A few days ago, a friend posted this revised version of the triangle on Facebook. As you can see this version adds WiFi accessibility to the list which is, after all, one of our modern needs.
- At the bottom of the hierarchy are the "Basic needs or Physiological needs" of a human being: food, water, sleep and sex.
- The next level is "Safety Needs: Security, Order, and Stability". These two steps are important to the physical survival of the person. Once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter and safety, they attempt to accomplish more.
- The third level of need is "Love and Belonging", which are psychological needs; when individuals have taken care of themselves physically, they are ready to share themselves with others, such as with family and friends.
- The fourth level is achieved when individuals feel comfortable with what they have accomplished. This is the "Esteem" level, the need to be competent and recognized, such as through status and level of success.
- Then there is the "Cognitive" level, where individuals intellectually stimulate themselves and explore.
- After that is the "Aesthetic" level, which is the need for harmony, order and beauty.
- At the top of the pyramid, "Need for Self-actualization" occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding because they are engaged in achieving their full potential. Once a person has reached the self-actualization state they focus on themselves and try to build their own image. They may look at this in terms of feelings such as self-confidence or by accomplishing a set goal.
But after I had my laugh, I noticed something that was.... sad. Those things on the bottom? Yes, the WiFi, but also the physiological needs of Food, Water, Shelter, and Warmth? Those basic human needs? Those aren't free. If you are an adult in a developed nation -- at least in North America -- You don't get those basics without paying.
Sure, you could go to a homeless shelter and get some free food, but of dubious quality or quantity. They'd give you water there. Likewise you could get sheltered, maybe, if there is room. And you could get warm for a bit in the winter -- again, if you can get in. But homeless shelters are not always the safest of places. And it's clients become institutionalized.
But where can you go -- legally in the United States and get food without buying it? Where can you legally grow crops or hunt or fish or forage in order to feed yourself? Where can you safely and legally shelter on a permanent or semi-permanent basis? Where can you go to get warm or (as is the case in the summer in the southwest) cool without having to make a purchase or fear being rousted for loitering?
And water, that thing that, next to air, we can't live long without. Three days, I believe, is the usual limit on that. We have a planet covered with water. We have a nation that has plenty of streams, rivers, and lakes. But they aren't potable. In fact, if I recall correctly, there is virtually no place in the world where it is safe to drink untreated surface water. In the meantime, "manufacturers" are selling treated and "purified" water in plastic bottles that clog our landscapes, load our landfills, and float en masses in our oceans.... I'm digressing. The person on the street has limited access to fresh clean water, whether for bathing or drinking.
While Maslow's ideas have supposedly gone out of fashion, and the remainder of his pyramid has suffered accusations of being biased toward the West, there can be no arguing that that bottom row of needs is universal. That means that everyone has those needs. And food and water are required to service. Yet we live in a society that routinely denies access to these needs based on our ability to pay someone for them. Something about that sounds broken to me. Our society is, more and more, feeling broken. Irreparably so. I have a theory that this isn't a matter of just going back to the "olden" days. Get back to how it was when we were kids. I think it goes much further than that. We have some amazing learning now. We have the knowledge to help people not succumb to the diseases and epidemics of old. And we have the knowledge of how to do a lot of that without the exorbitant costs of today. But our legal, political, and economic system -- all three of which favor a small minority of humans -- is clearly broken.
How do we change it? How do we live in a way that is equitable to all?
Isn't it interesting that Maslow's Hierarchy of need is encased in a triangle? A delta? The symbol of change?