A Maslovian Look at
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.
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,
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
Christopher Browning, in his book
, 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