Friday, September 16, 2011
Another Look at Perspective
Earlier I defined Perspective, in part, as the ability to separate the important from the trivial, the substantial from the artificial, and as not professing one set of values and living differently. When Americans talk about their values, what they hold dear, you often hear words like family, God or faith, freedom, America, education, friendship, compassion, courage, and providing a better life for their children and grandchildren. I may have left a few out, but these are among admirable values, that they express. We should expect to see decisions and actions that reflected these priorities. Just last weekend on the 10th anniversary of 9-11 many of us remembered the tragedy and took time to consider and recommit ourselves to living according to these values. That’s why, especially this week, it’s a little disappointing to see these two seemingly unrelated stories.
The first is a report showing the “fair market value of top-tier college football players” at over $100,000, arguing that the money is not shared equitably with the athletes. Full scholarships don’t even cover all their costs and a majority of them are living below the poverty level. (Imagine that! College students living below the poverty level and graduating with tremendous debt - unheard of!) Anyway I take no position on the report recommendations, but I do wonder how the “fair market value” of college athletes got to be six figures. Is it possible that the rest of us, those who buy tickets, hats, and sweatshirts, and watch the advertising have determined that value by our actions? We say we care about education, and people wring their hands and looks distressed when reports show that America lags the rest of the world in mathematics, science and engineering or when test scores continue to drop, but when it comes to real values, putting our money where our mouths are, the top-tier nerd is left to fend for himself (or herself) while the football or basketball player is courted by multiple coaches, each paid 25 or 30 times what the professors are paid.
The next day in the news comes another example of people showing their real values by their actions and decisions. Shoppers lined up Target stores and brought their website to its knees wanting to buy a special line of discount fashions and furniture by a big-name Italian designer. Note that this is not just a few people; it’s hundreds lined up and thousands on the internet. (Aren’t most people at work on Tuesday morning?) It’s described as a “growing strategy by retailers to spur impulse buys by creating a sense of urgency” – gotta have that latest fashion. Despite what we try to teach our kids about what is really important in life, we invest our time and money on what we look like and what people think of us .
So there we have the dilemma. What are our real values, what we say they are or how we behave? Did we leave a few things off our list like college football and wearing the latest fashions or is the whole list a fantasy? Scary stuff.