Feb. 16th, 2012

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The thought came to me this morning between sleeping and waking of writing an academic paper about worth of people. Basically, I would start out showing that society valued people differently based on a lot of factors:
  • Wealth
    • Markers include clothes, shoes, fineness of dress, cars, large homes, many servants.

  • Fame
    • Operates sometimes as a marker for great artistic talent, beauty, wealth, humor, or intelligence but may be independent of any of the above, as in people famous for being famous.

  • Power
  • Maleness, gender
  • Beauty
    • Straightness, smoothness of hair
    • Racial, whiteness, pallor of skin and hair
    • Thinness, lack of obesity or emaciation
    • Beauty valued differently in males and females with beauty
      contributing far more to the worth of females than males.

  • Health, lack of disease markers
    • Smoothness of skin, healthy skin tone, tanness.
    • Energy level, animation.

  • Sexual purity
  • Heteronormism
  • Intelligence
  • Artistic talent
    • Storytelling
    • Sense of humor, ability to make people laugh
    • Skill at drawing, painting, sculpting
    • Musical ability
    • Artisan skills

  • Age
    • Newborn to early adolescence age bonus is high – after young adulthood age bonus slowly declines to old age. Other cultures value age differently with old age being a marker for wisdom.

  • Amiability: kindness vs. defensiveness, happiness vs. sadness, neediness vs. providence, industriousness vs. fatigue or laziness.
  • Confidence, feeling of self-worth, willingness to speak up for oneself, irrepressibility, spunkiness, willingness to fight.
  • High fecundity.
  • Scarcity. When certain qualities are abundant in a society, they become less valued. Example: musical talent, artists and artisans.
  • Species with humans held in high esteem, mammals less so, reptiles even less, insects less still, etc. A whole other argument, but human idea of the “ladder of life” persists despite the more objective structure of evolution’s “bush of success”.

This model shows us for example that a young, male, beautiful, white, powerful, wealthy, famous person is generally perceived, (despite some disagreement), as having higher worth than, for instance, an old disabled woman living in poverty.
  • This is what society perceives in general. Show examples, quotes, etc. to make this point.
  • Possession of one or two characteristics in high values can negate effects of others, e.g. Kurt Cobain, Albert Einstein.
  • Talk about opposite views such as Paul Gutierrez, Paul Farmer, Christ, other religious figures, who teach directly in opposition to this, that all human beings have inestimable but very high worth intrinsically despite current state or condition.
  • Examine independence of all these qualities from one another. Give examples of people with one or more qualities eclipsing others.
  • Examine cases of drastic change of conditions.
  • Examine how different societies define worth in radically different ways such that a low-worth individual in one society’s ranking system might become a very-high-worth individual in another.
  • Examine idea that intrinsic worth is always factually high despite presence or absence of these qualities.
    • Potential for society to change and expand or differentiate, particularly in the future.
    • Perceived value of individuals often changes upon further knowledge. Stravinsky sucks until one is sufficiently acquainted with his music to realize he utterly rules. Ditto Bach, etc.
    • Limitation of time and attention limits our ability to perceive full worth of others.
    • Idea arose of God whose infinitude of attention and knowledge gives him the ability to perceive people’s true inestimably high worth.

  • To what extent is it practical for society’s or individual human’s limited attention to acknowledge or reward people’s real worth as opposed to their perceived societal worth?
  • To the extent that society and individual humans have expanding knowledge and attention?
  • Human rights movements, Civil rights movement, Feminism, Occupy movement, American Ideals of the value of individuals, show how society as it increases in knowledge and attention similarly expands the circle of people considered to have high worth.
  • The internet has changed social dynamics and power structures in ways that empower the individual and vastly increase the amount of knowledge as well as expanding the potential cloud of ideas to which we can pay attention. Self-publishing, blogs, social networking, etc. have broken open the historically narrow channels though which information is filtered for general consumption. The gates have been thrown down. The fourth estate is now the first.


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