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Radically Inept
Thursday, October 07, 2004
  Lack of a value free viewpoint

It dawned on me after I wrote the post below, that it is really loaded with unexplained value judgments. I'm sure most of you caught on, and I don't think I will always point out where I lack objectivity, but I did think it important to at least let you know that I recognize that I'm writing from a value laden perspective.

For instance, though I don't come right out and say it, it should be obvious that I find the need to resort to anti-depressant drugs to avoid depression a 'bad' thing. What I don't do is to offer any justification for that point of view. Hell, I'm not so sure I can find evidence of any society having existed that had an inherently lower level of depression. I mean it's especially difficult since depression as a recognized ailment and records there of, is a relatively recent development. And I don't have a clue for what the rate of 'clinical' depression might have been for the Minh dynasty vs the Ming Dynasty vs that found within the Hawaiian caste system pre-Capt Cook vs that found within The Cherokee Nation or the Australian Aboriginals. For all I know, they all resorted to their own form of anti-depressants, for instance the early opium trade in China. So, I can not say that there ever was a definitive 'happy society'.

But I do think it is fair to question a system wherein there appears to be a huge rise in the use of drugs that presumably reduce the 'pain' of society. I also think it is fair to ask to what degree do cultural and societal norms and values contribute to the rate of depression within a given population. And while I won't take the time to look up the studies right now, I do remember reading that the US population has one of the highest rates of 'unhappiness', and my personal values say that unhappiness is a negative.

A few examples, which certainly aren't definitive, that I remember coming across that might give us some fodder for the discussion include: 1) A study/survey done a few years ago on the female population of Guam, and their feelings about their physical appearance. When the survey was first done, the majority of the females had a fairly positive view of their physical body type and attractiveness. A similar study/survey done after they had cable and MTV for a couple of years noted a huge rise in depression, bulimia and anorexia. 2) A similar occurrence was found in Nigeria, when they selected a woman as Ms Nigeria for the Ms World competetion that did not reflect the cultural values of beauty among the Nigerians. In the past, Nigeria had sent contestants who met their own values for beauty, but they always lost. When they sent a skinny woman, and she won, their was a huge increase in depression, bulimia and anorexia among Nigerian female teens.

I could point to others, and I probably will later, but that should suffice for now. Well, I think this is related, and it's the reason I decided to post this, so...I had to make a run over to the Kroger's to pick up some flour for the Wife a little while ago. For some reason the check out person appeared to have retired from her job while still running the checkout register. She was slower than mere incompetence and laziness would explain. Regardless, I had time to peruse the headlines of all of the fine publications that you find by the checkout counters across America. Stuff like J-Lo this, and secret baby that, and 10 fantastic sex tips that won't look like you got them from a magazine(?), and somebody something.

I don't get it. Why should I care about the lives of the rich and famous? Really. Why the fuck should I care if Jennifer somebody is bangin' Ben vs some other bimbo? What is the value of this knowledge? It has value - rest assured. The publisher is making money selling these tabloids, as is the supermarket, the middlemen and delivery people, the writers, publicists, photographers, fashion designers, etc etc etc. So, the information certainly has financial value. Why? I don't get it.

I have used pro football and baseball as examples in a similar nature, but it dawned on me, that a better, more extreme, example would be a sport like pro golf. Why does pro golf exist? This is not like pro sports franchises, where one could argue about the value to the community derived from the communal aspect of the franchise/game/whatever.

I'm talking pro golf. Can there exist a more selfish pursuit than pro golf? There is no 'win one for the Gipper', or for the town, or for anything but to line the player's pocket and his own personal agrandizement (Okay, maybe the ball and club manufacturers, but that's a real stretch). I can think of no more self sport than golf. Singles tennis or pro skate boarding or pro racing may fall into the same sort of category, but golf is so much easier to pick on. There's not even the thrill of potential injury or wreck to drive its popularity. Maybe the guy shanks it into the water or overshoots into a sand trap. Woooh..Now there's excitement!

Who the fuck cares? I really don't get it. I think playing golf can be fun, but I really can't understand the cult of personality that arises within the fan base. I don't. I really don't understand the socio-economic mechanism that makes pro golf a huge money maker.

So, I have to recognize that there is value in these things I'm ranting about, at least if the measure is ultimately financial. I can't deny their power to elicit strong feelings from the fans. I just can't understand how people can care about these endeavors to the extent of spending money, time and emotion on them. Hell, who decided that hitting a ball with a crooked stick into a gopher hole was worthy of watching in the first place?

So, what is the value of information? Well, I think it's examples like those above that make the question difficult to answer. I have discussed aesthetics as a source of information value, and as a contributing factor to our economic system, but I'm not sure what label to apply to the "value created" by living life vicariously through individuals who engage in what appears should be a perfectly worthless past time. Again, I can understand the pleasure derived from playing these games, I don't understand the fanaticism that arises from the non-participants.

so, all of these posts will be value laden. I know you knew that, but I wanted you to know that I recognize my prejudices. Of course, mine are right...

Quick Note: I meant to point this out also. Not only do we assign a value to the game of golf, and to the professional golfer, but we assign a value to people who can recite golf and other pro sports statistics. So, even if you have no atheletic talent, you can achieve prestige by memorizing the intricacies of a 'worthless' past time. Really, I don't get it. 
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