I want to start this article by talking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, in order to set the tone and place a point of reference for what we mean when we talk about reducing inequalities.
In the image below, we can see at the bottom of the pyramid all of the things that our body needs for us to stay alive. Above that, we have the things that help us to maintain and support our physical needs. In the middle tier, we see love and belonging, which are in a sense, luxuries. Above that, we move into the metaphysical, with things that empower us and make us feel more human, finishing with the great crescendo of self-actualisation and becoming our best self. Sadly, most people will never reach the top.
In the pandemic, we have seen how our safety needs have directly affected our physiological supplies and our love and belonging needs. Think about it, we’ve been forced to stay in our properties and conserve our resources, challenging our employment situation in order to protect our health and personal security. As a result, we were cut off from our family, we lost a sense of connection and intimacy, and it challenged our sense of friendship. For many of us, this threat to our freedom sapped our strength and self-esteem. Very few people can claim to have been their best selves.
But, what happens when you are still fighting physiological needs and a pandemic comes along? You’re already struggling for shelter and so entering a lockdown without a secure housing situation might not be possible. Without work, you may struggle to buy food or clothing. While still at the bottom of the hierarchy of needs, Covid-19 only exacerbates how far away the top of the pyramid is.
The system is broken
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was introduced in 1943, when the world was in the full grip of a devastating war. He noticed that the times had changed human behaviour and that modern needs were evolving.
In 2021, with the pandemic having lasted for more than a year, and people getting either more frustrated or more accustomed to a life without proximity and intimacy, while we wait for global vaccine numbers to increase, the above image suggests how our needs have changed.
Most people in the west, who were spending the pandemic in one of the top three tiers, were focused on making their lives and costs simpler, being more empathetic and authentic, allowing themselves to be vulnerable, and maintaining optimism.
Those in the bottom two tiers, who struggle more on a daily basis, were more interested in revolution and change. The system is broken, it didn’t work for them. We saw a war in Azerbaijan and Armenia at the start of the pandemic, further conflicts in the Middle East, greater troubles in West Africa, more aggression from China on their border with India, and so much more. These people who are embroiled in these clashes and disputes are doing so because they know that the status quo must change, that the old ways of thinking and obeying need to go. People want new ideas.
For those with a decent level of comfort, typically in the west, that same desire for revolutionary thought and ideas often leads them down conspiracy rabbit holes rather than to the battlefield.
So, where does a global revolution begin?
Perhaps, it begins in the classroom. In the image below, one school redesigned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into an educational context, asking ‘are students safe and fed?’ as the most important need. In the UK, 1.4 million children receive free school meals due to financial difficulties at home, so what happens when the schools close and they are forced to stay at home? Everything above that in the educational pyramid becomes seemingly less important when the children are not safe and fed.
Consumerism causing problems on a global scale
In the inflationary spiral that we live in, savers are punished by their savings losing value and consumerists are encouraged to buy today while their currency holds the most value. How can this work indefinitely? Well, it can’t. In the environmental and sustainability industries, we are preaching to the masses about reducing consumption, reusing what we have, avoiding fast fashion, living within our memes, and managing our resources more carefully, all the while economics simply makes it impossible.
I’m worried that even the large multinationals who have wonderful intentions and are actually doing their best to make the world a better place are going to have all of their efforts tarnished by an eventual collective failure, and that’s a really sad thought. Recently I read this excellent piece about how capitalism is a broken system and needs a soul transplant, and it really inspired me to think deeper about the root of the problem.
One way to solve this impending economic disaster is to create a society backed by a deflationary asset, one that rewards savers and punishes consumers. If you know your currency will be worth more tomorrow, why would you spend today? This would encourage people to live more frugally and not consume without thought. No wonder we are seeing such incredible growth in the cryptocurrency industry…
Want to know how bad things can get if we don’t make the change? This article will show you. Warning: it’s not a nice read.
I want to finish with the story of the Ozone
In the 1970s, scientists discovered that the Ozone layer was thinning as a result of human-produced CFCs, a type of refrigerant gas. Then, in 1984, scientists discovered a hole in the Ozone layer that appeared over Antarctica every spring. By 1985, governments around the world accepted the evidence and began taking action to reduce the use of CFCs and help the Ozone to recover – this is known as the Vienna Convention. By 2009, it had become the first universally ratified treaty in the history of the planet! In 2019, the Ozone hole was the smallest recorded since it was discovered, and scientists now believe it will close completely and make a full recovery by 2050!
What does this story mean? It means that when human lives are at risk due to environmental concerns, it is absolutely possible for governments to stop, collaborate, and fix the problem. The greatest challenge is willingness. With so many problems simultaneously fighting for airtime, it’s hard to know what to tackle and prioritise.