I’ve been reading Maslow’s “Toward a Psychology of Being”. I have always been interested in and for what I’ve know of it, agreed with his hierarchy of needs. I recommended the book to Patrick last July, thus beginning his transformation to perfect being and husband, so I thought I would read it. I haven’t gotten too far. The 3rd lecture or so. But, I’ve come across something I disagree with so strongly I thought I needed to mention it. Also it touches on my belief in politics and what is wrong with American society so it all ties in to a coffee talk quite nicely.
Maslow says, on page 14 of the 3rd edition, in referring to the relevance and importance of existentialism in and on psychology “…The Americans have learned that political democracy and economic prosperity don’t in themselves solve any of the basic value problems. There’s no place to turn but inward, to the self, as the locus of value.” With this I disagree, partly. But that part is very strong. Perhaps Maslow’s only mistake was to believe all Americans have democracy and prosperity but never the less, without political democracy and economic prosperity one cannot even find the time to consider the self, let alone its value. In line with my belief in Darwin’s general theory, without enough to eat and shelter to keep you dry and warm (or cool in the case of Summer in Chico, CA) the mind is preoccupied in a more rudimentary survival mode. At best there are times when, having eaten and enjoying the sunshine, one can try to enjoy the moment until it is time to start the next task. You’re trying to tell me that the mother worried about whether the roaches are going to get into the cereal box has extra brain time to think about the meaning of life, the universe and everything? Think about getting out of the situation she and her family are in, yes. Think about her grandchildren having a better life? Yes. But our purpose of existence, I doubt it. And I don’t blame her. I think if more people in the US spent more time just trying to make existence better for their fellow man and less time trying to perfect things and understand the meaning of it all, the world would be a much happier place.
So, are these arrogant short-minded thoughts of a girl who had it good from the beginning? Maybe. I admit I never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from. I did have to figure out where to sleep one night when my stepmother threatened to kill me if I came home and Dad suggested she might be serious, but it isn’t the same. I had places I could go. At the same time, based on my experiences and the people I have known and especially since moving to Europe, I believe it is possible for everyone to spend more time contemplating existentialist notions and postulates IF they truly have democracy and economic prosperity. Alas Mr. Maslow, in the US they do not.
Sorry this isn’t the musing coffee talk it usually is, but it has really been bugging me, so I had to share. I promise next time I will keep it light. See you in Seattle.