Whenever I take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs it’s presented differently. The reason for this, I am told, is that while Maslow did the original work, at different times since, others have taken up the theme and contemporised it. However, as I understand the basic premise goes something like this …
As individuals, communities and the human species we have a set of needs with different levels of importance. At the bottom end we are talking stuff like food and air, level two are security issues like having a roof over your head. Level three are things like love and belonging and four is what are termed “self esteem”, that’s recognition and fame. Finally right up there at number five is a higher level of self esteem that’s about total confidence of the kind that only Jeremy Clarkson seems to have acquired to date.
Apparently we are moving up this hierarchy and as we achieve a new level the previous one loses importance to us (it seems a bit shallow to me but … OK). I’m told that currently, as the human species we have clawed our way up to somewhere around levels three and four – that’s belonging and self esteem (although if you could see some of my neighbours …).
I can dig it. Its how brands work. We express ourselves in the things we own. “I am what I wear, eat, drive or where I go on holiday”. Our personal brands are an amalgamation of commercial brands each with its own expensively defined personality representing the different facets of our “self” that we aren’t able to verbalise. I’m not saying that commercial brands mould our personalities, although they might help some people bring facets of their personality into self-focus and as the old Kinks number “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” reminded us there are a few fashion victims, but there might be a few other old crones around who will remember how, a few years back, it was de rigueur to wear loads of button badges promoting a plethora of causes – same thing!
Now, I have to say that I’m not totally sold on old Mas and his ideas, but I can go with the flow to a point. Where I start to question is where all this is heading. I mean, according to Mas, eventually were all going to end up being totally up ourselves (like Jeremy Clarkson) not caring what anybody thinks about us, never giving a fig for whether our jeans have all their holes in the right places and perfectly happy going to Bognor for our hols, completely self-sufficient and self-contained. So, what do Nike do then?
I mean, we – that’s you and me Buddy – will have dedicated our lives to satisfying the needs of the era of conspicuous consumption and for what? Nobody will care, nobody will remember us for our achievements. What kind of a contribution to human evolution is that? And what then? Do we all just stop evolving or disappear in a puff of smoke? Or will we all just carry on indefinitely, living perfect lives in our hand-me-downs, and pre-fab homes? Maybe we’ll go all utilitarian, wearing Chairman Mao uniforms and driving Ladas. No, sorry, I can’t live with this thought, there has to be more! Help me, I need a psychologist, quick!
December 14, 2007