Today elections are about the acquisition of government power to enable the victors to establish their view of the best social order. Often the opposing views breakdown to security versus community. But is this a real choice? In my view there is no security without community.
Hobbes and Maslow
Thomas Hobbes wrote his famous work on government, “Leviathan” in the year 1651. Hobbes asserted that we need government to guarantee our security. He believed government kept man’s basic nature in check. He saw man’s nature as base and violent which if not held in check by external force would lead to a perpetual state of war: the war “of every man against every man.” He described human life without government as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
However, since Hobbes, one of the most prominent thinkers was a psychologist named Abraham Maslow. Maslow is widely considered to be the founder of humanistic psychology. He is known for creating the theory of, “the Hierarchy of Needs.” In his signature work, “Motivation and Personality” his goal was to develop a psychology of health.
Consider Maslow’s discussion of the unhealthy person:
“…For the basically deprived man the world is a dangerous place, a jungle, an enemy territory populated by (1) those whom he can dominate and (2) those who can dominate him. His value system is of necessity, like that of the jungle denizen, dominated and organized by the lower needs…p. 232.”
Note the similarity of Maslow’s unhealthy person to the war-centered “human” of Hobbes.
Maslow’s Chapter Twelve is entitled: “Self-Actualizing People: a Study of Psychological Health.” He describes healthy individuals as “problem-centered” rather than “ego-centered.” Healthy people “have some mission in life…” and a “more efficient view of reality.” “They have for other human beings a deep feeling of identification, sympathy, and affection…what Adler called the older-brotherly attitude.” The unhealthy must develop these qualities.
These are quite different value systems. The Hobbesian political view is based on an unhealthy psychological condition. Today “deprivation psychology” finds its cousin in “deprivation political philosophy.” Per theory, power is pursued in order to obtain security.
However, “self-actualizing” psychology reflects health. Individuals feel no deprivation, instead feeling the “need” for life purpose. “Fulfillment-psychology” finds its cousin in “Communitarian” forms of political philosophy. Power is pursued to form a better community or as the writers of the Preamble to the Constitution put it: to form a more perfect union.
In modern times we have seen an example of each view.
The Bush Presidency
In 2004, author Ron Suskind wrote an article entitled: “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush.” Suskind in trying to understand the Bush administration purportedly interviewed Karl Rove. Suskind wrote:
“[Rove] said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as, people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality…” ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
-This “reality does not matter,” fact-adverse view, produced the falsity-based war in Iraq, trillion dollar deficits and runaway financiers who nearly destroyed our economy. I submit that this “empire now,” power- as-an-end, type of thinking is bankrupt without an organizing purpose.
Purpose, Vision and FDR
“Without vision the people perish.” In Maslow’s healthy psyche, the ambassador of such a disposition would strive to fulfill the purpose of leadership: they would strive to create a vision on which people could rely.
In our nation’s history there have been president’s who, arguably, could be considered representative’s of this mind-set. In modern times, perhaps Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton to name a few. But, I believe that the clearest exemplar of this view in recent history is President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR).
FDR called his vision “a New Deal for the American people.” The New Deal gave us: Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, to name just a few of its programs. In contrast, where Bush gave America war and falsity, FDR gave people a firm vision of life and a future on which to stand.
FDR was elected to four terms. He was never defeated. He achieved the perpetual power that every ego-centered, power-seeking operative craves. But this was not his goal. His goal was to serve people. This was his purpose. In his First Inaugural Address, he said it like this:
“Plenty is at our doorstep, but…the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence…They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish…The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit…These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.”
Whenever a president fulfills the purpose of the office, you have an example of True Service. Where there is no vision, there can be no security, no matter how much power the visionless possess.