As I’m preparing the outline for the next book in the DimWorld series, I’m working out the philosophical explorations that my characters are embarking on. This is one of my favorite parts about writing this series. My characters get to work on a concept and draw their conclusions over the course of their adventure, just as I have done in my life.
I have challenged my characters to explore the dark side of humanity and society, and find a way to solve some of those issues, at least for a group of people. Some of these things are issues that I’ve been examining for years and already have my conclusions. Others I’m trying to work out in real time as the books are being written.
This blog is about one of those issues that I haven’t worked out yet:
What gives a person value?
This is a question that is much more at the center of societal rifts than I ever realized. A lot of our biases and judgements are built around very vague notions of what it is that makes a person worth something.
For example: what is your opinion of someone who has been unemployed for several years? For most people, they have a very low opinion, especially if it’s a man. What is your opinion of someone who has worked somewhere for 30 years, and never missed a single day? That’s something that impresses us, right? Why?
Here’s a cliché description of someone that we feel obligated to respect: A single mom, working 3 jobs to raise her kids, and never took a dime of charity.
Is it the job that gives someone value, or is it their ability to support their family? Maybe it’s the commitment that we appreciate. Do we think more of someone who works 60 hours a week for low wages than we do of someone who works 20 hours a week for high wages?
Here’s an interesting contradiction: We look down on rich people who don’t give money to the poor, but we look down on anyone who accepts ‘handouts’ from someone else. What is it that we want to see happen? Is our real Utopia a place where everyone makes it, but just barely?
As a society, our historical purpose has been to be a workforce. As time and technology advance, far fewer people are needed to produce things. We are now at a point where the purpose of the masses is to consume, as consumption and demand are what drive the machine. However, we haven’t updated our biases and judgements to reflect that.
What are we going to do when we get to the point where machines do everything? Will we all sit around and condemn one another for not working 60 hours a week like we used to do? We are creating that world at a frantic pace. Our ideas about what makes us important must start changing. We can’t continue to measure ourselves against a standard that is no longer relevant.
In the evolution of a society, things happen in a certain order. Production starts with food, then goes to exporting resources like mining and logging. After that comes the production of textiles, then mid-range goods. Next is high-technology items like electronics and machinery. The next level is the production of information.
This is where we are. As we have moved through this evolution, our workforce demands which started out very high have gradually decreased. This is problematic, because our population started out very low, and has increased inversely over that same period of time. We now have more people than ever before, we need fewer workers than ever before (per capita), and we are still placing our worth on our employment status.
What gives you value? Maybe it’s time to give that some thought.
J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the sidebar, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com
What gives us value is indeed a good question. The man who does not work? There is always a job somewhere if that person is willing to work. Most who don’t work, I think, don’t want to work – a welfare mentality. I think it is loyalty and faithfulness that keeps a person working – whether that loyalty and faithfulness are directed toward providing for family or pleasing the employer. I don’t think work is necessarily for the pay although pay is certainly an incentive. Work is for the satisfaction of doing something and doing it well. “If you are a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.” I don’t think it has anything to do with long hours/low pay vs short hours/high pay. It is the fact of being productive and satisfying our inner desire to generate income and good opinions of others. Each person’s utopia is unique and individual. Just like my lifestyle clashes with your own utopia – but mine works for me and yours works for you. In the grand scheme of things, I think we are all individuals drawn together by common interests and goals. I really don’t think we will ever get to the mass machine operated society – people are far too individually drawn to continue to create and do for themselves. There will always be people working and doing and going and striving. Laziness is not a natural part of our make-up.