Archives for posts with tag: self actualization

Weapons are nothing but repurposed tools. Sometimes ‘enhanced’ to fit the new goal.

Clubs had started as fruit harvesting utensils, then used for hunting purposes and eventually for bashing in the heads of those who had slept with the missus when the wielders weren’t looking. And so on…

As a tool, an implement is used to ‘put things together’. As a weapon, the same (kind of) implement is used to ‘set things apart’. An axe can be used to split wood in order to build a fire or to ‘split’ furniture during a fit of rage.
Generally speaking, a tool is used towards the ultimate goal of adding to/fine tuning a structure while a weapon is used to destroy/disable something which is meant to remain so.

Our ability to communicate was ‘the’ tool which actually transformed us into what we are today. Humans.
At least according to Humberto Maturana. His theory maintains that we’ve become self-aware social individuals through what he calls languaging.
In a nut-shell, he says that we’ve become humans – self conscious apes, by continuously expressing our thoughts towards the other members of the community. Hence simultaneously building an ‘agora’ and ‘walling in’ individual private spaces.

Yet the same ability to communicate can be used also as a weapon.
Instead of being used by individuals to mutually groom themselves, and ultimately adding to the overall resilience of the community, ‘weaponized’ communication is used to ‘downgrade’ susceptible individuals. Hence lowering their ability to coalesce into functional communities.

History suggests that, in the longer run, democracy – as a manner of decision making, increases the survivability of the communities which use it. Simply by pooling the decision making resources of the entire community instead of relying on the mental prowess – and good will, of a single authoritarian leader.
Only for democracy to be fully functional, the individual members of the community have to be able to share, in earnest, their thoughts.
This is why Freedom of Speech has been enshrined in the First Amendment.
That’s why whenever the public discourse becomes increasingly dominated by ‘fake-news’ things start to go south.

That is why whenever people allow themselves to be split into warring parties – with no real communication between the sides except for the misinformation hurled across the divide, both sides eventually end up wondering at the destruction they had allowed the ‘communication warriors’ to inflict upon them.

This Covid thing is an excellent opportunity.
For us to reconsider.

Everything.
Our past. Our meaning/role in this world… our future…
We have the time, some of us also have the means.

The means to socially distance ourselves from the fray.
Hence increasing our likelihood to survive. Increasing our confidence that tomorrow will actually happen.
Increasing the need to ‘actualize’ ourselves. To be able to cope with what tomorrow might bring.

This whole thing reminds me of the fact that Maslow’s Pyramid is nothing but a succession of steps which might be climbed. Might be climbed….
There’s no one there forcing us to step up once we’ve ‘fulfilled’ the one we’re standing on. And no one to tell us what to do once we’ve ‘upgraded’ ourselves.

And another thing.
Covid also taught us, the hard way, that our planet is limited.
That it’s hard to live apart and that everything which happens anywhere eventually influences all of us.

Thank you for reading this.

Later Edit
Some use ‘physical distancing’ instead of ‘social distancing’.
The rationale being that the distance is only physical and not social.
The way I see it, ‘social distancing’ makes a lot more sense.

‘I keep my distance because I care about you, not because I fear I might catch something from you. We are together in this!’

We’ve arrived at a very interesting point in our evolution as a cultural species.

Having more or less solved our existential problems – food, shelter, companionship, we’re hard at work towards building ‘self esteem’.

Putting it in Abraham Maslow’s terms, a good portion of the humankind – most of those active on the internet, the netizens, have reached the ‘self-actualization’ stage.

The problem being that we’re so preoccupied with ‘expressing our true selves’ that almost nobody listens anymore. Truly listens…

The kind of listening needed when we try to learn something. To understand what’s going on.

As opposed to the listening used when educating somebody.

When attempting to learn, we listen opening our minds. We let information in and structure it afterwards.
When educating people, our listening is focused. We take information in with the sole goal of detecting dissent – in order to stifle it, and openings to exploit in our quest to implant our opinion about the world in the minds of our ‘targets’.

Take a breath.
And exhale carefully not to inflate another bubble.
There are already a lot of them waiting to burst.

Everything which has a temporal dimension – movement, transformation or both, incurs costs and produces consequences.

From a rock sliding down a slope to me writing this.

The difference between these two being the simple fact that no rock has ever had any goal.

You see, the rock looses some energy and mass while sliding down. It accelerates at first but since no rock has ever slidden for ever.
Only rocks never do anything on their own. Something has to happen to them first.
They do bear the costs – they wear down, break, etc., yet they don’t mind. For they are not, at all, aware of what’s going on. And, anyway, completely unable to do anything about it. Hence not at all ‘responsible’ about any of the consequences produced by whatever they had been involved in. Happened to them, actually.

Fast forward to me. I’m not only alive – hence reactive to whatever happens to me, but also aware. Aware of my own awareness even.
I notice the costs I have to pay. Hence I try to minimize them.

And here’s the gist of the matter.
My awareness drives me to minimize the costs I incur during my life AND to be very careful about the consequences of my endeavors.

Theoretically, at least…

Humberto Maturana teaches us that human consciousness can be understood as our ability to ‘observe ourselves observing‘.
In other words, consciousness might be reduced to self-awareness.

I’m afraid it’s not enough.
While no individual can be described as conscious if not commanding a certain degree of self-awareness, being able to observe their own observations doesn’t elevate an observer to fully conscious status.

How many of us have ‘enjoyed’ messing up ants or other insects just for the fun of it? When we were teenagers, of course.
OK, we continue to squish the cockroaches we happen to see and to spray our gardens against mosquitoes and other pests.
Only we no longer do it for fun. We employ a ‘healthy’ rationale to justify our actions – cockroaches/mosquitoes are ‘bad for us’.
And we try to do it in a reasonable manner. We don’t soak the entire garden with the most potent insecticide available. Simply because we’ve understood, the hard way, that bees are also important for us.

Otherwise put, it’s not enough for us to be able to keep tabs on what we do, we must also take responsibility for our actions.

After all, we’ve been able to notice that bison ‘engineer’ their own environment.

“Herds of bison milling through Yellowstone National Park may seem aimless to the average visitor, but a new study reveals the animals are hard at work engineering their ecosystem. By rigorously mowing and fertilizing their own patches of grassland, the big herbivores essentially delay spring until late summer.”

Maybe the time is ripe for us to understand that we, humans, have done the very same thing for quite a while now.
The world we live in is, to a certain – but rapidly growing – extent, the consequence of our own decision making.

The faster we learn to accept that, the higher the chances we won’t repeat past mistakes.

Any attempt to learn something, to increase your knowledge about a certain subject, is nothing more and nothing less than an attempt to become intimate with it.

Students have two open roads ahead of them.

One which implies a lot of wooing, patience and a certain degree of self appeasement.
The other asks for a direct, almost blunt, approach.
While the first is more like the student dancing around the subject, the second is akin to a hands on combat.

The results are, obviously, different.
Not exactly different. Only fundamentally.

The difference is very much like the difference between courtship and rape.
The end result might be a child. But…

Same thing with art and science.

It is true that in order to have sex, both partners need to be, at least somewhat, naked.
But there is all the difference in the world between having sex and making love!

The end result is only apparently the same!

Most commentators treat Maslow’s as if it were a pyramid. A succession of five receding floors constituting a structure in the three dimensional space.

Something which can exist, and function, on its own.

I see it as a mere triangle. Drawn on a two dimensional surface by Maslow’s imagination and imperfectly reproduced – according to our individual manner of seeing things, on the surface of our consciences.

My point being that each of those levels are nothing more than a set of opportunities.

The first two, which are described as ‘basic needs’ are the stages where we have the opportunity to learn how to drink, eat, manage our immediate environment and our own strength.

And so on.

Basically, it’s what we choose to do in each of those stages which determines whether we graduate to the next one.

OK, sometimes we are dealt with an ’empty set’ situation. There is no food available. Or no water. Use your own imagination.
But since in that situation there is nothing to be done except waiting for something to change – death is a form of change, that situation is of no interest for me. There’s noting to be decided so…

What we choose to do…

All that Maslow is trying to teach us is that our freedom of will might be free but will always be influenced by the situation in which we find ourselves.

When hungry, our attention – hence freedom of thought, will be necessarily drawn to finding food. We will still be relatively free to choose our individual manner of gathering/cooking it but much of our ‘bandwidth’ will be spent trying to fulfill that task.

And so on.

The really interesting stage/floor being, of course, the last one.
Where we’ll continue to feel hungry – from time to time, at least, were we’ll continue to be vulnerable to various potential aggressors, where we’ll continue to depend on friends and associates, were we’ll continue to pay attention to what other people say about us.
But where all those needs will be modulated by our manner of relating to them.
Ascending through the first four floors meant that our understanding of things was modulated by our needs. Reaching the top means that our conscience has finally learned to ‘turn the tables’. To peek on the other side. To trans-cede.

To whatever stage our precedent choices have set for us.
For us to play our freedom.

Abraham Maslow, the initiator of ‘humanistic psychology’, has been described as being “concerned with questions such as, “Why don’t more people self-actualize if their basic needs are met?” and basically why don’t people try to reach their full potential.”

“To over simplify the matter somewhat it is as if Freud supplied to us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill it out with the healthy half. Perhaps this health psychology will give us more possibility for controlling and improving our lives and for making ourselves better people. Perhaps this will be more fruitful than asking “how to get unsick”. (A. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being,)

In a sense Maslow follows in the footsteps of J.J. Rousseau.

“Although, in this state [civil society], he deprives himself of some advantages which he got from nature, he gains in return others so great, his faculties are so stimulated and developed, his ideas so extended, his feelings so ennobled, and his whole soul so uplifted, that, did not the abuses of this new condition often degrade him below that which he left, he would be bound to bless continually the happy moment which took him from it for ever, and, instead of a stupid and unimaginative animal, made him an intelligent being and a man” (J.J. Rousseau, The Social Contract)

In more than one sense.

Both consider that society presents its members with almost endless opportunities for self em-betterment, both wonder how come so few make good use of those opportunities and both have been accused of things they have never done.

Rousseau has been falsely accused of being the father of the ‘Noble Sauvage’ – and the quote above proves his complete innocence, ‘stupid and unimaginative animals’ can be mistaken for ‘noble savages’ only by those ‘abused’ by their ‘new condition’ – while Maslow’s detractors – who have failed to scientifically validate all aspects of ‘the hierarchy of needs’ – are questioning the scientific nature of Maslow’s ideas instead of reconsidering their own positions. (The truth being that Maslow had stated upfront that “I yield to the temptation to present it (his notion of a ‘Psychology of Health’, which includes the concept of ‘self-actualization’) publicly even before it is checked and confirmed, and before it can be called reliable scientific knowledge“)

Unfortunately it is rather obvious that while Maslow has successfully detailed what it takes for an individual to ‘ripen’ into the situation of being able to ‘reconsider its own self’, he failed to reach as far as Rousseau was able to. While the latter deplored the fact that ‘the abuses of his new condition often degrade him below that which he left’ the first blindly entertained the notion that self-actualization is necessarily a positive process.

I’ll use only two examples to illustrate my theory, even if by doing so I’m presenting myself as a target for the ‘science-nazi’.
First take a glance at those who founded/were involved in running LTCM. All of them had very respectable careers behind them at that moment. Why did they feel the need to get involved in such a risky business? For those of you unfamiliar with the financial world LTCM was a hedge fund which had to be bailed out in 1998 after losing $4.6 billion, a huge amount of money for those times.
Then tell me what drove Bernard Madoff, an already very successful ‘operator’ in the financial market  to transform the wealth management branch of his company into a huge Ponzi scheme that eventually lost some $18 billion of actual money ($65  billion if the fabricated gains are added to the total)? Not to mention the fact that he involved his family into the daily operation of his company, leading to his brother being sentenced to 10 years in prison and one of his sons committing suicide… – the other one died of lymphoma a few years after Madoff had been incarcerated.

Could it be that this ‘self-actualization’ business depends on two things, the character of the individual involved and the kind of interaction that exists between him and the community of which he is a member? Meaning that if the ties are weak the character of the individual becomes the dominant factor?

And since nobody’s perfect…

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” (Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear)

But also

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.” Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse: Dune

I’ll end up saying that it’s not the governments that have a ‘recurring problem’ but the peoples themselves. By definition governments come and go, it’s the peoples that stay behind and must suffer the consequences of ‘self-actualizations’ went wrong.

black driver pulled from job

The Root reports that a customer “asked that no black delivery driver be sent to her home” and that a manager decided to “honor” that request.

As most of you already know Maslow’s five leveled pyramid can be simplified into a three three tiered one: Physiological needs, Relational needs (safety, emotion and esteem) and Self Actualization. Maslow said that you cannot skip any one of this levels, for instance you can not deal with your emotional needs on an empty stomach. And who cares about self actualization if he doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep tonight?

Well…intuitively we have to admit that Maslow’s words do make some sense…

Studying this example we can draw some interesting conclusions on this subject.

For instance simply climbing to a certain level doesn’t mean one is mature enough for it.

The customer had certainly satisfied her basic needs yet she has some deep emotional problems.
OK, I can imagine that a person can be so ‘dense’ as to be able to make such a demand but no second thoughts after you produced such a frack-ass?
“”I got a right to have whatever I want and that’s it,” the woman said. “No, I don’t feel bad about nothing.””

But the most interesting examples here are the manager and the driver.

Lowe’s is not at all a small operation. Rising to management level is not a simple thing and should provide some security and self esteem to an individual. Enough for that individual to start thinking with his own head. After all that’s what managers are supposed to do, right? That would also help that individual bring himself up to date – ‘self actualization’, that is…
Was that particular manager capable of fulfilling his duty? Lowe’s didn’t think so… Me neither, on different grounds though.

Let’s see what the driver has to say:
“”To me, it just ain’t right for a business that we work at to go on with the woman’s wishes,” Brooks told the news station.
“It was one of those things like, ‘These guys will get over it, they’re tough guys, they’re delivery guys,’ ” Brooks said. “And that’s kind of where I just had to put my foot down and say I couldn’t do it with them.””
So a “mere” driver has more guts than a manager…
No matter if the manager shared the customer’s racist feelings. He had to have the wisdom to understand that catering for such kind of wishes – specially in this manner,  is extremely bad for the company. And for himself as an employee of that company.
So he should have solved that situation properly, not botchedly – he was a manager, remember?

“Despite the letdown, Bradley added that he won’t be missing any time at work.
“I mean, I gotta work,” he said. “I’m going to keep going to work like I’ve always done. But I would think Lowe’s would take it into consideration to think about what they’re doing next time.””

So the driver has a clearer view of the situation – including his own standing – than the manager…

What’s going on here? Did Maslow got his pyramid upside down or the whole world has turned over and is now standing on its head?

Maybe that is the whole ‘self-actualization’ thing. Being able to use wisely the amount of autonomy one happens to have at his disposal.

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