Q:Hi John, what makes you say that Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs identifies people who are sick/hungry/whatever as "less human"? I learned about it in uni and the professor explained it to mean that it's hard to be thinking about school work when you're starving, or be productive at your job if you're really tired, etc. I'm just trying to understand your viewpoint on it. Thanks!
Right, but it’s not eating that makes us human. Lots of organisms can eat. What makes us human is making art and thinking the fancy thoughts that university professors think and achieving what Maslow called “self-actualization.” So saying that hungry or sick people cannot access “higher” needs is literally dehumanizing, because it claims the sick do not have access to the full range of human consciousness.
(I mean, Maslow literally put love between friends and family above the “basic needs,” and said that people who are hungry cannot experience love in the pure/true/real/unfettered way that unhungry people can.)
This paternalistic way of imagining need is in my opinion completely wrong. Yes, people who are starving report that it is hard to think about anything other than the desire to eat, but they also continue to write and love and read and have sex and do many things that Maslow associated with higher needs. I don’t think need is a pyramid at all; it’s a complicated web in which one need (like food) can transfigure another need (like love) without either negating the other.
Q:I think you're great, but your view of economics is so twisted, it makes me sick. This experiment with Keynesian economics and central planning has sent the country trillions of dollars into debt. And you think handouts will help this? People respond to incentives, so why would people contribute to society when they can get things for free? And the minimum wage? I hoped you'd be smart enough to realize how horrible it is for low-skilled workers.
It was nice to receive this ask because the rest of tumblr thinks I am such a proletariat-hating capitalist.
1. The question of whether a minimum wage is bad for low-skilled workers is far from settled, and anyone who claims that it is either unambiguously good or bad just hasn’t done much reading on the topic.
2. Why would people contribute to society when they can get things for free? Well, people are slightly more complicated than you’re giving them credit for, but no matter. Welfare is not a rational alternative to work in the United States or anywhere else in the industrialized world, and instituting a minimum income would not make it a rational alternative to work, because those checks would go to people who have jobs as well as those who don’t.
3. Just as a general point, I think there is a habit among a lot of people (myself included) to take one economics class in college and think that we are experts, but generally it’s better just to do some research and understand that even economists who do this stuff for a living disagree all the time. Economics is not a science like other sciences: No one is definitively right. (That said, Keynes came out of the Great Recession looking pretty damned good, even according to his detractors.)
Q:John, what happened to the cat you mentioned in your "Perspective" video? As a cat lover, I must ask.
After a brief and amicable custody battle, Pants the Cat went to live with my ex-girlfriend. We both recognized that my depression made it impossible for me to care for the cat.
She and I last spoke in 2009ish, at which point the cat was still physically healthy and emotionally complex, as cats are supposed to be.
I should add that while breakup narratives are supposed to be about the victimized innocent Dumpee and the horrible evil Dumper, in our case no one was horrible or evil, and I think very highly of the person in question and am so happy that she (and the cat!) are doing well.
This morning there’s snow everywhere. We remark on it.
You tell me you didn’t sleep well. I say
I didn’t either. You had a terrible night. “Me too.”
We’re extraordinarily calm and tender with each other
as if sensing the other’s rickety state of mind.
As if we knew what the other was feeling. We don’t,
of course. We never do. No matter.
It’s the tenderness I care about. That’s the gift
this morning that moves and holds me.
Same as every morning.
One of the coolest parts of our AFC Wimbledon sponsorship is the fact that we have a lot of advertising space (four boards around the pitch, one full sized page in the matchday programme) and those ads will be designed by nerdfighters, i.e., possibly, YOU!
We need to get the designs to AFC…
It’s difficult for me to think of Nelson Mandela as anything but a universally-respected, wise, kind, and thoughtful asset to humanity. But he also organized attacks that would today be unconditionally condemned as terrorism. His government fought peaceful demonstrations with violence, and so he brought violence to his government. He was a fighter…once the fight got started. And he never stopped fighting, and the world is so much better because of that escalation to violence. That is the rarest sort of change, and it is a testament to his care as a diplomat, a politician, a human, and a warrior that it did not merely end in perpetual turmoil and bloodshed. To go from terrorist to president in only thirty years, with most of those thirty years spent in a cell, is an achievement I would never accept if I read it in fiction.
My video tomorrow is about inequality, and it doesn’t mention Mandela because I finished it yesterday and I had to fight the urge to remake it. But he is in my thoughts tonight, I hope he is in yours as well. If you’d like to learn a little more about his life, this short documentary is lovely.
Yeah, Mandela was technically considered a terrorist by the U.S. until 2008. When the U.S. congress tried to impose sanctions on the South African government in 1985 to protest Apartheid, President Reagan vetoed those sanctions. (His veto was later overruled.) That was 1985! NINE YEARS after the Soweto uprising and massacre, and the President of the United States didn’t want sanctions on South Africa.
I was a kid, and obviously very far removed from South Africa, and I want to be clear that I’m certainly no expert. But I overheard a lot of discussions about Apartheid in my childhood, because my parents and their church were involved with organizations linked to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s anti-Apartheid work. And at the time, it was very controversial. As a kid, I remember hearing that my parents were naive, that Mandela was a terrorist, that one-person-one-vote could never work in South Africa, that it would immediately become a communist dictatorship, that all the white people would be massacred, etc. And had things gone differently in South Africa—had Mandela been a less brilliant leader—the transition could indeed have been catastrophic. To me, the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is one of the great human accomplishments of the past hundred years.
The world is now mourning the loss of a great man, as well it should. But let’s not forget that Mandela (and South Africa) might’ve been free decades earlier had it not been for the fear and discomfort of white people not just in South Africa but around the world.
Diane Ravitch on The Daily Show.
Ravitch is the queen. If only the government would listen…
We would also address poverty directly. We would increase the minimum wage and make post-secondary education cheap or free, and we’d improve improve unemployment benefits and offer free job-training to the unemployed.
Poverty is one of the few social ills where throwing money at the problem really does seem to work.
These are not radical, liberal ideas. In fact, in Europe most of them are associated with the more conservative parties, and many of them were associated with the American Republican party in the 80s. But the United States’s political climate is so different from anywhere else in the industrialized world that I fear we will just continue to get farther behind in education (and in % of people living in poverty) until we decide to make some big domestic investments.
Really though I’m entirely lucky to have been absorbed into the nerdfighter community because I have absolutely no idea how bad it is outside of this safe bubble of kindness.
He is now resting. He is now at peace. Our nation hast lost its greatest son. Our people have lost its father.