Just how much value does an individual have? The question presupposes that the individual is a human, not a goldfish!! The question also presupposes that we are aware of the emphasis given by many current societies, and perhaps cultures, to human rights and values. The second presupposition just mentioned is the more serious one, right? It is also the one that we need to explore a little bit. Let me do it in the following way:
The figure provided by www.about.com for the world population as of mid year 2010 was 6,852,472,823. As of when this post is being written, it is estimated that the world population will reach 7 billion on Oct 31, of this year of 2011. Since that date is not very far away, permit me to work with the 7 billion number.
The percent of the 7 billion people knowing me or know anything about me is infinitesimally small. Even if there are 5,000 people who are consciously aware of my existence right now, that is a drop in the proverbial bucket.
Let’s change the question by changing the person. How many people know even the name of the most powerful person alive at this moment, be it the president of a country (of the USA or China, for example) or the leader of a particular religion (the Pope, for example)? The correct answer is, of course “only a very small minority.” Those that do know would have to be of a particular age, acculturation, and education. Of all those who know the name of the most powerful person in the world, how many of those actually have a personal acquaintance with that person? That question brings us down to an extremely small percent of the world’s population.
Let’s move another step and make this observation – Those who don’t even know the name of the most powerful person in the world certainly will not consider someone, about whom they have never heard, to be a person of value!!
If this is the case, that the vast majority of the world doesn’t even recognize the value of the most powerful person in the world, why should I see myself as valuable? One answer might be, “because there are a few people who do need me.” But, if I am brutally honest, the fact is that no one’s life depends on me such that they would die if I were to die. My death may be cause for some sorrow in some people, but life will go on for the survivors.
It is true that if I were to die within the next ten minutes of a heart attack, there are several folk who would be sorrowful. At the same time, several of those would end up in better financial shape than they have now. So, it is fair to say that in that regard my death makes me more valuable to them than does my life!!
In light of this, perhaps at least I should see myself as valuable if for no other reason than to not fall into nihilism. My psyche needs to think that I have value, thus, I am valuable. But, that is putting the cart before the horse, saying that the existence of something depends on the value it provides me. That would be living a lie at the same time I am claiming to be psychologically healthy!!! Bad approach.
So, why think I am of any worth, or of value? The only reasonable answer I can think of for thinking I have worth is that God thinks I have value, and thus I should also think that way. I try to think God’s thoughts after Him.