In 1943, before I was born, a guy named Abraham Maslow came up with a theory in psychology entitled, “A Theory of Human Motivation.” In the year 2000, I was taking classes at California State University at Fullerton preparatory to getting a Master’s Degree in psychology when I was presented with this doggerel still intact.
Granted, it presents a good and sensible pyramid for rational decision making, but it doesn’t begin to represent human behavior accurately.
Let me say this another way: mankind is not rational under a variety of circumstances. At the core of this irrationality is his intense desire to belong; to be included; to be accepted into the family, the tribe, the nation, the cult, the religious group, the social club, the political party, the race, the brotherhood, the fraternity or sorority, and so forth.
We say the Pledge of Allegiance, the Serenity Prayer, the Nicene Creed, every day or every week with great feeling and that feeling stems from this need to belong. We sing our alma mater and tears come to our eyes. Our belonging somehow fuses with our identity and, when asked who we are, we identify ourselves not by our interests but by the groups we belong to: A Christian woman or Hispanic man, an American, a Jew, a firefighter, a policeman, a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian, a Copt, a Kurd, a Buddhist, a Socialist Party member, and, more recently, die hard fans of professional sports teams or celebrity bands or internet information sources.
Many of these memberships come with self-delusions.
In Maslow’s imagination, love and belonging were superseded by concerns for our own safety. In the real world, this is rarely the case. Certainly in war, the desire to belong, the desire for your fellow soldier’s safety overrides all selfishness and encourages us to run toward danger, to attack, rather than just defend, to sacrifice life and limb for love, honor, and country.
Furthermore, it inhibits our ability to think logically. It interferes or perverts our higher brains and leaves us defenseless against religious and patriotic dogma.
©David N. Dodson, September 2017