What’s my value?

I’ve been involved in Citizen Advocacy for nearly five years now. It started as it did with all people who become advocates in Savannah, Georgia. Tom Kohler gave me call and asked if I would o out to lunch with him. That lunch eventually led me to Herman. You’ll hear more about (and from) Herman in later entries. Before that I was asked to visualize the world around me as separated in to two groups.

Those that are valued by society

Those that are not valued by society

Our society (beyond just country, think more established human hierarchies of society) places values on almost everything. Value can be measured in terms of money, time, effort, and a host of other units. We also (whether we realize it or not) place a value on the people around us. If you’ve every been to a party you see this play out in an obvious fashion. People gravitate toward other people because they may be rich, or powerful, or good looking, or just a great conversationalist. For that particular moment in time that person is more valued than others. Now imagine that played out over thousands of little and big decisions that we make every day. Now imagine that applied to millions of people and you have the construct of social role valuation.

Here’s one good example.

Why is it that certain people are separated from the rest of our society. Criminals are deemed too dangerous, people with contagious diseases may be a risk to spread their disease and therefore must be separated. However, what about a person with cerebral palsy or a mentally retarded child, or am elderly person whose quadriplegic. We have set up systems and processes that are in many cases designed to separate those people from the rest of us. We say things like “They need to be some place where they can receive good care”, but do we really account for the care they receive in nursing homes, groups homes, and institutions. At a deeper level why do we feel the need to have this care administered in places where we don’t have to interact with these people?

Have we made a decision as a society that these people are less valuable than others and can therefore be removed from our presence because we believe they don’t contribute to the betterment of society?

I’ve always thought these things, but it wasn’t until I met Tom that I could really grab it, internalize, and face it. It was through reading and discussions with Tom that I came to Citizen Advocacy and eventually Herman.

One comment

  • Ashley

    Since I’ve been involved in citizen advocacy, I have appreciated the opportunity to think and talk about ideas such as inclusion and exclusion and social devaluation.

    There are not many opportunities to look at this subject head on with people who are willing to look at it with you, and try to challenge it by changing what you yourself can change – opening up your relationship life to include people who haven’t traditionally been included.

    This idea of social devaluation and one response to it – citizen advocacy – providing protection and advocacy through personal relationships – has fascinated me for 10 years now. It still seems like a good, valid response to me.

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