ALS Topic 4 - Common Values - inherited, acquired, bought, made .. or a myth?


Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, 19 March 2018 ( )

Note: The questions below are not supposed to suggest biased answers. You really can adopt any point of view your can suggest evidence for. Do be prepared for others suggesting counter-evidence!

1. We often hear that 'Australians share common values with Americans' (but implicitly not, say, with Chinese). What are these supposed common values, and which people are we actually talking about?

2. To obtain Australian citizenship, immigrants are supposed to demonstrate a knowledge of and acceptance of Australian values. What is the official interpretation of these values and how much sense does that interpretation make?

3. What are your core values? How much are they an ideal rather than a lived reality? Where will you compromise?

4. In every country people will tell you a story about 'what we are like' and 'most [e.g. Australians] believe this ...'. Observing the behaviour of individuals in such a country we often see something very different from the idealized version. Why do people accept these idealized cultural myths, who manipulates them, and how might they change over time? Think of real examples.

5. Traditionally religions, and inclusive ideologies like the original idea of communism, have claimed to offer people a unified set of common values for living. Such common value sets are usually claimed to trancend tribal, national and other cultural boundaries. How effective have these ready made value sets actually been in shaping behaviour over time? How commonly do they just provide a cover for personal gain?

6. Groups of people may be united, long or short term, by a shared language, by a religion, by social or professional class, by gender, by any kind of shared interest, by the common pursuit of wealth, by some shared advantage or disadvantage, by the historical memory of a culture, by the pursuit of a dream (heaven, the perfect communist society etc), by common employment or profession, by location, by belonging to a family, a football team or a country, by coercion or persuasion, by opposition to a common enemy ... and so on, ad infinitum. They may also be divided by differences in all of these. In other words, we live many roles, some of them in severe value conflicts with other roles. Should we set clear priorities of value hierarchies (how?), or is it best to just muddle through, flip-flopping as each occasion demands? Why?

7. There are all kinds of marriages and other sorts of personal partnerships. How big a part do you think that 'shared values' (whatever they are) play in these relationships? Do relationships actually fall apart because a couple's personal values diverge as they mature?

8. Nearly half of the Australian population was
born overseas, or have parents who were born overseas. A large and increasing number have come from non-English speaking countries. It is therefore not difficult, for those who are motivated to sow dissension, to find values and issues which divide us as a population. Can you think of a viable set of values which might actually bring us together? How genuine do you think these uniting factors might be without appealing to shallow nationalism?

9. Is it desirable for schools to deliberately teach children 'civic values' and/or 'national values', or is it better to let such things emerge implicitly? How could such stuff be taught (if desired) without inciting cinicism as those children become adults?

10. We are facing a very real prospect within a generation or two of some human beings being enhanced by drugs for intelligence, enhanced by implants to make them into superior cyborg creatures, and/or being genetically manipulated before birth to make them into superior beings. Of course, we already have innumerable social divisions based on intelligence, skin colour, birth status and so on. Will these new deliberately superior categories require new value sets to influence their relationships with ordinary people? What form might such value sets take in reality (as opposed to wishful thinking)?

Extra Reading

"Australia has lost its compass for the world, while Jacinda Ardern shows the way - Australian values are neither clear nor consistent. If we want to make a difference in the world, we should follow New Zealandís lead" - Thom Woodroofe, The Guardian
Sat 3 Mar 2018 @ [ You don't have to agree or disagree with this analysis. It does set some useful points for debate ]

MIT Technology Review "If youíre so smart, why arenít you rich? Turns out itís just chance" @


Thor's own websites:

1. articles at ;

2. legacy site: .


Common Values - inherited, acquired, bought, made .. or a myth? (c) Thor May 2018 return to Ddiscussion