Values of human, human values

“In Twana society, individuals gained prestige and social status not by hoarding up their surpluses, but rather by generously giving goods away, in a manner that signified the incorporation of other people.” (The value of a river – Lansing et al., 1998)

How different is it from our society, where we ascribe worth to the rich? Sure, there are philanthropists, but how much are they talked about, how much are they celebrated? While we say that the people who give their lives away are admirable, we don’t really want to be them. Selfishness, the traits, is deemed better. We may be disgusted with other’s selfishness, but maybe we are secretly jealous of their unashamed self seeking ways.


Unequal valorisation

We got back our results for our summer school modules last week and the quiet people who could write but did not party got good grades while those people who were loud and mingled a lot did not. This is a generalised statement (I’m assuming the louder ones were not as good writers), but this is true from the few people I heard from. I had wondered how the professors would grade the course. There were some sentiments but nothing definite: we want you to get out of your comfort zones, human geography is about interactions and forming relationships rather than grades, etc. I wish everyone would just get an A. It really doesn’t make a difference. To me, at least?

I was working with someone very different from myself and I think it wasn’t necessarily a bad team. We were very dominant in our different talents. One to socialise and collect/ask for information, the other to record, think and make coherent thoughts. That does not mean that one is more important than another. But the value we ascribe to different talents is very different.

This differentiation of value is natural? What is the point of doing research and finding out a great many things if you are unable to record it, to communicate your findings to other people, to make what you have found useful/apply it to situations? But at the same time, if you merely thought and did not find out information/your data is flawed due to limited understanding and interaction, what good is your research as well? (This idea can be applied to many things like in our capitalist society – we value services more than real goods, but this definitely doesn’t mean that real goods aren’t any less important. We value leaders, but a leader is not powerful without followers).

I think this unequal valorisation is precisely why the idea of communism cannot really work (or at least my idea/the convention idea of all people being equal, greater equality; I don’t mean the dictatorial kind of communism that we see in certain places) – ah, I had a stronger argument, but I lost it. Maybe I will write it as a comment if I remember, another time.

It’s about us VS them, it’s about hierarchies and seeking differences. It’s the differences that draw us closer together as communities (being able to bitch about the same person draws people closer together. It builds trust, a common identity, stuff like that). It’s natural for us to seek out these divisions and to say that one is better than the other? (That’s how divisions – of labour – came about? Is there anything wrong to say one is better than another? It’s necessary, isn’t it?)

I’m not really bothered by this difference in value; I guess I just see it as life, I don’t see the need to create a more equal world. Things about the gender wage gap, how I am doubly discriminated as an Asian Female (but not really, here in this part of the world, where I am the dominant race, although the gender thing MAY be an issue). I’m just tired of being calculative – there is no end to counting my privileges nor my dis-empowerments.

But ‘uncertainty doesn’t mean ignorance’: I should still dream of a better world. It’s just the question of ‘How do I make the world a better (more equal?) place’?

What are we good for?

I was in quite an irritable mood. My head hurt. I got all the more annoyed as I was on the bus and was forced to listen to stupid sounds. Kids shouting, reciting multiplication tables. 1 x 4 is 4, 2 x 3 is 6. Listening to them made me think, and I was tired, I didn’t want to think. I have enough information in my head. I thought about stupid things, like being patient with people around me, knowing that they would grow up to become sensible and useful. Thinking that this practice is good for them, it helps them learn. But can’t they do it more quietly? It’s good that they are vocal though, repressing children is not a good thing, brings about more problems in the future? Thinking about our education system and how best to teach children. How I was not always the best student, but I think I turned out pretty ok. How I don’t think I’m able to teach math/science to children now even though I’m a university undergraduate.

And then there were these two adults bickering next to me. I felt like I was dying a little as I listened to them. They were arguing about the most inane thing: ‘if we didn’t take 28, we would have taken 155, and 155 would have been faster, no it would not have been, 28 is better’. IT DOESN’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Yes, I admit. I think about this stuff sometimes. It’s not healthy for me, I get anxious lol. But I don’t ARGUE WITH PEOPLE about it (Right?). You are ALREADY ON THE BUS, GET OVER IT.

I got really depressed.

The Rise of the Machines – Why Automation is Different this Time

I watched this video this week. I really like it. This series. It asks good questions. It links to a module that I took and enjoyed a lot last semester.

But it questions our value as well. What are our purposes in life, what do we live for, can we be replaceable?

In primary school, I had a thought that school was a little useless. Sure, I learnt things like spelling and math, but I didn’t even know how to make an eraser, something that was so common and something that I could buy for a couple of cents. Something that is pretty easy to make, but I didn’t know how.

In university, one of the professors said that the value of what I’m studying is that I’m learnt to be a better thinker. The best thinker. It’s a better degree than everyone else’s since they’re learning how to make things/solve problems, but these are things that soon would be done by automations, that can be solved by algorithms. But thinking is irreplaceable. Machines cannot ‘think’. I’m not sure I like to think (I’m thinking about thinking. Oh my, the habits of mind. I’m questioning if machines can actually think. And to what extent is thinking. Deconstruction. Ok shut up). Thinking actually heads. It’s real and physical, my head hurts.

Going back to what I experienced on the bus. It felt a little depressive. That thinking beings were doing futile things like reciting multiplication tables. Things that have been done before, that machines can do better. Worse still, arguing about bus timings.

Let’s think, not too much, nor too little.

Questioning unconditional love/our value is based on our works

How we calculate value is something that affects us deeply. We ask questions like ‘why do you love me?’ We get people to evaluate our worth by giving reasons: you are smart, pretty, a good person, you show me love, you are interesting. ‘We accept the love we think we deserve‘ – The Perks of being a Wallflower – as if love were something to be earned. Measurements via things like KPI, or wages. I wrote about this before. How we see others/ourselves, affects the way that we treat people.

I’ve been watching some videos by The School of Life (you were right – they have quite a lot of good videos about relationships). Two stood out to me: ‘how to remain calm with others’ and ‘self-esteem’. For the former, we have to separate their intentions from action, like how we treat children. They may be mean to us because they themselves are hurting and we should strive to find out the root cause. (But I find that we can only continue to be patient with these people is because they are of worth, they will be useful to us in one way or another. Our efforts of being nice to them will pay off in one way or another. I question, what if there is nothing to be gained – absolutely nothing, not even intangible benefits – if we remain calm with them. Would we still choose to/be calm?) Or perhaps they are not hurting us at all, but we are just victimising ourselves, thinking that the world is conspiring against us and hence we retaliate. The second video questions how we think about ourselves, against peers, parents, what we’ve been told.

The heart of the issue:

I cannot understand the concept of unconditional love.

In that sense, I believe that we must do ‘works’ to get into heaven. Before you quote me things like: ‘Jesus is the only way the truth and the life’ and stuff about faith and works etc, let me explain. (This is what (most) Catholics believe, and I don’t think they’re wrong about it. I read about this on a Catholic website).

This concept was also questioned by a friend of mine quite a while back: If love was truly unconditional, would it be ok to cheat?

Since you love someone without condition, they could do anything they want and you would not love them any less. You would still show them love. You would be ok with them cheating, since they do not have to do anything for you to love them. It is ok for them to be loved by others as well. (Hmm, ok as I write this I feel that there is something wrong here but I cannot pin point the issue. Something about how love is expressed, the issue of cheating being a moral one rather than something to do with love. Also questioning the truth behind how much are they loved by someone else who cheats with them, wanting the best for them?).

But the former issue about needing to do works in order to get into heaven. By works, it doesn’t mean that you have to do incredible things, that you must do a great amount of ‘works’ in order to attain salvation. I challenge the concept of work, not only ‘physical work’ like almsgiving, helping the poor, being good to people etc, but other kinds of work like renouncement of sin (it’s constant emotional, spiritual work). I don’t think that you can be saved just because you believed in God and refuse to change your ways (I can’t remember which chapter in James).

Even beggars do ‘work’, even if the value may not be equal to their ‘reward’/wages (but the weightage is arbitrary, human created). Their work is by being present, asking for money in the first place, their work is being unashamed of having to ask for help, to make you feel better about yourself when you give them money. You exchange your money with them for the ‘feel good’ factor.

Of course in everything there needs to be balance. It could become an unhealthy perspective, thinking that you deserve nothing, excessive denial, unhappiness, being unable to accept grace.


The worth of a person:

How do we calculate this value, how is it determined? Economically, in terms of wages (are we purchasing the work or the person; is there any difference?). In terms of human trafficking/slavery, through how much we are willing to pay for the person. People become commodified. To be judged and calculated, measured like a cup of flour for bread. How much this person can add to my life, how much could I reap? The numbers differ. This value is based on how we judge people: based on their intrinsic value; something they could do nothing about, say their looks for models (they just simply had the luck to have good genes). Their abilities. A person’s achievements: we think a CEO is better than a road sweeper because. He worked harder? To get himself where he is. He’s more successful?

Are people valued for being simply, a person, instead?

I guess that’s how God would see us, isn’t it? If we believe in what the Church teaches: that every soul saved is important (no matter who, what the soul is). Our value is in being. Our greater emphasis on what we have done (our achievements), how we look (ok, I guess to an extent we have a role to play in this, although some people admittedly have it easier to look good as compared to others) causes problems in society. Racism. Mental disorders (idk things like OCD and the obsessive need for things to be perfect. Ok maybe there are actually chemical imbalances, but I mean, I hope, you get my point). Personality problems: the need to control. Things like that.

You are valuable, because you are a person.

(I guess people can extend this to things. Other lives, other objects)