What creates value in our lives?

Value is one of those words that changes in understanding over time, and like much of our world has been sucked into the realm of quantification. Our default has become to measure it in financial terms, and then to give that priority. In the last thirty years, just about every facet of our lives has been “financialised”.

We have effectively privatised every aspect of society, from child care to funerals in order to create jobs which are needed to meet the debts we incur to live. Thirty minutes on a treadmill versus a two hour walk outside. We’ve done that as we have run out of natural assets to privatise following several generations worth of extracting natural assets from the planet for which we have paid nothing in return. It seems rather like that parental nightmare of coming home to find the house has been trashed by a house party.

At the same time, we seem to have lost pleasure in what comes for free compared to what we have to pay for. Today sees the first day of “imbolk“, an ancient festival sitting half way between winter solstice and spring equinox. It is seen by many of the first day of Spring, and out walking today the snowdrops were out in force. It made me smile, and I haven’t a clue how to put a value on it.

We are in the middle of the biggest pandemic for a century. The last one, the “Spanish Flu” (we do like to make it somewhere’s fault) infected 500 million people and cost 50 million lives when the world population was less than 2 billion people. Tragic as the current figures are, we’ve come a long way due to the work of our scientists. How do we value that?

We live longer today than at any time in history, and globally are healthier, wealthier and safer than we have ever been.

And yet, we are encouraged to judge the impact of the current pandemic on what we can’t do, as against what we are doing. To put the net gains behind our perceived current losses.

I think that’s wrong headed. Not only do we have much to appreciate, we have the chance to look critically at where we are today, and what we really value. How much of the routine consumption we have become habituated to really matters versus what we have learned to value during the pandemic. Relationships, time with family, fewer meetings, more time outside, an appreciation of those who put themselves on the line for us becuase it’s what they do, not for profit?

Value is far more than price.

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