You see the little pyramid graphic, with safety as the base and self-actualization at the apex. This isn’t how I live at all, and it annoys me to see it laid out so neatly. Granted I’m grateful to have enough to eat and my bungalow of an adobe house. But safety? In the existential or even practical sense? As a woman, a disabled person, and a Jew? Something I neither have nor expect to acquire.
I’d say the first level states the obvious. Without air to breathe you are dead and not worrying about Maslow. However, a person in extremis might have more need for human connection or even meaning than for food they can’t digest. At least this has been my experience working with hospice.
For an infant, the first three levels merge–you can’t really use one without the other. The graphic below claims to be about our shared situation during the pandemic. I disagree completely.
At the start of the pandemic I didn’t wake up and think: thank goodness I have toilet paper and diet root beer. I woke up in a panic. Where were my friends? How was my family? Could I write? How could I serve the community? Could I meditate? Was meaning available to me? What did I need to resist?
And I think it is weak to call this “privilege” unless you are going to add the idea of class. A lack of money, health, even freedom does not prevent a person from seeking connection and understanding. And it does not destroy creativity. In fact, I’d propose that it is an excess of the material that is just as bad, if not worse. Oppression is in and of itself evil, but it certainly does not remove a person’s capacity to love and hope. And to think.
Well, call me philosophical or a Marxist or a hippie or maybe just a poet. Threaten to take away my diet root beer and imagine I’ll collapse to the base of the pyramid. We can’t predict how we’ll act, but we can see how we’ve acted. And Maslow’s stair master isn’t what I’m climbing.