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What is it worth?

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

I begin to write this blog not entirely sure where it will take me. The themes and thoughts that I hope will emerge onto this page have been in my head for a while now; milling around, circling, whirling, whirring in the background. I have many questions; many things that remain uncertain; and yet this feels like it matters to me and has an importance that I perhaps don't yet quite understand.

So, I suppose I write this blog as part of my quest to find some sense in it all...if, indeed there is sense to be found.

Over the past few weeks and months I have become increasingly aware of living in a world that feels, for want of a better description, relentlessly competitive. Everywhere I look I see people, organisations, sectors, countries and governments seeking to 'prove' that their cause or way or ideas are 'better' or 'more worthy' than the alternative. Left versus right; Yes versus No; Health versus the Economy; Arts versus Sport; Black versus White; Men versus Women. I often feel like I am caught up in a perpetual battle ground where choices are simple and binary - one thing or the other...and that these battles are becoming increasingly fierce with voices on either side just getting louder and louder and louder...until one side wins and the fight moves on.

I have also begun to notice how desperate we (as in society) often are to hold on to certain things in our worlds, regardless of what is happening around us. At one level we hold up our rights as things we need to protect at all costs; at other levels there are our habits, our choices that we most usually take for granted and rarely afford a second thought. Right now this most obviously perhaps includes activities like meeting friends, visiting family, going shopping, popping out for a coffee or meeting at the pub. I have also been thinking about the traditions that are important to different parts of our communities - from cultural celebrations to family activities passed down from generation to generation and embedded in our everyday ways of being.

All this has got me thinking about value and the level of worth we all, individually and societally, place on different things in our lives. We are all unique and inevitably this means that we will all value different things. I value care, compassion and kindness, for example. Then there are perhaps the things that we value within our families, things that are special to those with whom we grew up. There may be school values, community values, organisational values, cultural values...and then, maybe there are those things that we, more broadly value as human beings. There are also the different 'things' that we all value and hold dear - music, sport, health, money, freedom, the NHS, jobs, opportunity...the list is endless.

Inevitably, then, in a world of 7.5 billion people, there are an endless stream of 'things' that we each value. We all potentially place differing levels of 'worth' on different things in our life. Some may value a trip to the theatre, others a space in nature; some the right to vote, others the ability to live in safety; some the chance to learn, others the chance to work. Different perspective on value is everywhere. I am reminded of the time I made my A-level choices and selected PE as one of my options (it was always going to be first on my list). My choice was met with horror by one of my teachers who actively suggested that I would be better off doing a more academic subject such as English as my talents would be wasted in PE. I was also struck by the 'Fatima' advert that suggested our society values the cyber world over ballet, and equally I have been thinking about how the things my parents value have almost unconsciously been passed down to me, my siblings and my nieces.

In a world that appreciates and recognises difference, and is able to embrace and discuss these differences in a positive way, difference is amazing and valuable. And yet, now, more than ever, it feels to me like we are living in an increasingly competitive and sometimes vicious world where the things we value are held in competition with each other and we are forced to 'choose' the things we value the most...and most critically, those choices are usually made by people who place value on different things to us.

Every day I look around and see competition. Competition for money, for recognition, for praise, for victory. In a world where resources (mainly right now money) are finite, our news feeds are filled daily with petitions from all angles of society as they fight for their right to be heard. I see different sports arguing their case for investment to survive; the arts community raising their voice for recognition; the charity sector struggling to survive; the hospitality industry highlighting their plight...and that is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Right now, to me, it feels like I am living in a world of constant, ferocious and sometimes bitter competition where the 'winners' are those able to shout the loudest and plead their case to people in power who share in their value. It feels like 'we' continue to reward and recognise those who value the same as 'us'; where valuing something different is not perceived as valuable.

So why does this feel important to me and, perhaps more critically, where may solutions lie?

I guess this is what I am still pondering to a large extent. I see something that feels problematic to me and I notice it more and more. I feel that a big part of the solution depends on us all being able to develop the ability to listen, to really hear what others have to say and to consciously acknowledge that we all value different things. I also think that there is something around creating a sense of unity and realising that resources are not limited. Whilst we continue to compete with each other and fight between ourselves to gain reward, recognition and perhaps, right now, compensation that we deserve, what we are actually achieving is increased division and a reinforcement of the 'things' in society valued by those who have the power to be able to grant those financial rewards.

What if we stood back, thought more about our own perspective and the value we place on things in our life, then took another step back and reflected on how these things may differ for others? What if we developed our tolerance for difference? What if we felt comfortable having open conversations about how and why we value different things? What if we were genuinely able to listen, hear, collaborate, support, respect and serve not only our own needs, but the needs of others...of the collective?

What, I wonder, would that be worth?

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