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What’s your price? Some say everyone has a price, a reward for which they would do almost anything. Fame? Power? Wealth? Popularity? Superiority? Love?
I once took a test that identified my driving force as affection—benign, right? But anyone too vulnerable to affection can be manipulated, can easily fall prey to being a people pleaser. We watch celebrities who are addicted to adulation droop into depression when the ride is over and the audience has gone home—permanently. Abuse victims cling to their abusers, imagining no one else could ever care as much. The love you give can be unlimited but the love you crave cannot.
Recently, the proof of how far some will go to hold onto power has been shoved into our faces. People on video espousing their beliefs in family, the good of the people, and the health of the planet can be talked into voting against all those values if the prize is high enough—more power, more wealth…perhaps more fame. Throughout history people have killed and tortured for ideologies—in politics, in religion, in social structure. Ideologies are means of control. We want to force those around us to behave as we behave, to be what we conceive of ourselves as being. We shouldn’t be surprised to see people of principle deliberately lying. They’re terrified of losing influence. The price they put on their souls is power.
Our culture has claimed that wealth is proof of worth. Rich people are worth more. The poorer you are, the less you matter. And we often equate poverty with difference. People who are different (in race, religion, gender, culture, etc.) are the same as people who are poor. We don’t stop to evaluate how valuable many of those “lesser” people are or could be to our society, to our own lives. Many are willing to act against their basic values to stand on top of the “lesser” people. Even the empty promise that any of us might one day hit the jackpot and be one of the golden few can convince us to work against our own best interests, to align ourselves with others who yearn for superiority. “I may be a loser, but I’m not as disgusting as….”
Recently, jealousy of intelligence has inspired resentment of both intelligence and learning. Yet we can’t do better without changing and growing—either personally or as a society. Intelligence should work with other virtues such as honesty, humility, kindness, compassion, and dedication to improve life. Hostility perpetuates itself with revenge and conflict. Hatred against the self or others destroys hope.
But there are three equalizers that belittle the prizes we normally cherish: health, freedom, and life itself. Threatened with the loss of any of those three, even closed mouths and hard hearts generally soften. For example, the welfare of the planet becomes important when poisons steal your health. Caring for society steps above wealth and power when you’re facing loss of your freedom. The trick, I suppose, is to keep your priorities in front of you. What’s your price? Before you decide, tally the ultimate cost of the choices you make.