Hearing about the actions of former President Trump, his chief of staff Mark Meadows, and so many others—including some Republican members of Congress—makes you wonder about their value priorities. Especially after the riveting testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson. “What values?” you might ask. But everyone has values. They might be bad ones. They may never have been thought out or articulated, but they’re there, however deeply buried.
And that very condition—buried or subconscious values—takes us to the heart of our problem. But one not just for Trump and his backers and enablers. Rather one that afflicts our society as a whole, and one that our educational system, whether formal or informal, has failed to confront.
At this point I should quickly add, “Those of you on the Left, you liberals and progressives, please don’t stop reading just because it’s usually Republicans and conservatives that talk about values.”
Consider these words of Barack Obama, certainly no right-winger. Before being elected president, he devoted a 27-page chapter to “Values” in his The Audacity of Hope. In it he wrote, “I think that Democrats are wrong to run away from a debate about values,” and that the question of values should be at “the heart of our politics, the cornerstone of any meaningful debate about budgets and projects, regulations and policies.”
“The heart of our politics.” Those are serious words. And not from some Ivory-Tower intellectual, but from a man who would go on to win two presidential elections.
Some of the values Obama advocated were empathy, honesty, fairness, self-reliance, humility, kindness, courtesy, and compassion, as well as wisdom, which implies the ability to prioritize such values in order to best work for the common good—which should be the main aim of politics.
Reflect also on the words of U. S. neuropsychologist and Nobel laureate Roger Sperry, as cited by Copthorne Macdonald, founder of the Wisdom Page: “Human value priorities . . . stand out as the most strategically powerful causal control now shaping world events. More than any other causal system with which science now concerns itself, it is variables in human value systems that will determine the future.”
Thus, despite our often ignoring them, values are important—in politics, but also beyond in our personal, social, and work-related lives.