Spirit of Agency: Part I

Maslow, Partido X and Us


I’ve been thinking a lot about Maslow’s needs pyramid. I want to know if we’re missing something, like maybe our common beliefs around human needs & development and the path to self-actualization are limiting us. With all the advancements in technology and the wealth of knowledge and intellectual material at our disposal, I wonder how we keep repeating the same dynamic in education? There must be a ‘disconnect’between how we teach, how we design schools with what children & society actually need to evolve. Otherwise, we have to consider the alternative—that we do the opposite on purpose and mainly for some.
Let us say there is a direct correlation between belief and reality, like the great books say. Then it’s important to take the time now to re-examine some of our fundamental beliefs.  Think about human development, specifically, since this is the critical component of agency which I argue is regulated by our perceptions of access. 
Presume we are missing a vital truth about the nature of human experience and the road to transcendence (self-actualization). Consider, also, that we might be suppressing the teachings of truth in public schools. I would like to suggest here that human beings have evolved at the energetic spiritual level. Self-actualization and/or transcendence can no longer be perceived to be at the top of a hierarchical pyramid but rather at the base, from which all other needs are met and flow. 
It is this very error in positionality that we as a global society experience widespread crisis and conflict.
I’d like us to consider the possibility that the masses (yes, that’s the majority) aided in great part by the influx of energy coming from Generation X—are already residing within the field of self-actualization & transcendence, that this is the natural beginning of all things following.   
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs teaches the perception of two things. One: human beings can’t access self-actualization without having the preceding needs met, those being physical needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), safety (freedom from fear), social needs (love & belonging) and self-esteem (achievement & respect). The second is that the higher you go on the pyramid, the smaller the space is— that is fewer people attain it. Whether or not the use of a pyramid to explain Maslow’s theory was intended, it cannot be argued that it certainly teaches the illusion of hierarchy and quantity. The bottom of a pyramid indicates low level needs and a large number of people and the top of the pyramid indicates high level of needs and a small number of people.
Yet, with this perception, several questions come to mind:
·         Can poor people struggling for their basic needs achieve transcendence?
·         Can those individuals who are being bombed or live in perpetual states of war experience love & belonging?
·         Can a person who is struggling to pay rent be respected & recognized by society?
·         Is it possible for a person to be playful & experience joy if they have never experienced achievement in society?
·         Do we adjust our understanding of morality for those individuals who have never experienced security?
·         Can a person who is unemployed be self-sufficient?
In Spain, there is a great development being born out of the Indignados. Greater than Occupy Wall Street because it’s evolving into something we can hold on to, something we can develop. The principles of OWS were seeds but we realize that we must find a way to come out of the margins and merge with strategic elements of the system in order to produce voice, galvanize action and materialize the vision. In Spain, we can watch this happening. It is called Partido X. I am grateful for Richard Wolff, this weekend on WBAI for bringing my attention to it. He is, by the way, a straightforward, clear and precise speaker, slow and patient with his words and audience. I like him.  He points out that this new political party (Partido X) does not have a leader, even though many of the periodicals cite a spokesperson by the name of… well, let me stop here. I will support the idea that the name of one leader is unnecessary. Ahem, difficult to do– which is the point. We must break out of the box. Alejandro Navas from the University of Navarrawho has studied the Indignados says, “change will only come from the ground up, from small parties and organizations.” I suppose he’s referring to the wide base of Spanish population, the majority, many of whom are unemployed, fighting poverty or struggling for their basic needs to survive.  Can this group be self-sufficient? Can we do something like this here? My guess is that our climate is very different…
While I hammer nails into a hypothetical wooden frame I call my new practice for wellness, healing and authentic learning for educators in NYC, my mind is racing and searching for the elements that make sense of my life and save me from overall apathy and resignation. I am, for one, very interested in this notion of the spirit of agency. It has been my call for forty years and something tells me it’s so I can use my own experience to bring light and respite to others. We are warriors and we deserve a rest.
More on the Spirit of Agency next week.

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