The Paradox of Need

Needs are absolute requirements for survival, thus they should be the highest priority. But often, they are considered an inconvenience. Instead of addressing our needs head on, we sometimes neglect them until we have no other choice. This might be driven by ego, delusion, laziness, or even trying too hard to fulfill the latest notion of what a worthwhile and validated life looks like.

By playing this game we are wagering survival for an uncertain reward.

We celebrate this recklessness. We praise the athlete who dedicates himself to his sport, and barely passes academic requirements, which are key to escaping poverty. We emulate the entrepreneur who literally bets his home and personal credit when his business is on the line. We admire the scientist, so engrossed in the world of theory, that he neglects to eat or sleep. His physical body dwindles while he obsesses about the physics of imaginary bodies.

You may ask, “What’s the harm in individuals ‘sacrificing’ their personal needs for the greater good or long term accomplishment?”

Often it doesn’t work out. Survivorship bias skews our perception of the consequences. But if this were the only problem, it would be regrettable but understandable, and addressable on a person by person basis.

But the paradox of need expresses itself in another way. We have discussed how individuals can wager their personal welfare for bigger goals. But too often those making the wagers are not those whose well-being is really at stake.

In any society I can imagine, some people have more influence and authority than others. They determine our collective goals. They set the program.

What happens when their ego causes them to pursue a deluded fantasy? The people on the opposite end of the social pyramid suffer.

Collectively, we have abundant resources. We can afford to pursue risky and imaginative endeavors, and still ensure our needs are met.

What we can’t afford is to allow flawed ideology to destroy the fabric of society, and thereby instigate violence and conflict.

Resiliency is not rewarded well by the current capitalist regime. It is always the newest, best, latest and greatest that gets all the attention.

But what happens when that’s not what we need? What happens when the work we need to do for survival is obfuscated by complex supply chains, complicated trade deals, and perpetual property rights? It threatens our sovereignty. It hurts our self-sufficiency. It destroys our freedom.

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