Sunday Morning ~ Feeding Ourselves
Pa thindi nkhwali, mkango uli pomwepo. ~ The partridge is in the tall grass, and so is the lion.
~ Chewa proverb
August 30, 2020
Basic human needs: 1. Food, water, warmth, rest. 2. Safety and security. 3. Relationships, sense of belonging. 4. Self esteem. 5. Self actualization. Maslow maintained that each level must be attained before the next can be accomplished. We cannot care about anything else if we are starving; food and water are imperative. Once nourished, warm and rested, then our basic need is to feel safe. Teaching this in Malawi required me to delve to a deeper understanding in order to explain how to apply it to caring for people. Having to articulate something you’ve incorporated for years without thinking, gives a new perspective. Doing this for people for whom English was not their first language and whose needs were much more basic than my own, highlighted the hierarchy even more. Self actualization is reserved for few.
When we were heading to Africa for Peace Corps in 1979 many people worried about our safety. (2. Safety and security.) It was when Idi Amin was in the news a lot, a ruthless dictator in Uganda, one country on continent comprising fifty-four. My response was, if you only knew the United States by what you hear on the news, would you ever come here? Ever feel safe? That usually ended the conversation. At the time, Central Park in New York was equal to the front lines of war. The news made it sound like very few came out of there alive. Bussing in Boston (where I lived) was creating tension and violence, to put it mildly. Yet, people in New York and Boston worried about us going to Malawi. Interesting. They somehow felt safe enough in those cities to worry about us.
Attending college in Boston I was well aware of dangers in certain neighborhoods. I took a self defense course because, you know, I was a woman and therefore fair prey. I didn’t walk around alone at night and avoided certain places altogether. But I don’t remember constantly fearing for my safety, I just adapted my behavior. Our system accommodated my adaptation. I was able to finish my education without feeling threatened. I could apply for jobs which would enable me to feed and clothe myself (1. Food, water, warmth, and rest). But remove that systemic safety net and then what? There is no safety and security, and if that need is not met, we can’t move up.
More and more I feel we are dangerously approaching a culture of constant fear for our safety. When a guy from my hometown I barely know, writes threatening comments on Facebook in response to a comment saying police who shoot an unarmed person in the back seven times should be held accountable, well, we are in deep trouble my friends. The good scenario is they are exposing themselves and when we do restore some sanity in our society we can address their threats. The other scenario? Too scary.
There are more of us, and though it may be unrealistic optimism on my part, I believe we will get through this dark time. First, we need to feed ourselves, even if that means risking the lion to hunt the partridge.
Love to all,