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Feedback on 'Democratic Humanism (1) - What Are Genuine Human Needs?'
Roger Sims (April 1999)
You have raised a number of issues. Many more than I am able to comment [on] here. But here is a comment or two about education than occurred to me: A child learns more in the first two years of life than in the rest of it! If going to "school" was the only way to learn, how did anyone learn before there were schools? Does the term self taught come to mind?
Better be careful with your plan for Democratic Humanism, Michael. In 1968 a teenager turned up at the Easter convention. He was the secretary of the Melbourne Grammar Science Fiction Society. He was articulate and intense, but never bothered much about fandom thereafter, except to write some so-so reviews for SF Commentary during 1970 and 1971. In 1971 he told me that [he] had worked out a grand plan for the total improvement of human life. When he described it to me, I smiled politely and hoped to ghod that he would forget his plan as soon as possible. Thirty years later, the same young man, then known as David Penman, turned up all around the suburbs of the nation as Jim Penman, bearded proprietor of Jim's Mowing (now rapidly becoming Jim's Everything Else). In an interview with Terry Lane a few years ago, he confessed that the real reason he liked being rich is that it enabled him to publish books about his grand plan for the total improvement of human life. It's exactly the same plan that he had invented before he turned twenty and confided to me in 1971.
So be careful, Michael, be very careful, or you might yet turn into the proprietor of a vast nationwide gardening enterprise.
I reply (June 1999):
I'm not planning to "become the proprietor of a vast nationwide gardening enterprise." I'm hoping I can devise a skeleton for Democratic Humanism without having to buy a lawn mower. ;-)
The hierachy of human needs is also taught at the Lifeline telephone counsellors' course - or was, at mine, a few years ago when I went through it. In fact it sounds as if it came straight from Maslow, although I don't think he was credited at the time.
I am truly becoming tired of people blaming economic rationalism for societal problems. Economic rationalism is a response; it is an attempt to deal with massive changes wrought by technological change and how high speed communication has rendered political boundaries obsolete for economic policy. Economic rationalism may not be THE answer but at least it is an attempt to come up with AN answer. Better that than to retreat to a world of the past which doesn't exist anymore and never will again.
* * * * *
Ryct Us-: Economics was one of the two degrees I did at University; it is also still something I dabble in out of interest.
Re DEMOCRATIC HUMANISM: Yes, yes, yes. I look forward to whatever continuation you come up with. Something you don't mention, and might give some thought to, is sustainability. Setting up an ideal society is not going to be very useful if it collapses within a generation because it is geared to non-sustainable resources, etc.
Your essay on Democratic Humanism brought to mind its evolution. First we had tribalism, then patriarchy (via matriarchy, if Robert Graves is to be believed - see The White Goddess), oligarchy, elite democracy, empire, theocracy, feudalism, mercantilism, relatively true democracy which - as Harry Harrison says at the end of Chapter 14 of Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers - is 'maintenance of the class system and the continuance of special privileges for the few', capitalism , socialism, managerialism, humanism, democratic socialism and, now, democratic humanism. There's lots of overlap. Some of these systems have thrived simultaneously on various parts of the globe for millenia. The more I live, the stronger my feeling that there is nothing new in the way of systems of government and belief.
I like your five levels of Genuine Human Needs to be addressed by Democratic Humanism:
Fertile ground for future essays, indeed!
I reply (June 1999):
"Your essay on Democratic Humanism brought to mind its evolution.
First we had tribalism, then patriarchy (via matriarchy, if Robert Graves
is to be believed...), oligarchy, elite democracy, empire, theocracy,
feudalism, mercantilism, relatively true democracy with...`maintenance
of the class system and the continuance of special privileges for the
few', capitalism, socialism, managerialism, humanism, democratic socialism
and, now, democratic humanism. There's lots of overlap."
Very interesting stuff! I'm tempted to try and put them into some sort of timeline, or to explore the relationships and points of divergence between them. It is becoming very clear to me that I am going to have to explore political ideas in much greater depth if I am going to distil something new. (It'll be, I suspect, a Frankenstein's Monster - bits of old political philosophies twisted at strange angles and painted new colours. The materials will be old - but the structure will be something new.)
There will also be the fractioning off of the ideal system for a "Perfect World" - from a diluted form which can work (with some degree of success) in the world as it actually is.
I am glad that your essay on Democratic Humanism (Level 3) suggests 'counselling' for the economically disadvantaged, and not 'solutions'. Many times in the past the 'solutions' used have been those applicable because such people are seen as being mentally deranged. Being incarcerated in prisons and mental asylums, chemical and electrical treatments etc.
Having been raised on a diet of Maslow's hierarchy at Teacher's College, I discovered very early in my teaching career that, even if you have covered all of the basic physiological needs, students invent new ones - the need to be a smart arse, the need to hit other students on the arm or the need to intimidate the teacher. While Maslow would put those down at level four or five, just look at those kids who will subject themselves to intense physical discomfort just to improve their status or to achieve their full potential as certifiable pains in the arse. Mind you, when faced by a Friday afternoon class whose only interests are in satifying their physiological needs for alcohol, nicotine and quick meaningless sex, who's to say that Maslow might not have had a point.
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Last Updated: 11 February 2003