What we value affects everything

What we value drives all of our life decisions. I suppose that this is a fairly lofty claim, spoken as the derided “absolute.” Yet, I can absolutely see it play out, as people navigate their lives.

In fact, the aggregate of decisions made based on our value systems is the crucible that shapes our life on Earth. Consider how what we value consumes the majority of our time and energy. Our values are reflected in every thought, action, and deed. And yet, few can articulate what they value because their value systems are largely unconscious.

For example, a person may dedicate their life to service. Does this person value the people whom she or he serves? One possibility is that this person values the feeling of being thanked and appreciated by others – like a drug, and service is merely the means to an end. Does this person know the real reason why they serve? Not necessarily. A number of YouTube videos advertise moments of service or random acts of kindness to get attention and “Likes.” Viewers say “Aweee”, and it ends there.

As another example, consider a person who is described as a workaholic. Does this person truly value working all the time? Probably not. Instead, this person may value avoiding having to think about and feel their life, or value being potentially recognized and promoted – seen as an expert. Workaholics may also value creating something that meets one’s criteria for perfection – a strategy for either self-acceptance or self-rejection (“Perfection is the enemy of good enough” – and does not exist). Again, working most of the time is only a means to an end of what one truly values.

What we truly value is not at all obvious and deserves careful study at the personal level, and then the ripple effect at all levels. In the interest of “keeping it real,” it’s always good to be conscious of what really drives us forward.

From the global perspective, our value systems are disjointed and at odds. For example, the majority of corporations value profit growth, and view employees as a means to an end. Why do they value the bottom line? At the most basic level – survival of the company entity. And then, the continuous thriving of company executives. Many people say that they want to start a company to make lots of money. Such a statement mutes all the underlying individual and group value systems, which will be affected by this endeavor. The interests of top executives are the key values, despite whatever PR the company throws at the public.

Any individual or group that furthers the company agenda is valued by the executives – not as human beings, but as assets. The people who work for such corporations value stability and possibly the creativity associated with their work. But the corporate and individual value systems are at odds: a favorite employer motto is “everyone is replaceable.” The military, where the risk and stakes are higher, provides a more appropriate motto of “No man left behind.”

Politics is another complex ball of yarn of tangled personal and group value system. Nations are also complex sets of value systems, comprised of individuals and groups with divergent values beyond meeting the basic needs of life and aspirations to fulfilling the human potential.

What puzzles me is why we cannot all agree to value human lives at all scales of conglomerates? And I mean truly value each life that shares this planet? Why can’t all people live at least at a basic level of comfort where they don’t have to starve, steal, and kill?

Why can’t we agree that no person is born tainted or evil or unworthy of happiness? Clearly some value themselves above all others and will kill, even as they claim (blame) such acts on the will of a higher power – and die thinking they will go to some heaven for such acts. What a clearly delusional value system!

But something is missing, which cuts through all possible value systems – the Earth. If people simply value the Earth as a storehouse of limited resources, they will ravage the Earth for what they need in the moment. Wars and political posturing are fundamentally about survival of the fittest and accumulating resources.

If we examine deeply the value systems at all scales, we can reduce all complexity to individual ego-based agendas. The individual still remains the key at all scales. He or she is the common denominator. Individual agendas have a trickle-down effect on multitudes, and a battle ensues among those with and without power about which lives matter most. Some will not fight the status quo because they need to survive and will do that for which they get paid. Such people value themselves enough to avoid battle because they feel they cannot win and might as well settle in. No shame in this because how to shake up self-absorption worldwide and across class systems is far from obvious.

Is it possible for us to value all life and the Earth as life? Only then can we achieve a balance that is a healthy synergy. The planet and the people must work together under the basic premise that life and a healthy balance matter most. This idea is beyond any religion, political structure, or any single nation.

Who are the leaders who can selflessly bring people together around this simple message? What are the resources needed to support and reassure people through the change? Without tackling and wrestling with our unconscious values, we cannot hope to sustain a happy life on this planet.

The consequences of valuing all life? No hate crimes – and yes, including transgender persons. No bigotry. No suicide bombers or shooters. No misogyny. No “expendables.” No hunger. No homelessness. No loneliness. No pollution. No killing of ecosystems. No designing products without carefully addressing the full product lifecycle and its impact on earth. More emphasis on cultivation of individualized education, creativity, and individual expression. More random acts of kindness. More trust. More respect for the process of life.

This is a value system that requires influential people’s support and grass roots efforts – mostly the latter. So far, there is no vision of a future that people have globally embraced. Most are just keeping their heads down and working to sustain their lives. While corporate graphic artists are busy painting future landscapes with their products embedded in the pictures, these efforts completely ignore the value of a human being in relation to the Earth.

The dilemma is real and will not be addressed overnight. The good news – and a necessary first step – is that many dysfunctional systems are being broadly exposed now to show everyone just how things were/are run. This blatant exposure is a key first step to guiding people toward action and positive change for the sake of all life on the planet.

The next step – selfless leaders to inspire others to embrace core values that celebrate the wellfare of the whole, without sacrificing uniqueness. This is the challenge of the times and will demand nothing short of an overhaul for how we choose to live.

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