Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Essential Differences Between Views & Values - Part 1

How should we judge a person – by the views he holds or by the values that are dear to him? Views and opinions can be changed and are held together by a combination of intellect and emotions.

However, values are seen to represent what we are made of and what our characters represent. These values may be publicly accepted values such as integrity/sanctity/righteousness on the one hand or private values such as security, power and wealth on the other hand.

We attach greater importance to values because our values are ultimately what we are willing to risk our lives for and what we are willing to go to war for (or not go to war if you are a pacifist). Values seem to appeal to our spiritual and nobler inclinations such as cherishing life and helping those in need. However, despite the distinction between values and opinions, the two are often substitutes for one another.

Our views often reflect our values, regardless of how much we try to be politically correct or neutral on certain issues. They say that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. This refers more to values than opinions because values are as important to our lives as food is to the body. But would it be correct to say that one man’s opinion is meat to him but poison to others?

Opinions and views are exchanged more frequently and they are subject to improvisations, innovations, mutations and alternations. In reply to accusations of being inconsistent, the economist John Maynard Keynes famously said: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" However, values are more sticky and, hence, harder to change even if the facts no longer support the values.

For instance, many politicians still believe that subsidized pricing is an effective way of keeping inflation under control. Little do they see the fact that subsidized pricing maintained over time will distort the allocation of resources by encouraging consumers to consume more of the commodity (e.g. fuel, rice, bread) that is in limited supply.

Finally, I shall conclude by asking a question that is on many Malaysians' minds in recent months: "How do we judge the character of a charismatic, eloquent and internationally well-respected politician like Anwar Ibrahim?" Are his values more important to him than his methods and policies? Would he use questionable means (e.g. cross overs to gain a backdoor entry into power) to achieve a fair and just end (A new Malaysia)? A wiser politician - under scrutiny from a discerning public - would be equally careful in shaping his opinions, policies and tactical methods as he would be in forming his long-term goals for the nation.

This brings us to another related and important topic: Is it ethical to use unjust means to achieve a just end? We often hear of Deng Xiaoping's quote that it does not matter whether the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mice. Well, I beg to differ. If you get a hungry tiger to catch a mouse in your house, you may well end up getting mauled.

In conclusion, unsound methods may reveal much about a person's values. (Let's be clear, I try to be as apolitical as much as I can in this blog. There may be reasons why drastic measures/means are sometimes used to save a nation from disaster. That is why political problems are best resolved by an intelligent trade-off analysis.)

This discussion of ends and means in regard to Malaysia will continue in Part 2.

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Do You Want To Know God?

Do You Want To Know God?
Say this: Heavenly Father, I have sinned against You. Forgive all my sins. I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins and rose again. I give you my life to do as You wish. I want Jesus to come into my life & heart. In Jesus's name. Amen