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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

What do we value most?

In Justice and Nature, Thomas Nagel discusses the challenges that a just society needs to balance between correcting inequalities that are due to nature and those due to defective social contructs.

Recently in a discussion with some others, someone noted that Nagel's observation that the American value for equal access to education for everyone has eroded tremendously in recent years. This can be seen by the serious lack of resources in many areas, especially the inner city, that has been allocated to education. Teachers have had to pay for their own materials, insufficient educational resources and overpopulated classrooms are commonplace in many public school districts.

My observation is that the American public highly prized some values more than others to the detriment of the society as a whole. In Nagel's words, "Injustice is not just another cost; it is something that must be avoided, if not at all costs, then at any rate without counting the costs too carefully. If a form of inequity in social arrangements is unjust, it should not be tolerated, even if that means giving up things that may be very valuable in other ways."

Alas, the American public has not taken heed. We instead have pursue aggressively other values more strongly held to be important; values that are affirmed by the framers of the Constitution, namely, life, liberty and happiness. An example of our hedonistic passions, and distorted value system media can be seen by how entertainment, media and sports celebrities are excessively overpaid, while the shapers, molders, and influencers of the nation's next generation of leaders and thinkers are, relatively speaking, treated like second class citizens.

I wonder whether today's America would have been any different if the Founding Fathers had paid more attention to the Psalms rather than to Locke and had focused on building the nation on principles of justice, peace and righteousness such as expressed in Psalm 9 and other passages.

Perhaps, the church's role is to permeate our society and bring these values to the forefront of our society by being "salt" and "light". One way of doing so would be to encourage our younger generation to take up the call to infuse every strata of society and to bring about transformation from the inside out.