We are likely familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As it goes, it proposes that human beings have layered kinds of needs and that some are more basic than others. By basic, it means that until those most basic needs are taken care of, human beings are generally unable to move onto or focus on other needs. The most basic needs in this perception of the human being are the physical ones. Physical needs include food and water, shelter in which a safe place to sleep exists. By extension, access to health care and being able to respond to illness and other harm that may come to the body and mind are an essential progression to this basic level of need. When physical needs are met, when we feel safe, human beings are then able to turn to other concerns. This graphic shows how this hierarchy is understood.
In the face of the acts of terrorism found across the world recently, I find myself wanting, and I hear others calling for things like peace, cooperation, understanding, compassion, love, cultural understanding. I also am witnessing calls to judgment, exclusion, assertions of national, religious and ethnic superiority and a tendency toward seeing everyone who is “not like us” as “the other who just might be a terrorist.”
A harbor of safety is the only experience that will allow us to find our way forward. Some giant tug of war between the “compassion crowd” and the “build a wall” crowd will only deepen the loss of the very security that allows humanity to work together. Today, in our conversations and thinking, emails and twitter posts, what few words, what poignant questions can we use to begin creating a harbor of basic safety for ourselves–all our selves? If, for example, your governor has called for a rejection of refugees, perhaps that phone call to his/her office might be a question: “How can our governor help us feel safe enough to reach out to suffering people? The governor’s call to refuse Syrian refugees is just making things feel much more frightening than before.” Perhaps the meme’s we pass on through social media today need extra scrutiny–does this meme help people find their footing in the world again, or is it a little emotional bomb that I’m hurling at “the other side?”
Harbors of basic safety don’t simply appear when we need them. We create them. We need them now.