Nearly a year ago, a young man, by the name of Robert Champion died after being beaten by fellow FAMU band members aboard a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel. Florida A&M University has offered the family $300,000 to settle a lawsuit against the school, but the family’s lawyer said they rejected the money.
“The family is shocked and disappointed and cannot accept this offer,” attorney Christopher Chestnut said.
I say, Bravo!
It can sound crass, and make people feel ill-at-ease, as if they might sound conceited if say that they are worth more than other people. Yet it is important to ask it of ourselves, to assess our own self-worth as well as to understand how others may assess us.
Most of us have heard of the concept of “net worth” – a measure of total wealth, calculated by taking a person’s total assets minus their liabilities. But when we talk about the true “worth” of someone’s life, did you know that some government agencies and actuaries have actually set a solid number?
The economic concept of “value of a statistical life” (VSL) sets an approximate dollar amount on the value of a human life. This concept gives economists, actuaries, government officials and other decision makers a general metric to use in determining the spending levels and limitations of various public policies.
However, during the past 100 years, our culture has moved from treasuring life—even unborn life—to cheaply discarding life. Movies, TV shows, music, video games, and even school textbooks communicate that there is no intrinsic value to human life.
Our kids are taught that humans have no more value than animals or insects.
Without a moral code, there is no legitimate basis for suppressing selfish urges in favor of someone else’s values. There is no logical reason for doing anything other than “whatever makes you feel good.”
So what does this have to do with money?
It is very subtle, but as our culture has “cheapened” human life, this philosophy has permeated traditional financial management.
“You can’t simply say that every life is infinitely valuable,” said John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University whose work focuses on national security and risk analysis. “That’s just not the way the world operates.”
So How Much Are You Worth?
It’s the most compelling, preoccupying question we measure ourselves by every day, and it has very little to do with money. I’m talking about “worth” as in self-worth and “value,” as in the degree to which we feel valued by others, and valuable in the world. Nothing more powerfully influences our behavior and our effectiveness at work. After all, our core emotional need is to feel valued.
Researchers have found that the highest rises in cortisol levels — the most extreme fight or flight response — are prompted by “threats to one’s social self, or threat to one’s social acceptance, esteem, and status.
Just think for a moment about the difference between hearing a compliment and a criticism. Without a stable sense of value, we don’t know who we are and we don’t feel safe in the world.
From an evolutionary perspective, the need to be valued is primal and survival-based.
Judaism and Christianity and Islam are all committed to the protection of human life. It makes no difference whether the victim is a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim or anyone else. The value that is advocated is holistic and indivisible in that aggression against one is tantamount to aggression against all. Life is not only of infinite value, it is also sacred.
Universal human rights do not impose one cultural standard, rather one legal standard of minimum protection necessary for human dignity. If we accept the principle that universal human rights are worth embracing, then all human life must be included within this ideal. That’s what “universal” means.
You can’t quantify human life, and you certainly can’t equate one life to another. Each life has a subjective value. The value of human life has no numerical form, and if it did, then that number would be subjective. There is no way to value human life objectively.
Human rights begin when human life begins and ends with life’s natural conclusion. Anything else is either ignorance or sophistry and bigotry.
Each and every person has tremendous value.
It is not uncommon for well-meaning people to object strenuously to placing a value on a human life, judging such a practice to be callous and demeaning of the value of existence. It would be much better, to have an informed public debate drawing on moral, philosophical, and societal considerations beyond market-based assessments.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
Thanks for reading. Please pass this on to someone who means something to you.