If life becomes intolerable—perhaps you are an old person who has run out of money, obliged to pass the day wandering the downtown of your city, the nights in shelters among strangers. How does one avoid unhappiness to the core of one’s being? Having to ‘live’ a reality like the one you thought as a child only existed in storybooks and always had a Prince Charming to set everything right and proper at the end, how is it possible for anyone to keep from climbing right back into their heads, shutting the door hard behind them?
It is our ego that is beckoning for us to enter in and shut the door. The ego is not representative of our entire person, any more than the head is the entire human body. Ego does occupy a special place in our anatomy: east of the left ear, west of the right; longitudinally centred between the upper and lower boundaries of the cranial cavity.
Ego comes to our defense against the sub-optimal conditions we encounter as we go about our daily business. This is not complicated: when we look outside on Saturday morning and see that it is raining, we will choose to do something inside and put off the camping until the next weekend. When we encounter ‘bad weather’ socially, we will withdraw into the ego while we search for better climes. What if we never find ‘better climes?’ Why, we will end up living almost exclusively behind the closed door, and we fall further into insanity the more we do. I define insanity as, the degree to which we live inside out heads and accept its ‘outputs’ as ‘inputs’ from the external world, when in fact they have less to do with the outside world than stick men do with real people.
We have not gone ‘insane’ in the sense that we have a pathology of the mind, but may express ourselves in ‘insane ways’ because we are processing the mental equivalent of ‘fake news.’ Our behaviourisms are motivated by our mind’s mode of perception. We are dealing with the ‘garbage in-garbage out’ paradigm. If the mind’s door is always closed, you keep new garbage from getting in, to be sure; but the mind, driven by your ego, continues working and garbage continues to pile up inside the head. The mind has no way to release the garbage ego itself is generating, if the mind’s door remains shut rather than wide open. Soon after you will find yourself reacting to things your ego has created, but attributes to the egos and actions of other people. When you (the mind) can no longer tell the miasma of ego from the real thing, guess what, bub? You appear to be crackers!
Societies of all kinds, human or otherwise, have egos too. Societies are systems that organize elements with the capacity for independent action (free will) into a cohesive whole, all predicated upon dimensions of substantive commonality. In Nature, societies react to disparities by eliminating them. A ‘healthy’ mental system will react to disparities by mobilizing processes designed to return the system to a ‘zero-energy’ state—a state where there is no stress-the here and the now. A society gone ‘insane’ would exhibit gross economic inequality, lack of opportunity, lack of proper support for the poor and the vulnerable—and do nothing about it except to invest more in protecting the interests of the ‘haves.’
Of the processes exhibited by healthy societies, the most critical is the circulation of money. Money is to national society what blood is to the human body. If human societies choose to restrict the flow of money throughout society, the regions where the ‘blood’ is allowed to pool will fester and rot. It will make people behave insanely. The surplus of money is as damaging to the human soul and psyche as the lack of money is.
In these days, the distribution and flow of money in any of today’s human societies is as symmetrical as a 9-headed hydra. You can see this plainly on a walkabout in downtown Toronto. The term ‘social,’ implies the existence of processes that actively promote social cohesion, collaboration, and sustainability. In plain language: wherever a deficiency exists, resources are supplied from wherever there is surplus. A graphical representation of the distribution of resources across populations of ‘healthy’ societies is a bell-shaped curve, to wit: the Normal Distribution. Very nearly all the members of healthy societies exist somewhere within two sigma of the mean value of the entire population.
Money is power, so the saying goes. I’d like to expand its breadth of application a wee bit: Money is opportunity.
Were we to acquire the political will to tackle the woeful disparity in opportunity confronting poor folks all over the world—those who cannot progress beyond Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs base level because their whole day is spent on fighting a losing battle against malnutrition—we would dismantle a wall which today’s populists want to build even higher. We would clear the way for individuals and societies to focus on Maslow’s second hurdle— the provision of safety and security. Folks require only SUFFICIENCY of food, clothing, and the safety of a comfortable nest they can call their own, for folks to progress. We would relieve the obligation ego puts upon itself to provide the mind with a more palatable world to ‘live in.’
Were we to achieve a reduction in economic disparity, the stress upon the good folks working in mental care, the health system and in law enforcement, would be substantively reduced. If the person is feeling ‘safe,’ they cannot be feeling ‘anxious.’ You cannot feel both ways at the same time. Where one’s mental focus is—that’s the determinant. It truly is a matter of seeing the glass as either half-full or half-empty. Anxiety, comes of being afraid all of the time (this ‘intro’ to Social Engineering 101 is provided to you free, courtesy of the good folks from Buffalo Springfield: ‘paranoia strikes deep/into your life it will creep‘) [i]. Governments’ leveraging fear as a tool of social control keeps an ever increasing portion of Canadian and global citizens from getting past safety and security issues to allow them to focus on—Hello? – love and belonging—community. Maslow’s third hurdle.
Love and belonging—now, here’s where things really start to rock: people are feeling good about themselves, about one another, about their environment…when you are feeling this way, it’s pretty tough to want to stay ‘in doors;’ you’ll WANT to go out and ‘play,’ all the time, like when you were little (and completely sane). You’ll want to leave the ‘inside stuff’ for when you are just too tired to have any more fun and you need to go to bed. It becomes eminently unimaginable, if most folks are going around feeling like this, that the police folks will have much to do. Instead, they would have the opportunity to enjoy their jobs more and not having to spend so much of their off-time just trying to recover from the workday [ii]. Same goes for everyone and anyone having anything to do with public service. The media folks would be happier too—can you imagine if they didn’t have to report on all of that misery? Imagine how much better they would have felt writing about the marriage of Jamal Khashoggi and Hatice Cengiz?
Wow- we’ve already come to Maslow’s level 4: Esteem. Recapping the journey so far: we are unafraid of today (level 1 and 2), or of any tomorrow (level 3) because we are surrounded by friends and our NOW is the only spot we ever want to be in. We aren’t anxious around strangers; we trust them because we are them and they are us. We live in the exact same society, so go figure! In fact, we run around admiring one another’s differences and look to them for ideas—that’s what my mom always did. When we esteem one another, both sides on any issue will seek first to understand how the other side comes to feel the way that they do, à la the Prayer of St. Francis and the life of Mother Teresa. This in itself will greatly shorten up all negotiations, whether they are between sovereign nations or among neighbours. This guarantees ‘win-win’ on both sides EACH AND EVERY TIME. And guess what? Without ever struggling, we’ve arrived! Where? Why at,
Self-actualization-the top of the pyramid. For me the level is as uncomplicated as the process for getting there. We think it is complicated because we think too much….the apple tree spends little effort worrying about how to grow its apples. It just does it; without struggling, it has made it’s way all the way to Maslow 5. How is it so many of us humans do not?
It is because we are preoccupied with judging the fruits of others and in so doing, become anxious about how we are doing with growing our own fruit. Strip away all of the pretenses of ego, and guess what, you are knowable just as you are; you know others just as they are. Trust, respect and understanding should and must be as natural to human relationships as breathing. There is no ‘Me-Too’ among animal species—individuals operate according to the rule of Nature (‘rule of law’ in human societies) and any departure from it is dealt with proportionately and immediately. Without having to worry how others may esteem our fruits, we will be entirely focused upon growing them and doing our very best—naturally. With all of us being ‘just as we are’ we cannot help it but to build equitable and sustainable societies. How could we produce anything less, with such folks as these?
Maslow knew this. Everyone who has any sense at all beyond their ego’s nose, knows this too. If we are not living like this right now, it is because of ego; ours and other peoples’. If governments are content to preside over so much misery it is because of how their ego is blinding them to both the truth and to the way out of our mess.
The way out is obvious. We are ‘missing’ the turnoff only because ego is looking alt-right when Maslow’s road is on the left.
[i] Buffalo Springfield, For What It’s Worth 1967
[ii] I read recently that Ontario’s Coroner is going to look into the number of suicides among the police. Godspeed.
Addendum: Today, 23 July 2019, I read about the hero who was first responder on the scene of the Turcotte child-murders, Officer Patrick Bigras, of the Sûreté du Québec. He was 45 years-old. You can read about it here: https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/sûreté-du-québec-officer-who-arrested-guy-turcotte-dies-at-45/ar-AAEJ49L?ocid=spartanntp