How Values Change

It is fascinating to ponder history and discover how values change over time.  Gold was, is, and likely ever-shall-be a valuable monetary standard while other, less precious, metals like aluminum began life as an exquisite expense only to end up at the bottom of the recycling bin as empty beer cans:

Applications of aluminum were limited to jewelry and other such luxury items: bars of aluminum were exhibited alongside the French crown jewels, and Emperor Napoleon III was said to have reserved aluminum dining sets for his most honored guests. In 1884, aluminum was used to cap the Washington Monument – at the time, the 100-ounce capstone was the single largest piece of cast aluminum ever created. It was not until the year 1886, when the first high-volume, low-cost smelting process for aluminum was discovered, that the age of aluminum was born.

As aluminum changed in value over the past hundred years, so too, have other cultural touchstones changed.  We used to value a nuclear family over one broken by divorce.  We used to honor the Sabbath.  We used to value education over extremism.

How and why do our values change over time?

Can we blame business ethics and the vulgarity of a world economy for the erosion in values?

Does exposure to foreign cultures enrich our values, or cheapen the morality we used to territorially hold so dear?

I believe the expansion of dreams and the inspiration of wants begins with exposure to new ideas and unfamiliar concepts.  We judge our status quo against another culture’s way of doing things, and when we cry, “I can make that better!” or “I see my life in a new way!” — a righteous valuation begins to happen, and that is exactly how human progression sustains growth.

When we close ourselves off to new ideas, we are creating a static time machine that locks us into a specific place and notion — and we are forever stuck in a world where aluminum is, and always shall be, the most valuable metal in the world to us — even though the rest of the world has moved on with innovation and cheapened the very valuation we used to cherish as a social norm and a scientific reality.

2 comments

  • Well we sure are still loving and honoring that Sabbath! :)

    Aluminum is a fascinating metal. We can now buy it cheaply at Costco and cover entire office cubicles with it as a prank.

    I am reminded of a documentary I saw about an Amish community in Pennsylvania and how they would accept certain new things as long as they didn’t clash with their core value system. I suppose it means that it is possible but not easy to ruin your values!

    • You are one of the golden few, Gordon, who do HONOR the Sabbath and I admire you for having the faith to follow that requirement of living!

      Yes, the Amish are fascinating. They will allow the orange triangles for “Slow Vehicles” on their horse-drawn carriages — not because they want it — but because the law requires it.

      I do think “values modifications” are part of an evolving human history — and as long as we always value something with inherent, unchanging, moral consequences, I think we’ll do alright together in the long run.

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