What is the Value of a Human Life?

Filed in Living by on September 29, 2016 0 Comments

human-life-2I was watching the National Geographic Channel the other day and a show called The Last Days of Hitler came on. As is the case with many of these types of documentaries, it was fascinating. As they recounted the various battles that took place over the last year or so of WWII, I was struck by the incredible number of deaths that occurred during that war. The narrator would describe an invasion, and blithely state that 120,000 soldiers and civilians were killed. Then came another battle, with 50,000 dead, and yet another, with 250,000 killed in action. Huh?

After watching the show I just had to google “total number of deaths in WWII.” I learned that the total number of dead, including those murdered in concentration camps and all soldiers and civilians killed in battle, was 60 million people. Wow, what a crazy number.

Then, a day or two later, I decided to watch the movie The Martian. In this case, the entire world was willing to put together all of its greatest minds, and spend hundreds of millions of dollars, to save just one person who was marooned on Mars as part of a failed space mission. Of course, the movie is fictional, but I don’t doubt that we might galvanize all of those people and resources to save one person we deem heroic and symbolic enough.

It just seems a little ironic doesn’t it? Sixty million people dead on the one hand, and we spend hundreds of millions to save one?

I think, or at least I hope, that no one would minimize the sadness and tragedy of even any one single person who died in one of our wars. Each of these fatalities is equally as significant and heartbreaking as any other death that occurs in our society. I guess we save people like the astronaut in The Martian because someone considers them especially worthy. It just makes you wonder why we couldn’t have somehow mustered the will, effort and resources to save more of our war dead, right?

This also leads one to think about how many people die every day without any sustained effort to get resources to help them, such as in impoverished countries around the world, inner cities, conflict zones, etc. When the “powers that be,” who are the very few at the very top, decide they want to save someone, no effort or expense is too great. But if those same powerful people do not see enough benefit in it (usually for them), thousands and millions can die in almost complete obscurity and anonymity. I don’t know what to say, except that this is the way of the world as it currently exists, right or wrong.

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

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