Sis Dolly Blog - What is the measure of the value we place on a human life?

By Drum Digital
22 April 2013

Currently I’m disturbed by the value we place on human lives. And as I’ve said before in this blog, it boils down to the value we place on ourselves and the value we’re able to project onto all other human beings.

The other side of it is to do with the manner in which the world sits up and pays attention when a person of a certain nationality, race, culture or social status is shot, bombed, abused or killed.

Every day women within abusive relationships are killed. Every day men and women are out there protesting gender based violence. Every day activists are up in arms at the response of society and our safety and security personnel.

And then one woman is killed and the entire world suddenly realizes that women are raped, battered or killed within an abusive context. And even then, the story is about her killer and not about her.

What concerns me is that the activists and survivors of abuse I speak of have been telling their stories for years. I personally have been a volunteer in the sector of prevention of violence against women for almost 20 years.  I’ve seen how violence is prevalent within our society, and I’ve also seen how we decide which lives are more valuable - which lives we choose to mourn and celebrate for bravery, and which ones we choose to ignore and consider as just a part of normal society.

I don’t understand why we extend this lack of value, self worth and worth of some beings over others to the extent that we do. I understand the notion that, until we’re personally touched, we may not really get the sense of loss, pain and suffering.

I guess there is a responsibility on the side of survivors and activists to really hammer home the impact of violence within our society. As I try to be fair by saying this, I’m still not really sure how we as a people can ignore this scourge and only respond publicly and vocally and claim support (for a very short period of time), when it is related to specific people and incidents. We know it’s around us every single day.  The silence and the apathy and the choice to stand for an end to gender based and all other forms of violence is deafening in between the sensationalism and celebrity driven media frenzy that abounds when a life is deemed to be off specific value and importance.

How then do we assess the value of a human life? How then, in a South African and global society, do we expect our children to be different and to value all life? How can we claim surprise at school shootings, gang rapes, femicide and corrective-rape, when we’re not standing up for the cause on a daily basis. When we don’t speak the language of non-violence and give in to vitriolic abuse on social platforms? How can you and I expect it to be different, when we ourselves are not?

Why are we not listening? Why are we silent when we see it happening to others? We need to place a greater value on our self worth and increase the value we place on all human life. I know it seems simplistic but I really believe that this will stem the violence, one person at a time.

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