In many important, essential ways, people, by and large, aren’t all that complicated. Maslow knew this aspect of our reality and took the time to try to organize our needs by importance in relationship to our survival and well-being. Of course we don’t always find ourselves involved with filling each need in exactly the order Maslow arranged them, however, if our needs aren’t met at one level, the more desperate the need we feel, the more we’re stuck on that level.
We need to keep this reality in mind when we are working to understand and/or figure out how to respond to the demonstrations, protests and riots going on in the U.S. and elsewhere. What these events are, every one of them, are symptoms of unmet needs. They are populated by people who can no longer stand idly by while feeling their innate human needs go unmet. It might have worked for them at one time. A time when they were, for whatever reasons, able to suppress their internal urges because they felt hope that a pathway was going to open up for them to pursue fulfillment. But when that hope wanes, desperation comes in on it’s heels.
The “rugged individualists”, particularly the ones who have found themselves in comfortable positions, might say: well it’s their fault, they didn’t work hard enough to take care of themselves, they’re lazy. Maybe, to some extent, for some of the people, there is some degree of truth in that. But there is something obvious that really flies in the face of that logic: those “lazy” people are out marching in the streets. They are feeling a need and somebody, or something, provided them with a direction. When one is desperate, doing something, anything, even if it’s wrong can be preferable to doing nothing. If a direction offers some degree of even blind, hope, it is going to have an attraction. That’s how desperation works.
The fact people are out marching, protesting, even rioting, shows that, given a direction, they are willing to take action to do something, anything, to try to gain fulfillment for their unmet needs. It is clear that what most people need in such a situation is direction. What is being demonstrated in these events is raw, potential energy looking for a way to become kinetic, to provide what is needed to fulfill the unmet needs.
In a civilized society it should just be a given that we are working together to meet the needs of all. Whether we privately own things, communally own things or work with a model that embraces the best method for the immediate needs at hand, as long as we have the mind that it is a combined effort for the good of all, we will be fine.
Have you ever been poor? After two-thirds of the month has gone by have you ever found yourself wondering how you’re going to eat for the remaining third? When you are in that position, and you walk into a grocery store, you want EVERYTHING. It can seem that you couldn’t possibly buy enough to satisfy your hunger. However, if you’re not poor, if you’re well fed and you enter a grocery store, it’s not that hard to be totally satisfied picking up whatever it was you came for. People are like that, in more ways than simply regarding food. When we are feeling an acute shortage of something, a deep-down need for something, we can easily find ourselves thinking we want it all.
No matter how absurd or grandiose the participants’ expressed demands in the heat of desperation may be, when the people involved see and feel their needs are being genuinely fulfilled, they will, however tentatively at first, begin responding favorably to whatever is providing, and shows it can continue to provide, that fulfillment. To merely offer such a movement resistance is to stand squarely in the way of much needed hope and change.
A footnote: This is not to advocate for a program of ongoing free stuff for all dissatisfied people. In Maslow’s hierarchy, self esteem is a basic human need. Working at a fair rate in exchange for what one receives is a part of healthy self esteem. Sometimes a person’s being able to accept “free” stuff is needed in order to pull that person up when they are down, but it’s not a viable long term solution.