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Maslow Knew Prepping: Understanding the Hierarchy of Needs in the 21st Century

An even more sinister and dangerous situation occurs when adults in society look to someone else for their fundamental needs.

This Feb. 8, 2013 photo shows Guardian Survival Gear's Elite Survival Kit features food, water, shelter and hygiene items for one person for 24 hours in Boise. Emergency preparedness is nothing new - it's a tradition in the Mormon religion and, for many others, a routine activity, like seeing the dentist. Organizations from the Boy Scouts to government agencies encourage people to be prepared for emergencies with water, food and first-aid kits. But there's a growing subculture of people who want to be prepared for the collapse of American democracy and civilization. Sometimes called "preppers," these apocalyptic types are a market for survival businesses. (photo: AP/Katherine Jones)

In the modern world, the word needs is too often substituted for wants.

You don’t need a 42-inch flat screen, you want it. You don't need the latest iPhone, you want it.

For those of you who never took Psyche 101 in college, or slept through the course, let me take a moment to introduce you to Abraham Maslow. A psychologist by trade, Maslow set out to understand what motivated humans to do what they do.

Maslow introduced his first “Hierarchy of Needs” in 1943. In this hierarchy he explained that, regardless of who they were or where they lived, all humans had certain physiological and psychological needs and that these needs built upon each other to allow the person to reach their ultimate potential. The Hierarchy of Needs is most often explained or displayed as a pyramid. The basic and most fundamental needs are at the base and more elusive psychological needs are at the top.

Understanding the Hierarchy of Needs

First are "Biological/Physiological" needs, second are "Safety" needs, third are "Social" needs, fourth are "Esteem" needs and last is the need for "Self-Actualization."

Source: Wikipedia. Source: Wikipedia.

It seems obvious that a man cannot become a master architect or artist if he spends all of his time foraging for food and seeking shelter from the weather.

Can a man or woman focus on taking their business to the next level if there is domestic discord in their home? How many times have you heard “leave your home life at home”? Divorce, financial troubles, and other domestic issues all distract from the mission or career. Understanding this, those in the military or government will often lose their Top Secret security clearances based on domestic troubles.

Needs in the Modern World

Sadly, few in today’s society understand the Hierarchy of Needs or how each level supports the others. When people get the “prepping bug” they either don’t know where to start or will stop at the base level.

Folks will go out and buy a six-month supply of freeze-dried food and call it good. Many will neglect the tools and skills needed to provide security for that food. Others will go out and purchase a handgun and ammunition but they don’t even have two days worth of food in their cupboards at home.

An even more sinister and dangerous situation occurs when adults in society look to someone else for their fundamental needs. With food, water, warmth and shelter provided by some faceless government bureaucracy, many people never learn to secure these things for themselves.

(AP Photo/Dave Martin) (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

What is worse, if there is ever an interruption in these social programs, the results are disastrous and the recipients, rather than step up and provide for themselves, devolve into a forging animal state. I submit the Greater New Orleans area, post-Katrina, as Exhibit A.

Examining the Hierarchy pyramid, we see that the higher needs are built upon the base needs. Some social engineers would offer that by having government social programs provide the foundational needs of the pyramid the recipient is free to focus on the upper levels of love and affection, achievement and mastery, independence and dominance in their career field or field of endeavor.

What the social architects ignore, whether by being naïve or through deliberation and design, is the fact that each individual must build their own pyramid. Self-respect, achievement and sense of belonging cannot be handed out in a food line. All of the needs are products of individual struggle, effort and desire. Removing challenges and obstacles from an individual does not increase self-actualization and self-respect, it handicaps and stifles it.

Never having learned to build the foundation of the pyramid, the individual flounders without order or structure, meaning or purpose.

21st Century Prepping

When the individual rediscovers Maslow or understands the hierarchy of needs for the first time, they realize that they need a strong foundation to build their needs pyramid.

You cannot skip steps in the building process. Healthy family and romantic relationships are difficult to maintain if there is no stability in the food and shelter department. A person cannot reach self-fulfillment, seek personal growth and peak experiences if there is constant struggle at home.

This Feb. 8, 2013 photo shows Guardian Survival Gear's Elite Survival Kit features food, water, shelter and hygiene items for one person for 24 hours in Boise. Emergency preparedness is nothing new - it's a tradition in the Mormon religion and, for many others, a routine activity, like seeing the dentist. Organizations from the Boy Scouts to government agencies encourage people to be prepared for emergencies with water, food and first-aid kits. But there's a growing subculture of people who want to be prepared for the collapse of American democracy and civilization. Sometimes called "preppers," these apocalyptic types are a market for survival businesses. (photo: AP/Katherine Jones) This Feb. 8, 2013 photo shows Guardian Survival Gear's Elite Survival Kit features food, water, shelter and hygiene items for one person for 24 hours. (photo: AP/Katherine Jones)

Having taken the steps to store ample food and water as well as safety and security tools, the individual can focus their attention on financial security and solvency. When they are financially secure people can focus on excelling in their career fields and achieving higher and loftier goals.

A person who has a mastery of their career field can advance to newer and more focused achievements. That person can mentor and provide opportunities to others. They can focus on philanthropy and become a blessing to society, not a burden.

Parting Thoughts

Abraham Maslow’s parents immigrated to the United States from Russia and he was the first of seven children. He lived through the Great Depression, arguably the most difficult financial time in U.S. history up until the modern era. He learned hard lessons about personal preparation and thrift and he learned the perils of indebtedness.

The great irony of our time is that our grandparents and great-grandparents survived hardship and went without only to raise a successive generation that has little understanding of genuine need or want. As we gaze out at the American landscape we see a society with seemingly no understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or the importance of building that pyramid.

What you must ask yourself is this, how is your pyramid coming along? Is your foundation solid or built upon the fragile sand of some faceless social program? Is your pyramid built on endless credit card debt?

For the past three decades Paul Markel has had the privilege to study with some of the finest instructors the U.S. Military and Law Enforcement world have to offer. Visit Student of the Gun.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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