I’ve been absent for a bit to do a little reassessing of life and goals. Recent political events have certainly been a cause for concern for some and outright fear for others. This anxiety has nothing to do with whining, crybabies, or being weak-willed and over-sensitive. From promises to roll back social progress by decades to flagrant hate crimes committed even by children, many people have a legitimate reason to worry about what the future holds.
Of course, you may ask yourself how this has anything to do with pop culture and geekdom. Wouldn’t most geeks be content to lose themselves in their fantasy worlds and hobbies? In fact, some gamers would prefer if real-life social issues never appeared in their favorite escapes.
I’m going to go all psycho-babble on you now, but I’ll try to keep it simple. It’s all about Needs, their priorities, and why it’s hard to bury one’s head in fantasy when there’s so much concern.
Notice I capitalized “Needs”? That’s because I’m emphasizing an important concept there. My idea is based off a theory called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a sort of “food pyramid” for the brain. It suggests a variety of different Needs we must fulfill, with the most important at the bottom and everything else building up from that. We can’t be satisfied (healthy) until we’ve made sure everything on the lower levels is secure; you don’t start building from the second floor until the foundation and first floor are done.
I’m not going to get too in-depth, but here’s a basic summary:
- Physiological: First, you need to worry about surviving. The basic animal needs, such as food, shelter, and health. Without that, nothing else matters.
- Safety: Following this, you need to make sure you’re safe. Not just physically but mentally, so there can’t be any threats around you, whether it be an actual physical danger or emotional abuse.
- Relationships: Once you’re surviving and safe, you need to work towards a social life. Even the reclusive, grumpy introverts need friends (and hopefully a partner).
- Esteem: All good physically, mentally, and socially? Time to work on that self-esteem. It doesn’t matter if it’s finding one’s self through spirituality or striving for fame and recognition among others… we all want to feel good about ourselves.
- Self-Actualization: Only after everything is done, do we find the Need to perfect ourselves. Maybe we push ourselves to the best athletically or work to learn as much as we can about the world. Whatever it means to “be all you can be,” this can’t be done until you’ve taken care of everything else.
Now, let’s apply that to us geeks and why it’s so hard just to ignore current events. Most people consider things like movies or gaming as luxuries. Using the list above, they’re mostly useful for fulfilling social needs; otherwise, they might help us discover self-esteem (Schindler’s List shows us the worst, and the best, of humanity) or even perfect ourselves (best Overwatch player, anyone?)… but they’re not as important as other Needs. That means that there’s higher priorities than the latest comic book or TV episode.
You see, we’re at a point where safety and basic needs are at risk, if not for ourselves then for our friends. There were a lot of hateful promises this campaign targeting Latinos, Muslims, gays, and women. These declarations brought the support of unabashed White supremacist groups that endorsed the President-elect.
Even if he was just pandering to the crowd, and has started to renege on his promises, the results are already being felt. Hate groups are declaring victory while people vandalize churches and even children are joining in. And these confirmed events are happening in some of the most diverse, inclusive, and progressive areas of the country! This is in addition to his appointment of political officials with a history of anti-LGBT legislation and racist remarks. You think most people feel safe right now?
As a geek and hobbyist, it’s hard to think about fun times when there’s so many more pressing matters around me. How can I preview movies when I’m busy worrying if someone is going to attack my gay neighbors? How can I spend hours playing games when my friend’s have just been verbally assaulted with racial slurs? I have Needs, and right now the most important ones are at risk… which means they’re more important than anything else.
I’m sure everyone will handle this differently. Some praise the changes to come, but I highly doubt they’re dealing with the same anxieties as many minority or disenfranchised groups. Others may find it best to bury themselves away from their worries and hope they can escape or that things will be better.
Me, though? Maslow got it right for me; it’s hard to focus on fantasies and luxuries when the reality is so close and presents such a danger to everything truly important. Hopefully, something will assuage my fears and those around me. We must fulfill all needs to be at our best. Until that time, pardon me if I don’t join in the distractions and hobbies we all love quite as much.
I have higher priorities at the moment, as I’d hope most would.