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Friday, June 24, 2011

The importance of values - corporate and personal


My employer formally arrived at corporate values, several years ago. I actually am not just in agreement, but strongly supportive of these values, fortunately perhaps. One of them is "trust and personal responsibility in all relationships" - and I believe that aligns well with the secular humanist school, to which I ascribe.

Growing up as a visible minority in a culturally diverse environment, I recall how often classmates and their parents alike, had pre-conceived notions - what I'd call mainly prejudicial assumptions - of what values I may espouse, all based on my parents' heritage (and statistically, I was more likely to be Chinese, so was often mistaken to be one). What they didn't seem to consider, though, was that my parents had clearly had to have fundamentally rejected some of the strongest values supposedly held by the Japanese: conformity (at least outwardly) and avoiding familial shame, in order to embrace a Westernized country, and become immigrants.  Otherwise they wouldn't have met, nor married - so I would not have existed.

Thus the value set that I was exposed to at home, while somewhat reflecting Buddhist and Shintoist views, was also a distinct and unconventional variant that was uniquely formed by the personalities that belonged to my mother and father, who in turn came by them via their respective formative experiences. That, in turn, was interpreted via my personality filter and combined strongly with the Judeo-Christian, individualist mindset embodied by the school system.

It was the many people who chose to make cultural assumptions and projections onto me without regard for what I was actually like, that caused me from an early age to make a distinct effort to understand individuals outside the context of what their ethnicity might imply. As time went on, I ended up studying human behaviour in an academic context as well, and from that schooling, I came to understand that people tend to only superficially align to behaviours what they believe are expected of them by others and with certain external circumstances. Conversely, when they're kept in isolation, their innate personalities dictate their reactions, not gender roles, externally imposed societal rules or any personae they wish to present to society at large.

I believe our values, regardless of where they may fall on the moral compass, become real at the point that we act through and upon them consistently and with conviction. When enough people in a community, be it real or virtual, business or residential, choose to prioritize certain ideals and principles, the collective strength of the actions that are based on those abstract concepts can transform society. 

I'll close this post with a dialogue that also touches upon the importance of believing in artificial constructs. It's possibly the most cynical thing I've read from fellow Secular Humanist, Sir Terry Pratchett, but I agree with this, too.

From the Hogfather (adapted for the TV movie milieu):
Death: Humans need fantasy to *be* human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape. 
Susan: With tooth fairies? Hogfathers? 
Death: Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies. 
Susan: So we can believe the big ones? 
Death: Yes. Justice, mercy, duty. That sort of thing. 
Susan: They're not the same at all. 
Death: You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some, some rightness in the universe, by which it may be judged. 
Susan: But people have got to believe that, or what's the point? 
Death: You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become? 

About Mayo

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Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.