The Commodification of People

April 13, 2015

What determines a person’s value?

Is it their net worth? Is it their social status? Is it their influence? Is it their ability to bring you business? Is it how many celebrities they know?

In my life, all these have been true. I value people for what they can do for me. It’s shallow, it’s crude and it’s painfully unavoidable.

If you have millions of dollars, I may treat you differently.
If everyone thinks you’re attractive, I’ll want you to like me.
If you know “important” people, I’ll want you to think I’m important.

I’ll pander, change who I am and posture myself to be liked, all because you have something I want. All these actions are based on the sad truth that in some areas of my life I think I need to be different. I think I need more money, I think I need more status and I think I need more validation.

When I really think about how much we do this to each other, how we treat each other as commodities, it makes me nauseous.

And as I sit here in Pokhara, Nepal on my open ended six-month break from American culture, I wonder if another way is even possible. Is it just the nature of humans to treat others this way? Yesterday Paula was sitting by a lake and a bull came from behind and hit her with his horns so she would move. Paula was sitting in the grass that the bull wanted to eat. The bull didn’t care that Paula was there, it was simply that he wanted to eat and she was in the way. Is that all there is? Are we just hopelessly using each other to get something and then calling it love?

Maybe the best we can do is experience moments where commodification isn’t present, and if we’re lucky these moments last for minutes, and if we’re really lucky these minutes last for hours.

I’d love to practice this for a weekend. For three days, we can pretend like none of this matters, we can stop trying to secretly use each other. I’ll be honest… I really need it. I’m sick of checking how many people like me on Facebook, I’m sick of wanting to make friends with people “above” me in my profession, I’m sick of being seen as and seeing others as a commodity.

We can start valuing hugs and loving touch over networking and connections.

What’s the value of a hug?

If myself of five years ago saw me write this I’d roll my eyes and make a puking motion with my hand, but it’s the question that keeps popping up in my head. What’s the value of feeling someone’s warm body pressed up against yours, knowing that they appreciate you just as much as you appreciate them?

What if we could change this whole value system to something simple, like 1 or 0. If you are living, your value is 1, if you are not living your value is zero. A hug from you is just as valuable as a hug from Amma. In fact, speaking of Amma… how come she’s doing all the hugging at her events? If I were Amma and a thousand people showed up to hug me, I’d have them all turn and give hugs to each other and everyone they could find for one hour. Maybe she already does that, I don’t know, I’ve never been to see her.

I digress…

I don’t know how to end this, so I just want you to know that I love you, and although sometimes I want things from you, and want you to validate me, and want you to think I’m important, it doesn’t fucking matter. In fact, next time we see each other, we can give each other a big hug, and in the midst of the oxytocin rush we’ll remember that our value isn’t in how many people we know or how much money we have but the willingness to open our arms and the warmth of our bodies.


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