Maslow’s pyramid and civilization

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a psychology theory given by Abraham Maslow in 1943. At the bottom of the pyramid are the most essential needs for the survival of individual like food and safety. As one achieves fulfillment for these low levels of needs, the desire as well as efforts for higher level needs grow. The actual pyramid of needs is given below.

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Since the topic of discussion is Maslow’s pyramid and its implication for civilization, we will not discuss the Maslow’s theory in itself. However, since the Maslow’s pyramid theory is applied to an individual, what has civilization got to do with this? Well, civilization ensures whether some or all of these needs are possible to satisfy or not.

Just to give you an example- a war torn Afghanistan offers only the most difficult life to most of its citizens. Most of the individual time is spent around satisfying the very basic needs. Some individual can play to satisfy their fourth level needs i.e. status and recognition but anarchy implies that even they cannot ignore the lower levels of needs all the time. Under such a scenario, it is impossible to even dream about self-actualization.

From a civilization perspective, the few important things are-

  1. No level of the pyramid can be given lesser importance.
  2. The base levels of the pyramid need to stay bigger (one cannot invert the pyramid and hope for stability). The civilization cannot completely ignore the lower levels else the pyramid will get inverted, thus causing undue harm to its followers.
  3. There is also a need for enough people in the top layers to develop and grow a healthy civilization.

The western Europe under Christianity up until the 15th century could not unlock the top level due to various restrictions placed on those trying to achieve the top level (mundane scientific researchers can be placed under self-actualized. This does not mean that current crop of researchers who engage in research for fourth level needs can be placed under the same category.). Once unlocked, large benefits accrued to their whole society and which continues up until now. Not only western Europe progressed materially but also came to dominate the lands which were once unknown. It will be foolish to argue that new continents were dominated by Western Europe just by having enough people on the top levels. They also expanded the lower base of the pyramid as Europeans grew in numbers during this time. The demographic replacement of entire continents happened thanks to the presence of enough people on the lowest base.

As we talk now, the civilization focus of the west has completely shifted from stabilizing the lower levels of the pyramid as seen through their neglect of families, safety and demography. Families in Europe are broken, safety is being sabotaged by invitation of aliens who do not believe in same civilization ethics and local demography is eroded through state benefits to those who contribute the least to civilization. The remaining civilization is top heavy, where individuals chase esteem through signalling their big hearts, while at the same time having their own lower levels of needs unfulfilled. This leaves very few for self-actualization goals.

The Islamic societies on the other hand are perpetually locked on the lower levels of Maslow’s pyramid. They are only stable as long as they can poach on others to satisfy their lower level needs. The failure to unlock higher levels due to inherent incoherence implies that their societies will continue to lock their followers on the lowest levels.

Hindus at present are also in no better position. A large section of its people are stuck at the lowest base due to economic policies pursued by the post independence leaders. For those who managed to break through the cycle of everyday needs are now extremely focused on top and ignore the importance of base levels of the pyramid like their western European counterparts (this is as much true about those on the right as on the left). This continues as the pretamata and rakshasmata slowly hollows the base level of Hindu civilization. What many forget in this discussion is that you cannot build a healthy civilization on a small base. Losing at the lower levels of pyramid essentially implies (2) i.e. inverting the pyramid, which will bring down the whole civilization.

How the pyramid was made stable under the VarnaAshram system is a question we leave for the readers.