Friday, June 26, 2009

What Do We Value?

“Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.”

Erma Bombeck

Been to the supermarket recently? Joined me in the guilty pleasure of reading the tabloid headlines recently? (If you either bought the magazine or believed the headlines, call me. I’ll help you get the counseling you need!)

Perhaps every society has worried that its culture was declining; however, our current reality seems truly scary. Many surveys of American teens report that “being famous” or “getting on TV” is either at the top or near it when asked what their goals are.

Have many of us have been lousy examples or just failed to teach our young people about true heroism? I mentioned in response to a recent comment on my blog ( that due to being in a full leg cast for several summers as a teen, I read almost every book in the local library’s biography section. As a result, I can tell you more than you want to know about famous black biologist George Washington Carver’s peanut research.

More importantly, I gained a deep appreciation and respect for people who were truly extraordinary and the prices they paid for their accomplishments.

I’d love to hear how you feel about my observation that we seem to be rushing headlong into valuing the wrong things. Am I on to something here? Please respond on the blog so I can share your wisdom—and my reply—with all of my extraordinary readers!

With love and respect,



guy said...

Hi Robert;

I think that it's both , the value that people have put on "things" as well as the lack of education rigour that is now common around the world ( except Asia ).

The very existence of the "tabloids" you refer to are proof of the low level of education of a large majority of the people that pick them up.....Yeah, yeah it's to wrap the trash....

In some countries, viz. the UK, even the "serious" press has gone to "trashy" headlines and content, leaving the important news to the inside.....

The financial crisis teaches the young people that there is nothing wrong with losing other people's money and getting handsomely paid for it too....that it's ok to live above your means.....

In yesterday's International Herald Tribune there was an editorial which, when boiled down, was advocating free drugs access so as to secure the "right" of suffering people to have access to them.....

Never mind the right to have our kids protected from pushers and dealers at the exit of schools...

As I am now in the "other" category in the age groups in surveys, I will recall that we were "free" as well in those days but we had to "respect"other people, not because it was "the law" but because it was "decent" and "moral" to do so, we played outdoors with friends, we rode our bikes without all the "legal paraphernalia" that is now required and we were punished at school, sometimes physically yet, it's our generation that made all the things that are so "necessary" today and , lo and behold, we are still alive.......

denese said...

Hi Robert,

I totally agree with you. We value the wrong people and the wrong things, and the wrong people that have the wrong (bling bling) things! I think this is evidenced by the John and Kate Plus Eight show (I don't watch but know people who do) -- individuals that have profited off of a show exploiting their eight children and their clearly dysfunctional marriage (which show now, apparently, will be focusing on their divorce and custody issues, as well as their children).

Reality shows have upped the ante in this regard, which is why we have people like Paris Hilton that are "role models" for young girls.

I do think there has been a push by some responsible journalists and others to highlight people who do good things, and I think that such people deserve admiration.

However, I have mixed feelings about even this sort of adulation. For example, I think that it is great for people to admire Princess Diana's and Paul McCartney's ex-wife's (sorry I don't remember her name) charity work. However, somehow I feel like these individuals, or at least some individuals like them, have done their "good works" for the attention they receive from it, which I think is wrong. I'm not sure why I think that-- but something is not right when there is an ego driven motivation for helping others (something about the means not justifying the ends, if that makes any sense).

I am happy though when people like Dr. Ariyaratne (Sarvodaya) and Desmond Tutu are highlighted...

I hope my comments aren't too disjointed. This topic is just more complicated than I anticipated.


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