If Maslow was right, maybe we’re all wasting our time?

maslowpic.jpgWhenever I take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs it’s presented differently.  The reason for this, I am told, is that while Maslow did the original work, at different times since, others have taken up the theme and contemporised it.  However, as I understand the basic premise goes something like this …

As individuals, communities and the human species we have a set of needs with different levels of importance.  At the bottom end we are talking stuff like food and air, level two are security issues like having a roof over your head.  Level three are things like love and belonging and four is what are termed “self esteem”, that’s recognition and fame.  Finally right up there at number five is a higher level of self esteem that’s about total confidence of the kind that only Jeremy Clarkson seems to have acquired to date.

Apparently we are moving up this hierarchy and as we achieve a new level the previous one loses importance to us (it seems a bit shallow to me but … OK).  I’m told that currently, as the human species we have clawed our way up to  somewhere around levels three and four – that’s belonging and self esteem (although if you could see some of my neighbours …). 


I can dig it.  Its how brands work.  We express ourselves in the things we own.  “I am what I wear, eat, drive or where I go on holiday”.  Our personal brands are an amalgamation of commercial brands each with its own expensively defined personality representing the different facets of our “self” that we aren’t able to verbalise.  I’m not saying that commercial brands mould our personalities, although they might help some people bring facets of their personality into self-focus and as the old Kinks number “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” reminded us there are a few fashion victims, but there might be a few other old crones around who will remember how, a few years back, it was de rigueur to wear loads of button badges promoting a plethora of causes – same thing!

Now, I have to say that I’m not totally sold on old Mas and his ideas, but I can go with the flow to a point.  Where I start to question is where all this is heading.  I mean, according to Mas, eventually were all going to end up being totally up ourselves (like Jeremy Clarkson) not caring what anybody thinks about us, never giving a fig for whether our jeans have all their holes in the right places and perfectly happy going to Bognor for our hols, completely self-sufficient and self-contained.  So, what do Nike do then?

I mean, we – that’s you and me Buddy – will have dedicated our lives to satisfying the needs of the era of conspicuous consumption and for what?  Nobody will care, nobody will remember us for our achievements.  What kind of a contribution to human evolution is that?  And what then?  Do we all just stop evolving or disappear in a puff of smoke?  Or will we all just carry on indefinitely, living perfect lives in our hand-me-downs, and pre-fab homes?  Maybe we’ll go all utilitarian, wearing Chairman Mao uniforms and driving Ladas.  No, sorry, I can’t live with this thought, there has to be more!  Help me, I need a psychologist, quick! 


3 responses to “If Maslow was right, maybe we’re all wasting our time?

  1. You got the basic thing right, but viewed from a point of view a totally different than my interpretation of the same theory. (I must add that I only found the theory two weeks ago so I think I’ll have to perfect my view on it later on)

    What Maslow is saying is not that this is a cultural evolution through the process. It should be, but might not turn out to be. If it was a full scale cultural evolution, it is too damn slow. Remember gurus, spiritual leaders and such? They have existed for at least five thousand years among the society and probably were self-actualized. Still none of the cultures is as it should be. Cultures evolve faster than that.

    What Maslow is talking about is that the nature of man is healthy and the culture and experiences within it have made everybody sick to some degree. It hasn’t got anything to do with evolving somewhere. We are not talking about long time frame here. It is about my needs and how I get them satisfied. The pyramid is talking about ordinary people. Anyone can get to the highest point. Theoretically, that is. Just heal yourself.

    I have actually had a peak experience or two, and I can assure you that you wont worry about your Nikes anymore after that. Im talking about almost religious experience that happens in your normal day-to-day life. And I don’t even believe in God or such.

    I also know someone who is almost certainly self-actualized. Got all the symptoms. And I personally would give my right hand to be so happy as she is. Surely I could give away my consuming-habits as well…

    Sad thing about this is that it is very hard to go through all the neurosis and stuff, because that’s basically how it is done. I started doing it consciously about ten years ago (even if i didn’t understand how or had I ever heard about any motivation theories)… still going on. I don’t think that any therapist would take me on the couch instead of the psychopath just because I want to self-actualize. So I’ll just do it myself.

    Well, I’m quite hopeful that I’ll get there some day. And I don’t think that is wasted time.

  2. you are a very knowledgeable person!

  3. Thanks yayforxmas and you are obviously very astute!

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