Thursday, February 10, 2011

A lamentation on social values as represented by $$$

I've had two exchanges recently that have got me down.

This is a lamentation on our social values.

Grant me, for a moment, the proposition that a society's values can be represented in general--but highly important and informative--terms by the amount of money it expends on activities, infrastructure, and professional salaries. I'll call this the "show me the money" proposition.

If the above proposition holds any water, then, regardless of what a society might say it values, when push comes to brass tacks, a society will consciously or unconsciously allocate resources to the categories it considers most worthy.

Then, looking at where the money goes, one can determine what a society values.

Therefore, the American society most values the following . . .

I could go on.

What our American society doesn't value includes a functional education system as well as the corollaries and extensions one can readily draw from the list above (i.e., using our military for something other than expansion of the empire, providing basic health care support for all American citizens, scaling-back the exorbitance of professional and collegiate sports, etc.).

It also doesn't value self-awareness, nuance, or complexity.

As evidenced by the financial returns that one can get from applying an MA in history in activities that are directly related to this area of specialization (i.e., research, analysis, writing, teaching), American society does not value the insights that can come from an interpretation of the past that is more than myth, feel-good fluff, or propaganda.

Unfortunately, many of us in history and related professions are left to slog headlong into the unappreciative social maelstrom propelled largely by our passions and the hope that at the end of the day we can still put bacon on the table.



  1. Sounds like you're facing the realities of living the life a poor, unappreciated historian :) I feel for you as I gave in to the idea of being a poor, unappreciated educator years ago. You're right! Our country has some pretty messed up values based on where the money goes. I've always thought it was ridiculous that professional athletes make millions while teachers live a pauper's life and the education system continues underfunded year after year. So tell me, is this just an American plight? Doesn't most of the world share our backward values? Because if there's a nation somewhere out there that puts value on self-awareness, nuance, complexity and insight, I just might move there!

  2. "is this just an American plight?"

    Good question. I dunno. Maybe it's a characteristic of the species? I have a theory that most humans are interested in history only to the extent that they can create a selective narrative that will mythologize and simplify things to enable them to support their own preconceived notions and/or sought-after aims. One of these day's I'll write an entire post about this.