The lack of a common ethical system means the behaviour is dependent on the individual's perception of what is appropriate or inappropriate and on the structural sanctions society can effectively apply. This tends to force the legal system to assume the role of guarding the morality of the social system. Immorality is equated with illegality. Those who choose a moral life are relieved of the burden of freedom of choice by following the letter of the law. Those choosing an immoral life are left with avoiding being caught.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, there is a distinct understanding of moral decline as a process of forgetting one's true identity and purpose as a result of distraction by the material world.
The commonly held value systems of society are collapsing, not only globally but also within the fabric of individual societies; and there is a deeply felt longing to recreate a sense of ethical human relations. The primary blocks to the creation of a new context for ethical decision-making are not to be found within the established religious institutions, the very groups which generally create and sustain meaningful value systems for local people. This is due to persistent individuals and organizations of established religion that are attempting either to make old schemes relevant or to create a new set of rigid, lasting values. At the same time, the current reduction of values to personal likes and dislikes is fostering an equally unhelpful personal hedonism.