“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” –T.S. Eliot
The New York Post recently featured the most charming photo of a cute little redheaded girl holding a baby goat and smiling at the camera so sweetly.
Her name is Clara Kraebber, 20, and she’s been arrested for participating in a vandalism spree that caused about $100,000 worth of damage. She faces a possible sentence of four years in prison for first-degree riot.
“Every city, every town, burn the precinct to the ground!” they reportedly chanted as they broke windows all along Lafayette St.
Ms Kraebber it turns out, is the daughter of a child psychiatrist father who teaches at Columbia University, and an architect mother. The family lives in a $1.8 million apartment and own a house in Connecticut with four fireplaces built in 1730.
If you’re struggling financially, I imagine this would make you furious. If you’re doing pretty well, you might be worried about your own children getting involved with that kind of stuff.
You might admire her commitment but deplore her methods.
You might feel a mixture of disgust and contempt seasoned with a dash of unholy glee at the thought of what she may experience in prison.
But whatever you feel, you’re probably asking yourself, “For God’s sake why?”
As in why are the children of affluence and privilege out on the streets of our major cities reveling in destruction?
And make no mistake, these are not the poor and dispossessed. A typical Antifa/BLM rioter is a white school teacher. There might be a sprinkling of poor minority youth among them, but they seem to be opportunists using the riots as a chance to grab some free stuff.
And, they’re not stealing food; they’re stealing luxury goods.
What the heck is going on?
I’d like to draw your attention to something a psychologist named Abraham Maslow (1908–1970) thought up, the Hierarchy of Needs theory or “Maslow’s pyramid.”
I understand it has problems as a formal theory, but at base it’s so simple and obvious you’ve got to wonder why it took so long for anyone to think of it.
Human needs are prioritized in order of importance. At the base of the pyramid are immediate survival needs: air, food, water, shelter. As these are satisfied more needs arise from the need for long-term survival: safety, family, belonging to a community. Above this, the need for self-esteem, satisfaction arising from meaningful work, etc.
And once all these are fulfilled, the need for what Maslow called “self-actualization” arises, the need to fulfill one’s human potential.
Maslow saw this as the key to developing psychologically healthy individuals. But I suspect he may have missed something. The possibility of it all going wrong at this point.
When people’s basic needs are satisfied maybe they’ll want to cultivate their intellect and any latent talents they have. And then again maybe they’ll just want to feel important.
And they can’t seem to find that satisfaction in mundane and boring ways such as say tutoring children with learning disabilities, it has to be of dramatic world-shaking importance.
Paradoxically, finding ways of satisfying the need of affluent and educated youth for meaningful action could be the most important problem our society faces.