Maslow's Pyramid of Priorities & Art
Updated: Nov 4
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a widely recognized psychological framework that categorizes human needs into a hierarchical pyramid, and was theorised in 1943.
At its base are physiological needs, followed by safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization at the top. In 1969, Maslow revised this model by adding a new pinnacle: self-transcendence.
Art belongs to the very top echelons of the pyramid. And erudite classical art belongs to the very, very top.
This framework provides a fascinating lens through which to examine how the pursuit of artistic inspiration and the creation of high-quality art are influenced by the fulfillment of these needs. In particular, the connection between recent time's turmoil and the public's insensitivity to high-quality art is a compelling one, as it raises questions about how the absence of a safe environment can diminish one's ability to appreciate and engage with art.
The current age is marked by an alarming decline in our ability to focus, a trend exacerbated by the ubiquitous presence of social media and the growing culture of fear. Social media platforms constantly inundate us with a barrage of mostly irrelevant information, from endless scrolling to attention-grabbing notifications, fragmenting our concentration. Just open TikTok and you'll know what I mean. Simultaneously, a pervasive climate of fear, driven by sensationalized news and global uncertainties, keeps our minds perpetually distracted. Read any top-selling newspaper or open most clickbaits online. This dual assault on our attention span hampers deep thinking, and meaningful human connection. Research carried out by various world-class museums and institutes, including the Louvre and the Getty, has concluded this: while 10 years ago we may have spent an entire 30 seconds looking at a painting, now it's down to about four. That's 7.5 times less!
The West is also facing another challenge: IQ rates are dropping precipitously. This is not an opinion - this is a fact! The Flynn effect has faltered at the turn of the century in so called 'developed countries' and we are now getting dumber by the year. Certain studies even claim that we might have lost about 14 points of IQ. For that, read the paper by Michael A. Woodley of Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, Jan te Nijenhuis of the University of Amsterdam and Raegan Murphy of the University College Cork. We have lost our intelligence and we're too stupid to figure out why!
2023 is representative of an age of confusion and increasing polarisation. I also believe that the poisoned fruits of Postmodernism haven't helped, with a rising propensity for toxic individualism. No wonder that civilization's greatest achievements cannot be popular. Just check who are the influencers nowadays: most of them do not even have studies in their fields of 'expertise'. Open most TikTok videos that go viral: millions of people would rather press 'Like' on someone peeling a banana than on an academically relevant topic. The banality of crass videos get the most views - which is indicative of a society that rewards cultureless activities. This is reflected in the arts: the world's most popular current musicians don't know music, the most commercially successful painters tend to do very basic and unsophisticated paintings. Knowledge, technique, expertise have been thrown away. Instead, we follow the 'flavour of the month'. We chose to retreat to a childish worldview, where sensation is more rewarded than content. All the adults left the room.
Economic insecurity, political instability, lack of community - all these things can profoundly impact mental health and its greatest fruit: artistic inspiration and appreciation. When individuals are preoccupied with basic safety concerns, their ability to channel creativity and engage in artistic endeavors becomes hindered. An artist struggling to make ends meet may find it challenging to allocate time and mental energy to their craft when survival needs take precedence. Likewise, individuals living in sick, alienating environments may be too consumed by their concerns to appreciate or engage with art fully.
Economic inequality is shocking beyond belief: the richest 1 percent grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth since the pandemic. A billionaire gained roughly $1.7 million for every $1 of new global wealth earned by a person in the bottom 90 percent. Billionaire fortunes have increased by $2.7 billion a day. These are official reports. More info here.
I know what you might be thinking: some groundbreaking artists emerged from periods of political and social turmoil, as their art became a medium for expressing the turbulence of their times. However, this doesn't negate the fact that the vast majority of artists living in precarious conditions may find themselves unable to take artistic risks, experiment, or delve deep into their creative processes. Moreover, stress affects the audience's sensitivity to high-quality art. Individuals may have diminished emotional bandwidth and cognitive resources to engage with complexity. Survival instincts often take precedence over aesthetic appreciation. In such circumstances, the public's ability for intellectual stimulation is curtailed.
I hope that the tectonic shift that I've noticed in the public - especially since the Covid epidemic - is temporary. Civilizations are built upon the contributions, interactions, and collective efforts of individuals. When citizens are isolated, disengaged, or apathetic about their role in society, the civilization suffers as a whole. Art is communication. When individuals become atomised and self-centered, it erodes dialogue. The contemporary art scene became an uncivilised jumble of screaming monologues which often verge on the abusive...
Not even the world's greatest masterpieces have the power to prevent the combined superpowers of apathy and ignorance.
PS- My favourite living intellectual, Professor Sam Vaknin, has quoted my recent interview for Dr. Alireza Bornamanesh. Sam Vaknin has an IQ of 190... (there's maybe 7 people worldwide with such sharp intelligence). He's arguably the father of most of the terminology used nowadays for narcissist personality disorder. He is a controversial intellectual, as he doesn't mince words. I rank him alongside Dostoievski, Socrates, da Vinci etc. Click on the link to watch the reel. https://www.instagram.com/p/CzBFWp8MELl/
Or for the full interview: Unveiling the Mystical Bond: Art, Psychoanalysis, and Shamanism