In 1943 psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote that people have five categories of needs. Our most basic needs are for our physiological (air, food, etc.), and the next higher category is for our safety (personal security, employment, etc.). The next step up in the hierarchy is our need for love and belonging (friendship, connections, intimacy, etc.). Above that is our need for esteem (respect, positive self-image, freedom, etc.), and the highest level of need in Maslow’s hierarchy is the need for self-actualization (becoming the very best person you can be).
His theory states that only when a person has sufficiently satisfied our lowest need in this hierarchy will the person be able to pursue the need that is the next higher in the hierarchy.
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Let’s consider how this pertains not only to individuals but also to our entire society.
Also, let’s consider whether powerful forces are increasing their power by keeping individuals and our entire society at lower levels. If so, we need to organize from the grassroots to build social and political change movements to help all of us get “unstuck” from the lower levels so we can all move upward to higher levels.
The economic system that dominates much of the world keeps many millions of people poor, and it keeps even working class and middle class people struggling with economic insecurity. In the world’s richest country — the U.S. — half a million people are homeless, and about 30 million lack health care. Many people’s drinking water supplies are polluted or contaminated. The list goes on and on.
Powerful forces benefit by continuing those benefits, not only by exempting them from spending money to solve the problems, but also by keeping people stuck in the bottom two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. If somebody is severely stressed by insecurity about those basic physiological and safety needs, they will not be free to invest time and energy into promoting the reforms in our political and economic systems that keep those people suffering and insecure.
Also, powerful forces want to make people EVEN LESS SECURE by imposing additional fears and insecurities, such as fear of immigrants, fear of racial or ethnic minorities, fear of people who have the “wrong” religion, fear of LGBTQ people, and so forth. If ordinary people succumb to these CONTRIVED FEARS, they get further stuck in the bottom two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Let’s blow the whistle and alert the public to these realities. Let’s help the public to recognize — as a progressive movement asserted a few decades ago — that “ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE! Let’s organize grassroots movements to nonviolently push back at the oppression and CHANGE OUR POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, AND CULTURAL SYSTEMS to HELP OUR ENTIRE SOCIETY MOVE HIGHER in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.