Browning Paper - A Maslovian Look at Ordinary Men It is...

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A Maslovian Look at Ordinary Men It is tempting, when assessing a person’s reasons for making the choices he has, particularly in tragic scenarios, to focus on his psychological motivations. One may drift into the Freudian realm and look for a sexually traumatic childhood event that neatly explains the destroyed adult result. Or perhaps, one may prefer to take a behavioral, people-as-puppets perspective and look for the conditioned stimulus that produces a given response. However, even psychologists recognize that there is more to the human condition than such partisan explanations for behavior. Recently, the humanist school of thought in psychology has emerged that seeks to encompass more than one realm of human motivation. Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs is the paradigm many humanists follow today. It seeks to explain the order in which human beings satisfy their needs and achieve the state of “self- actualization,” the achievement of one’s full potential with regard to creativity, independence, and morality. But could Maslow’s hierarchy of needs be symmetrical? That is to say, could there be an upside-down counterpart to his Mayan-esque image of ascension? Newton’s laws, Carl Jung’s idea of identity, Vedanta philosophy—all of these concepts share the characteristic of dualism. In fact, many models used to explain nature and the human condition assume an equal presence of positivity and negativity. Do we see a Louvre-evocative upside down pyramid leading to a bankruptcy of human potential—shall we say, “self-debasement?” Nowhere do we come nearer to seeing this psychological structure than during the Holocaust. Christopher Browning, in his book Ordinary Men , explores the degeneration of a battalion of middle-aged family men into homicidal crusaders for the National Socialist cause. Calling into action Western morals, the Maslovian hierarchy of needs—or rather, its debauched inverse—is visible, step by step, as these men begin to carry out with revulsion, ignore, and finally justify their murderous actions. The base of Maslow’s pyramid is the fulfillment of physiological needs. Is this reflected in the transformation of Browning’s battalion? Without question, the Reserve Police had their basic needs taken care of, courtesy of the German government (29). But this certainly would not have been enough to convert well-educated men whose formative years had been spent in a world free of Nazi indoctrination (182). It is doubtful that “sufficient” rations of sausage and
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marmalade would be enough for these men to abandon their ideals and open fire on Jews in Józefów. To complete the physical basis of their anti-pyramid, the men were also supplemented with the presence of alcohol. As they were massacring victims face-to-face at Józefów, alcohol was made available in the forest (61, 68). Any man with the nerves to continue as bodies— faces, even—piled up in the woods received the liquid gift of lowered inhibitions and twisted
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This note was uploaded on 04/08/2008 for the course HIST 150W taught by Professor Frusetta during the Fall '07 term at William & Mary.

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Browning Paper - A Maslovian Look at Ordinary Men It is...

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