Values: Shouldn’t Activism Advance Them?

Values matter. I hope we can all agree on that point, regardless of the obvious vagueness.

We all have values and all hope to see those values realized in society. This could mean that we vote for a candidate who opposes gay marriage. One might be offended by a music video with some girl’s claevage filling up the screen as she jiggles her boobs.

Activists all over the political spectrum also want to see their values realized in our social institutions. This is one of the reasons for activism to exist! Maybe you are working legal recognition for same-sex unions, or maybe you are working to get more money for science education in schools. In both cases your effrts have an abstract, philosophical foundation. In thr first case, the relevant value is, well, family. In the second case learning is the driving value.

If activist efforts have a driving value or values, a few questions need to be asked. Does what you are doing really advance the value in question? In the case of advocating for better science education the answer is obvious. What about the case of expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples? Is the value of family being advanced or undermined? The answer depends on whom you ask. doesn’t it? Maybe it is clear what value is involved and what should be done to advance that value is agreed on, well, mostly at least.

Maybe your cause is 100% health insurance coverage for children. Your cause supports the health of children and health is a very important value, isn’t it? Yes, but health insurance isn’t about health, it is about insurance! You only need insurance (or cash or credit) when something bad happens! Maybe public money could be better spendt on preventive measures like new regulations or education programs. Maybe advancing the value of health – a worthy thing to do – calls for a different approach.

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~ by chetdavis on October 5, 2007.

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