American indulgences permeate society
While the nation discussed the president's latest scandal, as parents covered their children's ears and the public debated who Clinton lied to and how much they cared, few people asked the most striking question. The biting query first came from a morning talk show where the hostess asked, "How can a man so intelligent be a slave to his hormones?"

It's a good question. It could be posed to most Americans -- not just select politicians.

It seems Americans have given themselves over to their lusts and desires. Indulgences from overeating to affairs are either ignored or receive a forgiving wink. In an earlier time, citizens held themselves to a higher standard. Philosophers held self-denial as the highest cause. Those days are gone, and the nation appears worse for the absence.

The selfish indulgences occur at all levels. Some students, instead of selecting classes according to their value or ability to improve career prospects, will only choose courses they expect to enjoy, and even then must make sure they don't start before 10 a.m. Aggies almost always leap at the chance to sleep until late afternoon or skip classes. Instead of seeing the value of learning course material and the physical advantages of a regular sleep schedule, students yield to a few moments of pleasure.

Of course, there's hardly anything wrong with goofing off once in a while or indulging an a little extra sleep, but a habit of similar indulgences can be a problem. There is value in taking control of one's desires instead of being controlled by them.

The indulgent lifestyle is beginning to permeate society. John Grisham has recently taken up this cause, pointing out that executives making hundreds of thousands of dollars often give small pittances to charity, instead adding to their extravagant lifestyle. Even practicing Christians who once tithed their gross earnings are holding their purse strings a little tighter. Many non-profit groups are worried about their financial prospects as baby-boomers' parents retire.

America has begun to excuse a wide variety of behaviors. Instead of mastering themselves they shrug and say, "I couldn't help it." Shortcoming from severe obesity to laziness and perhaps someday philandering are attributed to genetics or environment.

Sure, everyone faces different struggles and some people have harder battles in some areas, but this should present a challenge, not an excuse.

For some reason, discipline has become a undesirable term. Instead of learning to do without potentially harmful desires, Americans tend to give in to pleasures. The results can be devastating. Unchecked desires can lead to physical problems (high cholesterol, fatigue, etc.) or can hurt others emotionally (inability to keep commitments or be punctual).

Students should realize there is worth in self-denial. Scholars and philosophers once considered it the highest goal. More recently, however, Americans seem to believe their experiences are unique, their struggles more difficult than anyone else's. For years, people have functioned under circumstances that now require medication or counseling. Although counseling or medication can help make burdens lighter, the underlying syndrome should not excuse unacceptable behavior.

Americans from Aggies to Bill Clinton should stop giving in to their human nature and begin striving to better themselves and those around them. If millions of Americans can conquer their hormones, their environment or their flawed genes, then everyone else has little excuse.

Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.