The best way to predict the future is to create it.
Ambraham Maslow (1908 - 1970) was a psychologist and theorist and a leader in the humanistic school of psychology. He is noted for his “hierarch of needs” - a theory presenting human needs (survival, security, social, self-esteem, and self-actualization) as rungs on a ladder. The belief was that unmet needs motivate.
Theorists “think” more than they “do” so it might be interesting to hear Maslow's thoughts today. He now has the background of decades of history and can compare his theory to actual behavior. Here’s what I believe he might say.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, thanks for inviting me here today. I’ll be brief. With the benefit of an eternal prospective and a background of current civilization (I use the term lightly) I’ll offer the following retrospective on my theory.
I developed my “ladder” in the “hope of tomorrow.” I believed that was the secret to mental health and human potential. I focused on the self-actualization of individuals - those who had found professional and personal success and fulfillment. The rungs on the ladder to me represented working through unmet needs and the achievement of the pinnacle by accomplishment of this process.
Unfortunately at some point in time the practice of “entitlement” distracted us into believing that the government, our parents, or others could deliver achievement to us without our working for it. Self-actualization is being happy in your own skin but it assumed obtaining scar tissue on that skin. So much for assuming…
Self-esteem is earned success. Again I failed to realize that parents (and sometimes government and others as surrogate parents) with good intentions would protect children from falling physically, emotionally, financially, etc. and in so doing would create a “right or guarantee” to happiness versus a “right” to opportunity and the pursuit of happiness. You can’t give success - it must be earned.
With my past including the great depression and two world wars, I could not have foreseen modern society that has so much and its citizens being so disadvantaged by it. Maybe I was distracted by the Ozzie and Harriet world of the 1950s but I didn’t or couldn’t predict the family dysfunction that has occurred and the crack created in our melting pot society. We are no longer being assimilated into one culture but have hyphenated ourselves into a world of diversity - a house divided - by entitlements and opinions but not bound by shared values. We’re not one society.
If I was creating my ladder today - the survival rung would include love and respect as necessities to our development. I never thought the family structure would have disintegrated as it has. I anticipated killings over food and water but never because someone “dissed me.” As night follows day - this disintegration of family makes necessary a new meaning for security - we need to take back our streets / our neighborhoods. Climbing the ladder builds strength that doesn’t come for free.”
Copyright - Michael G. Manes
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