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Thinking about worth

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Sure, we’ve all heard about human trafficking, especially about the trafficking of children for exploitation, sexual or otherwise. How is it that people can do such things to children, or even have a small part in the business of it? Since I’ve been investigating this issue, I’ve begun to see some exploitation in more subtle ways.

I think a book could be written about the societal norms and trends that are allowing such things to take root. These norms are somewhat cultural in nature and phenotypical in expression, meaning that we are all have a basic human nature, but some values are different, and some values are expressed in different ways. The value of monetary worth and the worth of an individual. These are values in every society and the structure of the society can either do violence or bring wholeness to the individual. An individual may hold different values than that of the culture in which they live, but to the extent to which they conform to these beliefs is the extent of the power of that society holds.

These are some big big ideas I’ve been tossing around in my head, and they are too big for a small blog post. I’ll be writing some more down in the following weeks but I hope also to engage in discussion as well. The following are examples of what this looks like here, but I’m sure you can see expressions of this wherever you live.

Children are commoditized by people trading and selling them. The baby trade is a huge business, and I’ll write about it in a separate post.  People arrested for their part in the baby trade have been quoted as saying that they didn’t think there was anything wrong with what they were doing – they thought they were just providing a service because someone wanted the babies that didn’t seem to be wanted by their parents and they could make a yuan or two from it. WOW. These children are people. How can it be that in a society where they make “Little Emperors and Empresses” of their own children, other people’s children are merely tradable goods? How can they deny a moral responsibility?

Orphanages here commodify children by refusing to allow them to be fostered out into the community, a truly better place for them. What?! Why would they want to do that? By increasing the orphanage numbers, they can get more money from the government as well as private donors.  For a heart-breaking look at this from the inside, see my friend’s blog post, “It’s Complicated”.

Children may be commoditized by their own families. Four grandparents and two parents dote on their one and only child. The children are totally spoiled until they reach school age, which may start as early as four years old. Then the pressure is on – literally 24/7 – to be the best, the top of the class, to get into the best school to get the best job to make the most money, to buy the most expensive cars and top name luxury items, and to get more and more and more. On top of all that, and most important, is to provide your parents and grandparents with the best life when they are old.

It takes money to get into the best schools and take the best classes in order to pass with the highest grades. And if you can’t score the best, you may be able to buy your way into a school or a job. Children are basically taught to commoditize life – their own and others. Because having as much as you can get is what is believed to be the most important by the enormous social pressures that exist in this country.

And while people may or may not admit that they buy into whatever society is telling them is the way to live, the extent to which they act on it makes the pressure either stronger or weaker. This is true for ways that lead to wholeness as well as ways that lead to inhumanity. May we be living for life.

This is a short post of some observations, but there is much more to unpack. As I said, a book could be written…  It also leads me to think about my own actions and decisions, subtle they may be that either reinforce or work against some negative messages I’m being told by the society in which I live. Are there times when I treat someone as less than the human being they are? Unfortunately, all too often.

I know that no matter how they act, people (and I mean almost everyone everywhere) truly want to believe that their life is truly seen, that is delighted in, and that is worth something way more than an amount of mere money.

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4 thoughts on “Thinking about worth

  1. Of course here the ultimate commoditizing of human life is to call it a fetus and you can dispose of it in any way you want.

  2. Good thoughts. I have been working in orphan care for what is my sixth year. I have been primarily focused in Ukraine, but I am interested in your perspectives about orphans/trafficking in China.

    Thanks!

  3. Makes you think Katherine. I have been wondering about how my lifestyle choices agree with this. It sure is easier to think that because we don’t engage in human trafficking or other blatant acts of injustice that we are off the hook. Realising that living free of the “Empire of injustice” is harder than I think… and asking more than I sometimes am willing to sacrifice. Would have loved to sit down and talk about this with you over a good meal my friend. I miss having your challenging perspective and wisdom at hand 😉

  4. Hmmm, interesting stuff – and challenging – to think about. Have been reading a book recently – “Trails of Hope & Terror” – that discusses the issues of immigration in our place – particularly from Central Amer. It’s bizarre, and sobering, to consider the commoditization of people that is woven throughout that entire issue as well.

    My eyes are being opened – I feel myself having to question whether what I am reading is really true, because some of it is so extremely inhumane, and yet is alleged to be happening *right here* in the “Good ‘ole u s of a”. We want fresh tomatoes, and strawberries in our grocery stores, and the butchered chickens and pigs – but we don’t want the people who pick the tomatoes and berries or who clean and butcher the chickens and pigs. We make life downright unhospitable for them. This is not right.

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