Basic human needs

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With Aicha

Abraham Harold Maslow (1908 – 1970) was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health based on fulfilling human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualisation. Maslow was a psychology professor at several universities in the US.

He stressed the importance of focusing on the positive qualities in people, as opposed to treating them as a “bag of symptoms”. A survey, A Review of General Psychology, published in 2002, ranked Maslow as the tenth most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often described as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.

It doesn’t matter where we live in the world, we still have the same basic needs. All of us need food and water, warmth and rest to be able to function properly every day as human beings. You might protest and say that not everyone has his or her needs fulfilled and they still function. Yes, that is true.

This first level in the pyramid is not fixed.

It is not telling us how many per cent of all these basic needs we need to have fulfilled to be able to function.

What you or I need is individual, so we must look at it in the wider perspective.

Imagine that you were living on the Bahamas islands and your town was struck by the Hurricane Dorian. A lot of Bahamians have lost everything. Everything! Their homes, cars, pets, businesses, clothes, photos, even family members.

These people have really struck rock bottom and they need to build up their lives again. What they need right now is the first and the second level on Maslow’s pyramid of human needs. They need food and water, a warm place where they can rest.

They need a safe place to stay and security so that no one takes the little they have left.

It is strange in times like these that some people act like animals.

If they notice that a home or a business is unprotected, they steal as much as they can from it.

Even people who normally wouldn’t think of acting like that, suddenly change and seem to switch off their brains. We see it over and over again, not only in the Bahamas but everywhere.

When people have lost everything but their lives, they realise what truly matters and that are the basic human needs. It is sad to lose all your clothes, all your memorabilia, everything in your home and so on.

When the first waves of shock have faded, you instinctively search for what you and your family need most of all; food, water and somewhere to stay where you keep warm and safe.

Let’s climb up to the third level on the pyramid; intimate relationships and friends.

Before we continue with analysing that level, I just want to stress that Dr Maslow didn’t mean that we could be without any of the levels, as well as no level is more important than the other.

It is only a matter of what needs to be fulfilled before we can consider the next step.

If we should begin at the top, with the self-fulfillment needs, we still couldn’t manage without the first level. We would also be very lonely without friends and family.

Have you noticed that prestige and accomplishment is only next to the top, not at the top? While I’m pondering this, I begin to wonder if that is true – at least for myself.

Could these two last levels change places? Do self-fulfillment needs really come last? I don’t know how Dr Maslow thought about that, but for me prestige and accomplishment comes last.

I don’t care about prestige, all I care about is if I feel that my life is good and that I have accomplished as much as I am able to at the moment.

I have never had a fixed goal for my life, my life path has many times been very hard and I have been occupied with surviving.

Some people are prepared to do anything to reach their goal, they leave friends and families behind and reach for the top.

There is a difference between men and women in this matter.

A lot of women wish to have a great career, but not at any cost.

We are only fertile for a limited number of years, so if we wish to have a family too it is very hard for us.

Not all of us are fortunate enough to live in a country or context where we are encouraged to make a career too.

Most people expect us to take care of the family first, so we don’t have so much choice. Women who live in an emancipated society have more choices.

There are day-care centres for the children where well-educated staff take care of all the children’s needs.

In Sweden, these centres are very affordable so even a single mother with a low income can afford to keep her children there. Women are more independent and free here than in many countries.

Back to the pyramid; what are your thoughts about the different levels? Do you agree with Dr Maslow completely, or do you find that you would like to change the positions of the levels? The pyramid is not to be seen as a fixed truth that can’t be altered, it can more be seen as a source of discussion.

So, what about some healthy discussion? Sometimes I’m so curious about your opinions when you read my articles.

It would be lovely to hear about your thoughts, if you find them interesting or a source of discussion.

I am fully aware that I can appear a bit provocative from time to time, and that is my intention. Why? Because I want to start a discussion and sometimes the best for that is to tease a little.

I don’t have all the answers for the hard questions of life, no one but God has that. What I have is a creative mind and a searching soul, a beginning as good as any, don’t you think?
One of the things I love about The Gambia is all the lovely people who find time for a conversation.

This conversation can be about both high and low, fun and serious matters.

I have learned so much during my stays both in The Gambia and in Senegal. Having a serious discussion where people exchange opinions gives you a perfect opportunity to sharpen your arguments.

Some people believe that you must always find an agreement, that if people don’t agree with you they are ignorant, small minded or other adjectives.

Well, some people might be stupid, ignorant, small minded and so forth, but freedom of speech means that people are allowed to speak their mind.

The beginning and the end of every discussion must be one important thing, and that is respect. We can’t agree about everything but we can respect each other’s opinions.

Look at politics, for example. How often do we hear politicians insult each other? How often do we insult politicians? Just because people don’t share our opinions we feel that it’s okay to demolish their personality, their dignity and their whole careers! Without a thought we hang out these people on social media.

The people’s verdict is so much harder than any court would judge.

We don’t hesitate to show photos of someone’s passport, give out their address, tell personal information that can harm the person and the family. Is that the right thing to do? Is that how we would like to be treated if we would make a mistake? Nope, don’t think so!
Look at the pyramid, once more with the situation of The Gambia in mind. What about the different levels? Have the living conditions improved somehow since January 2017? You live in The Gambia, so the detail with the warmth is no problem for you. Food shouldn’t be a problem, living in a country with a nice climate and a fertile soil.

Strangely many people don’t have enough food and the food you can buy is too expensive.

Every time you get closer to the great holidays, the prices go up even more

. I can understand the conditions for the shop owners; they try to earn as much as possible too but this should be regulated.

The shop owners shouldn’t suddenly be able to ask for a price that is suddenly the double just because we are coming closer to some celebration.

What can change the prices are the taxes and the world market, but never a whim from a shop owner.

Back to The Gambia and the levels of the pyramid: is it fair to the good people of The Gambia that most of you are never able to get higher up in the pyramid than to the third level? What about the hopes and dreams that awoke after the election in December 1st, 2016? Are you still full of hope? Do you feel that your dreams have come true? Have the hospitals become fully equipped and the schools got better conditions for both teachers and pupils? Do the youth feel that they wish to study harder to get jobs on a job market that is booming? Have women stopped dying while giving birth? Have babies and toddlers stopped dying because of malaria and other sicknesses? Has the Mile 2 prison been renovated so the prison cells are made for human beings?
Has everything been done to fight corruption at all levels and in all areas? Something has been done, but we still have questions about the First Lady’s millions, and as long as we don’t get any answers on that we will remain asking.

All great changes have to begin at the top because these people should act as our role models. People are struggling; some die of exhaustion, others of illnesses that easily could have been cured.

Are the members of our government not Gambians? Don’t they have families, friends and relatives in the country they call their own? I could understand that the commitment would be on a more shallow level if all of those who rule over your lives were foreigners.

They could leave the mess behind them and move somewhere else when they had lost control over the situation, but these are your countrymen! They grew up with you! They went to the same kind of schools as you. They had to walk long distances to get to school, they were hungry and thirsty just as you.

They lost a relative because of lack of money just as many of you have. So why do they forget? When they sit at their dinner tables with the plates full of delicious food, do they give you even the slightest thought? You are the one who is paying for their food, the kind of food you will probably never taste.

Is that fair? No, it’s not, so what should we do about it? That is my question for you, my entry for your discussion. Be wise, be creative but don’t be passive!