Maslow starts with basic physical needs such as air, water, food and shelter. Everybody has basic needs. These are the conditions we need to survive. Perhaps our first question is how does a community, or nation, meet those needs for its citizens. Does everybody have access to clean air? Obviously not. The debate on air quality tends to error on the dirty side, I like air a little cleaner. Then we might ask at what point does my neighbor’s need to save money by heating with wood supersede my need to go outside without getting asthma from his wood smoke. At what point can a factory dispel pollutants into the air before they interfere with the community’s need for air? Is it okay for one entity to decide a certain number of people will have emphysema and asthma?
We can look at the other physical needs the same as we do air. Some currently argue that people do not have a right of access to drinkable water. Others argue against shelter. How can a nation claim to have high standards for civil rights when it cannot meet the basic physical needs of its citizens?
Next up on Maslow’s hierarchy are the needs for safety. Maslow elaborates that this includes physical security, security of employment, of health, family, morality, resources and property. I assume there are some places that meet this need fairly well. My own immediate community is reasonably safe, but that safety disintegrates within a few miles of my home, where theft is fairly common. Even here, we have the hidden problem of domestic violence. I question the physical safety of a community that condones domestic violence, rape, and bullying.
Before one group can point fingers at another group, perhaps they should take a look at the level of safety in their own country. Violation of safety issues are a huge factor that often goes overlooked when talking about civil rights yet this is one area that breaks down quickly for minorities and women.
Currently, in the US we have a trend toward day-labor or temp help. Rather than hiring a body of employees, large companies may hire only the employees they need for the day or the week. They may hire the same people next week and next month but do not treat them as their employees. They do not provide security of employment. We are borderline on security of employment.
We need to look beyond our immediate borders and ask, “What is the social justice/civil rights standing of a nation with policies that endanger the lives, health and well being of those living in foreign countries.” One of the problems of colonialism is that the property, lives, health and social structure of indigenous peoples has been discounted. Of course our constant war places many people at risk when they just want to go about the business of living their lives. Expansion of industry into third world countries introduces workplace injuries into a community seeking an easier way of life. This is unacceptable when one reason corporations move out of a developed country is to escape the safety regulations imposed on industry by nations more sensitive to civil rights.
Within a few words I have been able to mention a wide range of basic rights that all people need in order to survive to rise above a subsistence level of existence. I didn’t begin to address those needs that must be met before people can begin to reach their potential as problem solvers in our community. I suspect that when a community commits to meeting the basic physical and safety needs of their population the whole community will begin to prosper.