Are our values at odds with those around us?

It can often seem as though our own values are out of step with those around us. This could include a feeling that in the place where we work the senior managers don’t seem to think the same way, or the culture there isn’t what we ourselves might value. Then the community in which we live might not live quite according to our own ways. Or that the overall culture in which we live is somehow out of step with our own. I read in the news today for example of how a Muslim family felt compelled to move out of what seemed like a “nice” village due to racist attacks, and that the government are forcing through benefit changes that are going to bring about local tax increases for the poorest people of around 10%.

Is this what our society is becoming? However not is all as it seems.

I was fascinated to read recently that the UK has a “values dysfunction” that is higher than other countries in a study made of certain countries’ values. Very many people value things like meaningful relationships and integrity, holding values like “caring, family, honesty, humour and fun, friendship, fairness and compassion, as well as independence, respect and trust”. Yet they do not see their leaders as embodying those values, and national values are seen as being bureaucratic, corrupt, blame-oriented, conflict-prone, etc. It seems that the political elite is out of step with the population it seeks to govern, and that there’s a gap in accountability. Not new, you might think. And I wondered how much readers in other countries might actually think similar things of their own leadership today!

Richard Barrett, who is the driving force behind the study referred to above, says: “Our leaders need to show us the way. They need to become role models of values-driven leadership and they need to show us that they exercise care and compassion for the needs of the elderly and disadvantaged.”

So, when there appears to be a growing gap between different people in society as this recession continues, all is not as it seems. Rather, it might be argued, these values endure and that what we have at present is a crisis of fear. This is what can drive people apart and make knee-jerk responses that can be harmful for others and yet not actually reflect their underlying values. It is that mismatch that can be worth reflecting on, how much do we let our values be sidelined under pressure and allow out our inner demons instead.