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A Country Divided By The Middle Of Mazlow
by John Jazwiec

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I am by nature not transactional. My profession requires me to look at the larger picture to explain human behavior.

I have been giving a lot of thought to the current divides within this country.

"Maslow's hierarchy of needs" is a theory in psychology proposed and published by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”.

By and large, the West and the US, has evolved and takes for granted that our physiological needs are met. So too, are we safe and that allows us to find love and a sense of belonging to family and tribe. 

The same couldn't have been said during World War II through the Cold War. According to Maslow we were stuck on safety. Such large scale safety threats ironically bound us all together.

But by the end of the Cold War - some quarter of a decade ago - to the present day, we have become balkanized by the Maslow fault line of self-esteem. 

Too many of us lack self esteem, while too few of us focus on our cognitive needs, aesthetic needs and self-actualization. 

This is why both sides have difficulty understanding each other. 

The group that lacks self esteem - from economic and social disenfranchisement in a rapidly changing world, who increasingly turn to alcohol and opiates - cling to the what they do have: a sense of belonging. Affiliation and political tribalism isn't just a means to itself, but a strong bond that is required for survival.

Self actualized people simply have a hard time understanding this group. They wonder why they are not more mentally curious. They wonder why they only get their news from social media from their tribe. They wonder why others are not focused on the nuance of higher literature and art. They wonder why this other group doesn't seem to care about anyone but themselves. 

It seems to me that Maslow's theory rather nicely explains the divides within this country. It explains in some part why people are drawn to messianic figures like religion and Trump. It explains why we all don't share the same views from current events. And most importantly, it explains why we just don't understand each other. 

Finally, it explains what the right answer is to the problem. Our divides can't be eliminated until we address the self esteem fault line - not by generalities - but by real programs that allow all of us to gain self-esteem. And that means real programs to lift people economically, through eliminating their taxes which gives rise to wages and socially, through addressing their substance abuse. 

The US government is trying to come up with the right kind of budget and taxation system. I can say, with a great deal of certainty, that any new taxation system that doesn't address stagnant wages and doesn't address substance abuse - as if it were fighting a new "war" - simply will just make the problem larger.



Comments

Excellent post!
What worries me is algorithms...
The gerrymandering case heard by the Supreme Court brings up a crucial decision about math and ethics, especially transparency. If algorithms include dangerous biases, your Maslow's hierarchy of needs takes on a huge new meaning.

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From athletic scholar and satirist to computer programmer to CEO success, John Jazwiec brings a unique and often eccentric perspective to business and supply chain challenges. Exploring how they can be solved through the leadership and communication insights found in untraditional sources. This CEO blog demonstrates how business insights from books on history to the music of Linkin Park can help challenge and redefine “successful leadership.” Read Jazwiec’s Profile >>

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