The turnout for the recent local elections was poor. When a young woman was asked why she had not voted she said, “Well, it makes no difference does it? They’re all the same.” How did we get to such apathy? Is this what the suffragettes fought for? How come that many of us, not just the young, think that there is no point in voting?
According to the political philosopher Michael Sandel there is something very wrong with our current society. When he spoke in Bristol recently, as part of the annual Festival of Ideas, Sandel made the point that over the last three decades a significant change has taken place: we have gone from having a market economy to being a market society.
The consequences are insidious as, according to Sandel, the market is not neutral but implies a certain value – that money is the measure of everything – whilst corroding and undermining other values.
For example, how would you feel if that incredibly moving speech your best man made at your wedding had been bought online? Or if your friends would insist on being paid in order to spend time with you? These were examples Sandel gave of how money changes not only the value of things, but also their meaning.
Have we, by implicitly accepting this view, that money is the measure of everything, also allowed the creation of value and meaning to be outsourced to the market?
Politics has become a matter of managing the economy without any debate about deeper values, meaning or purpose. As a result, for many people, voting in an election appears to offer only an irrelevant choice between different technical approaches to tinkering with the status quo.
Our lives are worth living not because they have market value! According to the psychiatrist and Jungian analyst Derry Macdiarmid, our deepest purpose is to love. Reconnecting with our capacity to love will therefore give our lives more purpose than any amount of money.
Derry Macdiarmid (author) and Sue Macdiarmid (Ed.) (2013) Century of Insight: The Twentieth Century Enlightenment of the Mind. London: Karnac.