What Determines a Person’s Worth?

I recently got into a bit of a scuffle with my father over a meme I had posted.

My father interpreted it as me saying that people who produce food, shelter, and healthcare should not be paid for their work.

That is not what I, or the meme, was sharing at all. What the meme is stating is that a person’s worth is not tied to their ability to bring in an income, and a person’s access to food, shelter, and healthcare should not be tied to their income.

Contrary to what certain narratives would lead one to believe, people do want to work to the best of their abilities and be able to bring in an income and help provide for themselves and their loved ones. Unfortunately, circumstances prevent someone from being able to work to provide an income.

Before I started going blind, I had a child with autism who was entering puberty, and I had a very attached baby who is commonly referred to as a “velcro baby.” We could not afford childcare for them (and my velcro baby would have been very distressed to be away from me), and any job I could get with my degree and gaps in W-2 employment probably wouldn’t even cover the cost of daycare. We save more by me staying home, but the fact remains that the income isn’t there. There are very few jobs that allow for the flexibility of caring for children and working whenever one can while still providing a regular paycheck.

I write books and make art (and I have had an easier time making art while caring for my children, surprisingly enough), but the pandemic being what it is, I haven’t been able to create a steady income from the work that I can still do with my declining eyesight. I can’t even see the screen that well without zooming in and closing my right eye so that the blur doesn’t cover up my words.

I’m not sure if he was being deliberately obtuse or was genuinely misunderstanding the meaning of the meme, but either way, the fact that that is what he took away from it is troubling.

Everyone should be paid fairly for the work that they can do, be it making art or saving lives or even just writing. We also have a duty to take care of those who are unable to work for one reason or another. A person’s worth is not based on their ability to contribute, nor should it be. All life has value.

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