Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fear v. Belonging

Sunday morning as I watched one of the news shows, I heard an interesting discussion about the phenomenon of nationalism, not just in our country, but world-wide.  It seems that the rise in nationalism is occurring in Japan, China, France, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Great Britain and Turkey, and other countries as well.  In fact, with the heightened sense of hysteria we witness, some countries’ nationalism seems to border on jingoism.

It made me think that the current immigration dilemma facing us is tied to our own reemergence of nationalism and my speculation about what is motivating the two opposing sides. I am not going to take a position about what is the right or wrong course of action but instead I find it interesting to consider what may be influencing both sides to behave the way they are.

 I recently assisted a student with research on Abraham Maslow so his hierarchy of human needs and motivation came to mind.  According to Maslow, after we satisfy our basic physiological survival needs of food, water and warmth, our second and third strongest drives are for Safety—personal, financial, health and security—and Belonging—acceptance, relationships and friends.  At the risk of oversimplifying the current situation, these two instinctive and primal forces seem to be present but are not aligned; rather they are in opposition to each other.  What happens then? Is this the proverbial irresistible force meeting the immovable object?  Maslow doesn’t offer a solution.  It’s uncomplicated to appreciate that that which is desired to be preserved will resist a loss and equally comprehendible that that which is to be attained will strive until achieved.  The common denominator for me is fear; fear of what I may lose and fear of what I may never have.

Later that morning, the pastor made a comment during his sermon that we should, “Stop assigning blame and instead be about the business of repair.  I’m not gonna wait for another program.”  This remark resonated with me.  In a world culture where the quick, cheap and easy is desired, the reality is that none of these fixes apply to the conditions confronting us.  There are political, legal and moral/humanitarian implications and decisions to be made.  Unfortunately our polarized state of affairs seems to be preventing clearer minds from forming a thoughtful consideration of options, followed by the marshalling of constructive efforts.  Is fear contributing to our myopic tolerance and understanding of each other’s motivations?    

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