"As for the rage to believe that we have found the secret of liberty in general permissiveness, from the cradle on, this seems to me a distastrous mentality, which, whatever liberties it sets loose, it loosens also the cement that can bind a society into a stable compound. A code of obeyed taboos - I can only recall the saying of a wise Frenchman, that liberty is the luxury of self discipline"
These words are from Alistair Cooke, the journalist and broadcaster, who over a long and distinguished career, sent us his Letter from America, a weekly 15-minute talk broadcast on the BBC. Cooke defines this code of obeyed taboos further as that which your conscience will not allow you to do. It is self-regulation, a personal moral code.
In an interview shortly before his death, Cooke said that it seemed to him that there has have been in the last 30 years, perhaps two generations who have no moral guide.
Cooke was an atheist. He saw the church in decline, even though his adoptive country had, and still has, more than 50% church attendance, but he felt the need to argue for a moral lead to be taken from some quarter.
His death in 2004 had a rather macabre footnote. His body parts were stolen by a criminal gang and sold on as transplant tissue, his bones for dental implants. Cooke had cancer and so most of the parts were unsuitable for transplant, even if consent had been given, for the 94 year old's corpse to become donor material.