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.
In our attempts, our efforts, at building a viable, vital society, we can learn much by observing and understanding the functioning of our own bodies. There is a saying attributed to Hermes Trismegistus: “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” This is often shortened to “As above, so below, as below, so above”. This concept, or the observation of the nature of our reality, provides us with an understanding, which, if applied to our efforts at creating and maintaining a human culture, can do much to guide us toward what will be in harmony with the natural world. The natural world which we are working with and within and therefore toward a more vibrant, stable and enduring culture.
Our bodies are miracles of design. They are self-repairing, self-renewing, and they offer us multiple senses, or avenues of interface, with our environment. They provide us with much enjoyment and pleasure. And provide us with discomfort and/or pain to let us know when we’re not supplying them with what they need, or too much of what they don’t need. Ultimately what makes the whole thing work is the the organs, the cells, within the body work together to keep the body, the whole, alive and well. One of the serious threats to the health of our bodies is the occasion when some cells become sickened and engage in a pattern of runaway duplication (growth) and a voracious appetite for energy. One could say they get greedy for resources and want to take over. They behave more competitively than cooperatively. Of course, as our ancestors knew centuries ago: Mark 3:25, Jesus states, “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
Now really, just think about that last statement for a minute, it’s not rocket science. It’s something that immediately makes sense both intellectually and emotionally. I think this is one of those truths that people just innately know, that comes with birth. Yet it is one many people quickly turn their backs on when the world dangles some bling in front of them and says: Go now and compete. Within human cultures around the world that is the genesis of a cancer that is destroying our cultures with the same certainty that an untreated malignant cancer destroys a human body. I can imagine someone thinking, but isn’t that just exercising personal freedom? Yes it is. And freedom is an essential aspect of a healthy human culture. However, it is also just exercising personal freedom to take an automatic weapon to an elementary school and start shooting students. Freedom is a double edged sword and is only an asset to humanity when it is combined with wisdom. Such as the wisdom that if we aren’t all working together, cooperatively, for the good of the whole of humanity, the body of humanity, we are in the process of destroying that body. And just as the cells of a body cannot survive for long once the body as a whole becomes unviable, no matter how adept a survivalist one might think they are, human beings cannot survive indefinitely outside a viable human culture.
All my life I have heard Charles Darwin exalted as one of the, effectively, high priests of the natural world. I don’t think it’s possible to think of Charles Darwin and not think of the phrase survival of the fittest. That is the phrase those most industrially disseminating information within popular culture have locked onto regarding Darwin. But today those who are seriously researching Darwin’s ideas and adaptive strategies are saying friendliness and cooperation is the most successful strategy for survival. This is just one more example of how spirituality and science are converging in the world today.
If we are to survive as a species on this planet we must recognize our oneness, our interconnectedness and interdependence. Not merely within cities, or nations, but as global body of humanity.
I am realizing that many of us, me included, have a tendency to readily notice and respond to the things in the world that are blatantly wrong, or problematic, and that this may consequently mean we simultaneously are not giving enough attention to the things that are right.
I first became aware of this tendency decades ago when I worked a couple summers as a lifeguard. When I found myself in the lifeguard chair, looking at a large, crowded pool with lots of noise and activity, I had a moment of doubt. I wondered how in the world am I going to see someone in trouble in this chaos? I asked an older lifeguard that question and he replied that I just needed to keep my eyes on the pool and if someone got into trouble, I’d see it. Sounds too simple, right? It isn’t. As it turns out our attention is drawn to the things that aren’t right. Whether it is inconsistencies, differences in movement, sometimes the obvious shout for “help”, or some other more esoteric phenomenon, it is a reliably real thing. I would always find my attention drawn to someone in trouble. Sometimes a few seconds before they were actually experiencing the distress. Of course it is also true that my mindset, my internal desire, was to see such occurrences. That may be a part of the function at work. I began calling this tendency to have our attention drawn to what is wrong “the lifeguard principle”.
While paying attention and looking for trouble was an explicit part of that job, I think it is something we all do to a greater or lesser extent. It definitely is a survival trait in times of threat. Maybe it’s a carry over from the days when we were walking through forests or jungles and we had to be aware of our surroundings to avoid being eaten. It definitely is a behavior that is necessary in times of warfare, one person, gang, tribe, nation, attacking another. I believe it is universal among humankind. For those interested in looking into such things, there is some correlate in the functioning of our “exciting” and “calming” neurotransmitters. Our bodies have evolved in a way that we deplete our “calming” neurotransmitters well before we are in danger of running out of “exciters”. I suppose that would help keep us from just lying down and being eaten when being chased by a tiger. But now, in the year 2020, for many if not most of us, the dynamics we face in our day to day lives are not quite the same as they have been through much our existence.
It’s not that there still aren’t some acute dangers in the world; in some places much more than others. However, the dangers most of us face in developed nations are more of a chronic nature. We don’t get pounced on and quickly killed and eaten by a tiger, we get killed more gradually by being slowly consumed by worries, fears, anxieties, and insecurities. Just as the nature of the threats has changed over time, our reactions to the threats we’re facing needs to change also. A sudden, pervasive startle, fight or flight reaction to all the, sometimes subtle, threats an average person may face during their day would certainly result in a person becoming overly stressed, burned out, and significantly more at risk for a plethora of diseases. Further, not only would such a reaction pattern do that, having such acute reactions to daily stressors has and is doing that to people today, every day.
Sometimes we need to intervene in what direction our “autopilot” chooses and become more reasoned with our reactions to life’s events. Having an innate sensitivity to things that are “wrong” in our environment can be part of an important survival system. Our “lifeguard principle” exists for just that purpose, to help guard our lives. This brings to my mind a book by Gavin De Becker: “The Gift of Fear”. It addresses the important role fear can and does play in our lives. However, with both the “lifeguard principle” and “The Gift of Fear”, whether or not these innate aspects of our being serve us or sabotage us depends entirely on how we react to the input we receive from them.
In our complex, more populated, human culture primitive responses to what are often sophisticated situations become less and less viable. As a culture, we need to get way more invested in learning more about what it is to be human and what we inherently, and universally, require to establish and maintain healthy, vital, lives. When we learn to respond to human, social, problems in a manner seeking to solve those problems on the basis of seeing needs met and lives stabilized, we are going to find ourselves in a thriving, vibrant world such as we have only had the partial passing enjoyment of, you could say glimpses of, during a few periods of time in the past 150 years.
Within the current available knowledge from the fields of psychology, sociology, physiology, and spirituality, we have all we need to have more than a good start. It only requires our will and determination to do so.
I’ve been writing letters to our local paper and articles for my blog for some time. However, all that pales in comparison to countless conversations with many people over many years. When you converse with and/or get written feedback from intelligent people on the ideas that you’re expressing, it can lead one to have to refine one’s communications. That’s a good thing.
One thing which over the years I have had to face repeatedly in my communications, and which I often see in the communications of others, are the instances in which, by design or default, a person makes an all encompassing statement which, in it’s breadth, renders the statement inaccurate, untrue. One often sees this in cases in which someone is angry about something, or purposely trying to sway the opinion of an already biased audience. The thing about the heat of emotion is that it often abates in the presence of objective (coolheaded) thought. This can be good if the goal is to find rational resolution to problematic issues, or bad if the goal is to incite thoughtless anger.
One clue that what is being communicated is not based in reality, often is the use of the words “all”, “no”, “always” or “never”. Or statements which clearly imply the use of those words, even if the words themselves are not present. This is particularly true when the topic has to do with human traits, characteristics, and/or behaviors. For example, and I am going to jump right in with a loaded example, if I write that all men are emotionally shallow, cruel people, I, unfortunately, may be accurate about some men, but because I include the word “all”, my statement is untrue. The same is true if I omit the world “all” and simply say that men are emotionally shallow, cruel people. The implication is clear that I am referring to all men. But if I state that some men are emotionally shallow, cruel people, that is a statement which is defendable, true and accurate. This same principle is at work if I make the statement that no men are shallow, cruel people. At this point some reading this are probably going, yeah, been there, done that. Some are possibly considering this information for the first time.
The difference this adjustment in our communication, and our thinking, can make in the world is tremendous. We human beings are complex beings and, in our complexity, sweeping statements trying to characterize genders or races, referring to deficits or strengths in any particular area of our thinking and/or behavior, are seldom, if ever, accurate. This is the case no matter the gender or skin color of the people being referred to.
So the next time you’re arguing with a friend, or your spouse, or getting ready to deliver a characterization of a particular person or group of people, please give some thought as to whether or not what you’re about to say, or write, is actually, literally accurate/true. Sometimes doing this can lead us to realize that we are not correct in our initial thinking/perception. Sometimes that can be a very good, comforting thing. And it is always going to put us a step closer to resolving issues, reaching agreements, if we aren’t inciting defensiveness and hurting feelings by mischaracterizing those we’ve found ourselves in a problematic situation with.
For decades we have been being conditioned to believe we live in a world of scarcity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We live in a world of plenty. However, our resources are only plentiful if managed wisely. Hoarding, polluting, withholding, squandering, all serve to interfere with our relationship with our resources and consequently, the health and well-being of our species.
In keeping with the saying attributed to Hermes Trismegistus: “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…”, we need to look within to see balance and efficiency in the service of life. Our own bodies present us with a model which, if emulated in our social models, would serve to provide us with much healthier, more stable societies than human kind is currently trying to cope within.
The various organs, the cells, the functions within our bodies all work together for the common good. It is as if they are aware that the good of the individual cell is inextricably joined with the good of the body as a whole.
I began studying psychology in 1969, as a Freshman in college. I had a predisposition to being interested in human behavior. I felt the same about psychology as I imagine a lot of people do about chemistry, engineering, nutrition, or medicine. I felt psychology held the keys to understanding and improving the quality of life for everyone. During my Sophomore year I changed my major to psychology (it had been music).
As time went on, I found myself in a wide range of environments, exposed to just about the full gamut of human behaviors. All through this time I have had the good fortune to be exposed to instruction ranging from the cutting edge, the esoteric, the eclectic and the classic trains of thought. My life has pretty much revolved around working to understand why we humans do what we do. I am happy and grateful to report that, on the whole with information coming from a plethora of fields of study, we humans have garnered a very great deal of knowledge about ourselves.
We know much about what we need to have healthy, full, wholesome, complete lives. However, as a race, there has possibly been no other time in recorded history, in which we, as a species, have ignored so much available information. I would add: not only are we widely ignoring so much available knowledge, we are, around the world, perverting and abusing much of the knowledge that we do have. I don’t think there’s any field of study more widely abused right now than psychology.
The “powers that be” within industry and government, very early on recognized the potential the information coming from the field of psychology offered for manipulating people. Not for informing and leading people to understand ourselves, make wise decisions, and have healthy, full lives. But for manipulating people to do the things “they” want to see people doing. Buying things “they” want people to buy. Believing things “they” want people to believe. Behaviors that enrich their lives, not ours.
The contemporary, industrial use of psychology as a tool for manipulation of the public began manifesting as: advertising, which evolved into public relations, which has evolved into engineering consent. Engineering consent is currently the art of controlling what people perceive so that their/our reactions will pave the way for the fulfillment of the controllers’ agenda(s). We used to simply call it “lying”, and that definition still applies. But the current manipulative efforts are happening in such a sophisticated and technological manner, being done in service of people whose agendas are so totally based in egoism, so devoid of consideration for those who are the targets of the manipulation, that merely calling it “lying” doesn’t do justice to the depths of depravity these manipulative efforts emanate from.
Back in the early twentieth century, one of the seminal people in this dark trend was Edward Bernays. A nephew of Sigmund Freud, His efforts contributed heavily to women getting into smoking tobacco and fluoridation of public water. He is often referred to as “the father of spin”. I would say his title should more appropriately have to do with mastering the art of betrayal of trust.
What began as, and still is, a science with so much promise for improving the quality of life for humanity (which is how most sciences get started) is going through a time of profound perversion. Mental health services are, I think, the most common interface between the general public and psychological expertise. However mental health in many cases has become just another sales outlet for the pharmaceutical companies.
The reality of the evolution of the science of psychology is that what we have learned can show us much of what is needed to establish personal and sociologic well-being. One example is Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” which provides a basic template for personal and collective well-being. But these aspects of the science of psychology, the aspects relating to the general population becoming healthy and whole, seem to be truly frightening to those who have been using psychology for manipulation and exploitation.
Restating the situation briefly: the science of human behavior contains great deal of understanding of what we need to be whole, as individuals and as a culture. What we know about what we need to be whole and healthy, as individuals and as a culture, is often directly contradictory to what many in positions of industrial and political power, around the world, want us to believe. What we need for health and wholeness often informs us to behave in ways those currently holding the reins of industrial and political power do not want to see us behaving in. Ways that do not primarily serve them and their egoistic agendas.
Very often today the field of mental health is viewed with skepticism. The results frequently experienced by those accessing mental health services, and seen by those around them, tends to cast mental health services as a marginally effective service at best. To a very significant extent, this is a result of what I call the unidirectional nature of how mental health knowledge and services are most often applied. Every challenge to our mental health is occurring within a context. To try to resolve the issues by only addressing the dynamics within the person experiencing the challenges (mental-emotional distress, maladjustment, mental illness) without simultaneously addressing any pathological dynamics within the context, the society, the person lives within, is to simply ask a person to be healthy within an unhealthy culture. It is a unidirectional approach to mental health.
(There is a similar unidirectional phenomenon happening with laws and law enforcement in the U.S. But that is another story for another time.)
There is a saying: “Culture is to people as water is to fish.” The fact is, a human being cannot be whole and healthy within an unhealthful culture any more than a fish can be whole and healthy within a polluted lake.
The best that can be hoped for is to compensate as well as possible until the challenges with their accompanying stress finally take their toll. Physical illness, and/or mental illness, and eventually a hastened death are not an uncommon result. One coping option, one which some have been using for centuries, is that an individual, or a group, can try to escape the hellish dynamics too often present in society at large by attempting to live in a self-contained society. Monks and Nuns have sought refuge in such an attempt at controlling a micro-environment for centuries. In the U.S. small communes have experienced varying degrees of success. However, such efforts come at a price. That price is the seclusion itself. While those opting for such a lifestyle may genuinely feel that the benefit is worth the cost, such a system is not a viable answer for everyone.
So where does all this leave us? Exactly where we are right now. We are a species too often turned upon itself. Narrowly defined self interest expressed in predatory financial practices, an absence of consideration for others and even an absence of consideration for our natural environment itself, is genuinely threatening to extinguish us as a species. We are on a spaceship called Earth. You would think that even the most narrowly self-centered among us would have consideration for the natural life-support systems we all rely upon. But, as widespread pollution and destruction of essential habitat and species shows, that isn’t the case. Right now, the fact is, there are some extraordinarily short-sighted, narrowly focused, inconsiderate, egoistic, ignorant (by default or by design) people running too much of what is going on. And we’re letting them.
As I’m writing this, April 1, 2020, much of the U.S. and the world is quarantined due to the coronavirus pandemic. As someone has put it: It’s like mother nature has sent us to our rooms to think about what we’re doing. Will we? Will we, across the globe, use some of this time to consider our own thinking, our own behaviors, and rejoin the world at large better for it? Will our individual and collective well-being be prioritized higher than corporate profit, corporate well-being? We’ll see.
Will we, can we, as a species, realize our interconnectedness (as demonstrated graphically by the current pandemic) and apply this awareness to the betterment of our collective well-being? It’s all up to us. Part of what a genuine recovery will entail, is the realization of how pervasively our cultures have been being manipulated by those with narrow, self-serving agendas.
Too often we are being manipulated to hate and fear those who are different in some way from ourselves. We are being manipulated to believe that pursuing narrow self-interest is what we should be doing. We are being manipulated to believe that those who are the most successful at narrowly pursuing their own self-interest are the successes in life. That we should look up to them, emulate them.
As a species, ultimately, we cannot survive, we absolutely cannot ever thrive, with such a mindset. But if we truly grasp our interconnectedness and act in ways which, in every way, further our personal well-being and our collective well-being, we have the potential to experience a quality of life beyond what many have imagined.
In my almost seventy years on Earth, I’ve learned a few things which I have a great deal of confidence in. These are ten of them:
1. While it most certainly is in our best interest to learn from the lives and teachings of wise and illumined individuals, saints, any person or institution which tells us that we require that person’s or institution’s intercession, or anyone’s intercession, in order to have a personal, intimate relationship with God, the Universal Creative Spirit, is lying.
2. Any person or institution which wants us to go to war against an entity from which we perceive no personal threat, is most likely trying to manipulate us in order to acquire some worldly wealth for themselves. Any call to war should be examined with immense skepticism, with the same attitude as you would regard a carnival barker. If, without the contribution of those calling you to war, you feel a real, personal, and imminent threat, then maybe the threat is real. But be very sure before you move to take another human being’s life that there is no other possible path to a solution.
3. If the love of money isn’t the root of all evil, it certainly is one of the major contributors.
4. Use things, love people. Not the other way around. I saw this in a Facebook post. However, truth may even come from Facebook posts and this is a profound one.
5. When a person’s words and actions disagree, the truth of that person is to be found in their actions, not their words.
6. We live in a reciprocating universe. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If for no other reason, that makes the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you., truly golden. However, we may break a chain of injurious reciprocity with forgiveness.
7. Anyone who is exorbitantly wealthy relative to the world around them, has acquired that wealth through scheming; through finding a way to unfairly benefit from the work of others.
8. We never, ever “get away with” any immoral act. There is always a witness: our self. And we always, ultimately, desire justice.
9. Wisdom comes with age. If a younger person exhibits profound wisdom, they are an older soul come again to this Earth. If an older person exhibits little wisdom, they are a younger soul in an older body. If a younger person exhibits little wisdom, well, that’s life.
10. We are social beings. Without a healthy society as a context for our lives, our lives will not be healthy and we will not develop to our fullest potential. Your genuine well-being benefits me and vice versa.
This post is essentially an invitation to watch a documentary which was produced in 2010. However the subject matter of the film is timeless.
Whether you’re watching FOX, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc., you’re being fed bullshit. But it comes in different flavors, because those controlling the news know, everyone doesn’t like vanilla. However there are certain constants no matter what channel you tune in to. Some of them are:
1. Accumulating vast wealth is good.
2. We should all admire those who have accumulated vast wealth.
3. Be afraid, be very afraid.. Depending upon what channel you’re watching, what we’re supposed to be afraid of can vary. But it’s never the extravagantly wealthy, nor war.
4. War is a necessity.
5. We need to spend more on war.
It is important to those busily accumulating wealth and power, regardless of the effects of their actions upon the majority of people in the world, or the planet itself, that we, the masses, believe these things. They are constantly endeavoring to engineer consent for their actions. Our continued belief of these concepts enables them to maintain and advance their agenda.
All we need to win this war is to realize our kinship, our innate interconnectedness. To love one another as we love ourselves. And to love the universal creative spirit that gives us life. To respect the creator, respect the creation.
The most important battle going on is to control our perceptions of what is going on. The battle to control our thoughts. This documentary provides a clear picture of history and nature of this battle. Click on the link to be taken to the full video on YouTube: