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Cultural Pyramids - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Cultural Pyramids
I have long said that the pyramid of needs is only one way of organizing those values.  Check out the Blackfoot version.

For me, the need to know and understand is fundamental.  Social connections are luxuries from a philosophic point of view, although in this context I need people for practical concerns; but I just don't have as much intrinsic NEED for other people as most folks seem to.  And my transcendence can't turn off no matter what I or anyone else may do; like my sense of self, it is indelible.  The base of my pyramid is, more explicitly than for most people although it is true for everyone, the biosphere of the Earth.  No biosphere, no nothing.  Because I know that, my behavior is very different from people who place their own body's needs at the base.

They're all just concepts.  You can prioritize them in any order you want.  Some orders are more effective than others.  I'm not terribly impressed with the planetwide results of personal-body-needs as a foundation.

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zanda_myrande From: zanda_myrande Date: July 26th, 2015 11:24 am (UTC) (Link)
How would you react to the idea that the ability, or the freedom, to re-prioritise your needs, or even to think about them as concepts that can be re-prioritised, is a form of privilege?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 26th, 2015 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)


I don't find the idea plausible as an absolute, because the iconic examples of different priorities come most from people with the least privilege:

"If you run away again, this time they'll kill you."

"Den I be free!"

Oppression is broken primarily when the oppressed rebel by prioritizing freedom, knowledge, or something else over physical safety and food. It is, for them, an expression that other things than material needs may be the most vital to survival.

Privilege is having the time and luxury to noodle around with the New Agey flavors of transcendentalism or self-esteem. Survival is using transcendence to contact Ogun for assistance to keep the white-run "justice" department from executing you or your family.

Everyone has needs. Not everyone stacks them in the same order, although the famous pyramid is a popular order. If you look at cultures around the world, you'll find that people organize and describe their priorities quite differently. The premise that there's only one way to do it, or that only privileged people get to modify theirs, comes out of the same Westernized perspective as that well-known pyramid. Everyone else just goes on doing what they're doing. But if they bump against that reference, our Blackfoot author isn't the first to go, "Yeah no, that thing is out of whack."
zanda_myrande From: zanda_myrande Date: July 26th, 2015 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

This needs more thinking about, obviously.

The person who dies to be free is also dead. Whether s/he goes on being free after that we don't know. To prioritise the needs of others over one's own is certainly possible; to prioritise their freedom over their survival can put them in the same position, i.e. free but dead. We've all heard the line about the leader who will fight to the last drop of everyone else's blood.

From my admittedly Westernised position, free but dead now doesn't seem as good a deal as alive and possibly free later, but then I've never been any less (or more) free than I am now, so maybe I'm not qualified to comment.

From that same perspective, to me, the Blackfoot tipi that doesn't include bodily or social needs at all signifies definite privilege; those needs are, must be, so easily serviced, either by oneself or by one's community, that they aren't ever even a problem. Like walking down a dark alley at night while being male, there's no need to think about them. I live in a society that should run like that, a society in which I have massive privilege, and I've never been able to ignore those needs. Which certainly indicates, if the tipi is true, that society is something that the Blackfoot did better than we do.

It also occurs to me that the way people describe their priorities and their actual priorities are not necessarily always the same thing. I could imagine myself saying loftily that my creativity, my writing, my music, is more important to me than mere survival, but I wouldn't because it isn't. If I can't eat, or breathe, or see, or find a pencil, it all stops, and then it has no importance at all. If the Blackfoot's food source is exterminated, self-actualisation will not bring it back. I don't know how transcendence works, never having had it, but I'd imagine that there would be bodily phenomena that might interfere with it.

But of course all this is from my Westernised, uneasily semi-secularised, perspective that this life in this world for each of us is the one that matters, that Ogun and Jesus and Shiva may or may not be real and may or may not be able to stop people executing me and in the meantime I still need to eat. I know that's not the only one, but to me it seems hard to argue with on the basis of the little we know.
cat_sanctuary From: cat_sanctuary Date: July 26th, 2015 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
(I tried to type this a minute ago and thought, "Why am I getting the Captcha? Oh, right...I'm using a public computer and have to log in.")

It would be hard to do much for the biosphere, or for loved ones or causes, without staying alive. I think that's why survival usually goes at the base of the pyramid.

I also think Maslow could have thought, said, written more about the situations when people skip up to a higher level of the pyramid. People who ordinarily eat, rest, and bathe like everybody else occasionally risk or sacrifice their lives...I think, mainly from his claim that Anne Frank achieved self-actualization, that Maslow would have classified these skips as self-actualizing.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 26th, 2015 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)


But you can't stay alive without the biosphere. That's exactly the problem we're having, people prioritize things in ways that undermine sustainability. The economy is not opposed to the environment; the economy is a subset of the environment. You can't have individual or national survival in a vacuum. If your efforts to meet your immediate needs destroy the wellspring of resources, you die. The widest part needs to go at the base.
zanda_myrande From: zanda_myrande Date: July 27th, 2015 07:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

There's a difference between the way "people" prioritise things and the way individuals prioritise things. Things actually get prioritised that nobody actually intended, and priorities we all know as individuals should be urgent find no purchase. Whoever it was who added a further bottom layer to the pyramid labelled "wi-fi" wasn't entirely joking. It's in there somewhere, though it really isn't a need at all.

The problem against which we run up is the same one I find when arguing about language, that of making the descriptive prescriptive. Maslow's pyramid is a (possible) description of what "people" think they need. Getting "people" to reprioritise their needs according to what we think is about as feasible as telling them they should use the language the way we think. I can hope, in both cases, but it doesn't seem likely.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: July 26th, 2015 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ugh, I've had to skip pyramid levels and in my experience, it's HELL to do for an extended period. In my case, due to the vagaries of the disability system, I needed to bootstrap myself into self-actualization/mental health growth to get access to basic physiological and safety needs met.

It was awful. It was like trying to row a boat to Australia, with a big fucking hole in the bottom, and you couldn't patch the hole until you got to Australia, so YOU HAD TO KEEP ROWING. It was the most exhausting, grueling experience I've ever had, and I had to keep doing it for a solid YEAR. Absolute hell on earth.

So in my opinion, it's possible, but horribly inefficient and painful, and it tends to be FORCED upon you, not willingly, knowingly chosen. Anne Frank, after all, wasn't given a choice about her end.

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