to the problems of poverty, overpopulation, food shortages, conflicts on ethnic and religious grounds, epidemics, drug abuse, and others. Humanity has come to the stage in its development when these issues are beyond the boundaries of individual states and must be considered globally.
According to many social scientists, every separate issue among the global problems cannot be solved without prior overcoming of the spontaneity in the development of human civilization, without taking the concerted and sustained actions on a global scale. Only such actions can and should save society. Currently, humanity does not have the necessary economic and financial resources to achieve this goal, but future scientific and technical capabilities and intellectual potential will definitely help to solve these issues. Implementation of this goal requires new political thinking, good will, and international cooperation based on the priority of human interests and values.