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Values, Personal, Social, And Objective
by Jan Sand
2007-02-18 01:09:01
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Nailing down values is like trying to catch minnows while wearing thick rubber mittens.

A few smudges of paint on cloth can make a garment unwearable or can make the cloth so valuable that museums will allot great funds to be able to exhibit it. There are unending arguments about what makes a Jackson Pollock so worthwhile whereas an imitation done in the same manner is merely a spoiled bit of canvas.

A fingernail scraped across a blackboard has a high negative value and nobody would dole out any cash for the sound but Alfred Hitchcock used the musical equivalent in the bloody shower scene in Psycho to make that sound invaluable.

Any creative person finds value in any work and very frequently the most valuable creation is an unintended mistake. When Thomas Edison was criticized for testing thousands of materials for the filament of his first electric lamp and nothing had worked he pointed out that he then found it valuable to know what wouldn't work.

Many years ago there was a pulp fiction fantasy magazine called Unknown edited by John W. Campbell, which utilized the talents of Asimov, Heinlein and other writers normally devoted to science fiction. I can't remember the exact title of the short story nor its author, but one notable effort described a small obscure shop that sold "what you need" at a very high price. When an intrigued customer agreed to pay the price he was given a bag containing an old scuffed pair of rubber-soled shoes, a needle, a ball of twine and a few other odds and ends. He left the shop sure he had been swindled but the shoes saved his life when a car swerved towards him and the other items all proved very necessary in other perilous situations.

In the Old Testament, there is an account of Abraham being tested by God by being asked to sacrifice his son. Abraham, of course, is appalled but his absolute faith would not permit him to disobey. In the story God saw that Abraham would obey the awful request and relieved him of following through. Many people (including myself) find this exercise of divine power unnecessarily cruel and irrational but we are not of the mindset to see how a person of that era might think.

Today we do not question that a family would send its children off to a war and to a high chance of death, which may seem senseless because the nation has approved that action. We condemn people who strap on explosives and explode themselves and innocent bystanders as being mentally defective. They seem insane to me as well and I am not trying to justify their actions but I am of a different mental set and value my own life and the lives of others in a different way.

General George Patton is often quoted for saying that it is not the duty of a soldier to sacrifice his life but to see to it that the enemy sacrifices his. Nevertheless, suicide has a long history in war. The kamikaze fighters in WWII were the first guided missiles and current events testify to the present acceptance of the procedure by some societies. And soldiers (and others in civilian life such as firemen and policemen) who sacrifice their lives to save others are justifiably regarded as the most noble of humans. But is it justified to condemn someone who refuses to die to save others? I can't make that judgment. But there are others in government who can and do. And perhaps they are vitally necessary to human culture.

There are other powerful people in our civilization who make life and death decisions for reasons that seem to me unnecessarily irrational and cruel. The very powerful tobacco people are considered a wise investment financially in spite of the well-proven fact that their wealth is based entirely on subjecting huge numbers of people to a horrible and unnecessary death. Every year the number of people killed in traffic accidents alone approaches the entire death toll of American troops in Vietnam and while it may not be possible to eliminate these deaths entirely there is no doubt that an annual investment equivalent to the amount of money spent on that war could cut that rate to a small percentage of current fatality and injury.

Humanity now faces a huge worldwide disaster because of environmental abuse. The price to reverse this inevitable tragedy is minuscule compared to the cost of the final result but there is very small movement to head off this catastrophe.

It is a matter of values.

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Get it off your chest
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Simon2007-02-18 01:13:38
What a tangled web you weave with your thoughts. I don't know how you do it.

Sand2007-02-18 08:53:09
Life is not simple.

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