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Maslow's Lens: Part III

 

I've been looking at the difference between liberals and conservatives through the lens of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. And I've been wrong, I think. It's through the further consideration of this that I need to expand it.

I had said before that liberals see safety and security through community. Theirs is the "It takes a village"/"safety in numbers" mindset.

Safety and security are in Maslow's second tier of need. Physical needs are in Maslow's first tier.

But I now believe that liberals see physical needs as a group responsibility as well. For example, they believe that the homeless deserve a home, and society could cover that expense. The unemployed should have money, and society could cover that allocation.

Now, I'm asserting that Maslow's third and fourth tiers, which are "belonging" and "esteem," are represented by the concept of community. If that's correct, and if liberals really do believe that physical needs and safety and security are the responsibility of the community, then liberals have inverted Maslow's hierarchy.

Liberal Tier 1: Community (first and foremost)
Liberal Tier 2: Physical needs ensured (through community)
Liberal Tier 3: Safety and security (through community)

Humans are born into the first community: family. And if you look at it from this point of view, they're right.

A conservative, on the other hand, will most likely agree with the original order of Maslow's Hierarchy:

Tier 1: Physical needs
Tier 2: Safety and security
Tier 3: Belonging
Tier 4: Esteem
Tier 5: Self-actualization (self-satisfied achievement)

And a conservative will most likely believe that these are individual responsibilities. They see it as chicken and egg. How can an individual aid society if they themselves aren't secure? But in a fascinating way, a liberal would say, "Exactly! And the community should help firm up the person so that they can get back on their feet and help others."

This is where the branching starts.

Children are born into community and the community around them does provide their needs, but as they grow into adulthood, their independence is expected. What happens if they run into trouble? We all do, at times.

A bit of assistance is sometimes helpful to society in the long run. Letting it run on and on though is not unproductive.

It may sound odd to say it, but what benefit is there in domesticating humans?

I'm sure you've heard concern before that if someone takes in a wounded wild animal, they actually threaten its chances for survival in the world if it is kept and fed for too long. The animal, accustomed to fending for itself in the world, becomes "tame" because it is so cared for every day. So how can a person responsibly release it back to its natural element? Keiko, the famous orca whale, is the most notorious example of this.

Is this less so with humans? Some would argue - on both sides of the political spectrum - that prolonged welfare during the 60's, 70's, and 80's hurt people and society more than it helped.

Society is strongest when each individual has reached above Maslow's belonging and esteem. Community is important and needful, but it is not enough. Maslow's concept of self-actualization serves everyone best. It means reaching our individual, full potential.

Strangely, some liberals despise the high achievers of life. Not all - some very entrepreneurial folk are quite liberal. A good friend on mine, with whom I had lunch today, is both a staunch Democrat and is very involved in entrepreneurial pursuits.

My question, though: how does a liberal mindset advocate individual achievement and contribution to the group? What happened to "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?"

I'm not trying to disparage anyone at all in this. I'm simply trying to understand how it is that people can both believe in the concepts of safety/security and helping one another, and yet arrive at totally opposite solutions.

Are both valid?

Yes, but I think a very strong definition of community is necessary.

I don't consider Muslim extremists to be in my community. I don't consider those who hate America to be in my community. Wish harm on our military? You're not included.

Community starts with a common interest. The greater the commonality and shared goals, the more I'll trust my safety and security and even physical needs to someone - be it an individual or a nation.

Some liberals, it seems, want to include all of humanity in their community. Except that some of that "community" wishes that we die. Where's the common interest? It's silly to include such people in any community.

Pull it back a little further... the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese... they don't have our national interests at heart, do they? Why should we seek their advice or consent about safety and security? Why should we trust the U.N.? Why should they be included in a community?

Shouldn't the goal of community be to strengthen society, its people, their livelihood, their quality of life? Is that what "belonging" and "esteem" is about?

 


Read the whole story of "Maslow's Lens"
Tags: maslow | politics
by Brett Rogers, 3/11/2005 8:35:11 PM
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