Summary: Our interviews on values

In the modern world, societies around the world grow deepening connections to one another, requiring a basic understanding of each other. So we wanted to know what other people think on the topic of values, which values they live and thus if we can agree on common values, globally. To get an insight into the values people with different social backgrounds uphold, we interviewed strangers and friends alike and asked them for their spontaneous associations with the term “value”.

All in all the interviewed persons – Germans, Cameroonians, Brazilians and Argentinians – named “love” as their most important value, in the sense of neighborly love or family love. This was also the only value some people saw as an “universal value”. Love brings people together; it provides stability, shows us that we are appreciated for who we are and that we are not alone. Not experiencing love shown to us by others detaches us from those around us on an emotional level: feeling alone and lost, one might withdraw into oneself and seek orientation and appreciation elsewhere – with the possible ultimate consequence of joining extremist groups as a cry for belonging.

But what good are values if we do not live them? We asked the people in which situations they live their values. It resulted in some specific examples, some not that specific examples and some confessions of not really putting one’s values into practice. Why is that? Sometimes it may be laziness. Sometimes even fear, because living our values can mean acting in contra to the masses or even speaking out loud when another person is e.g. acting violently. Thus the matching theory and practice is not easy for many people and without expressing opinions about values in public, no discussion can get started. This leads us to our next topic.

Although all of our interview partners could name values that were important to them (and actually there was a high concordance), some people complained about a decay of values like discipline, respect and community and that young people become more and more egoistic. In our observation this is a generational change in defining those values. While our older interview partners mainly measured respect by the obedience to authorities, the younger ones focussed on accepting other persons the way they are. While community in former times was mainly based on solidarity in the family, many young people live this value more intensively with friends. Of course there is the question left if those values are lived consequently in all parts of life and egoism can be found in many places. We are not providing a nationwide study, not even near to that, but all in all it seems we cannot speak about a “decay” of values. It is more about a reinterpretation – a shift of focus – that is happening automatically as society evolves. The interviews showed us that many young people very much do uphold values, and that they go beyond self-representation: love, nature, peace; values that our grandparents strived and fought for.

Finally it is difficult to discuss about values, if we do not know how the other person is interpreting them. That is why we want to continue our work on values by trying to define some of them.

You are cordially invited to send us your opinion on a value that you wish to.

Lets use this Blog to discuss what should have been discussed long before and what always will have to be discussed in societies. Lets exchange and get a little closer to the so strongly required equal understanding of each other.