Sunday, November 30, 2008


My guru whilst growing up in my work life was one Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970). Maslow was an American psychologist (Brooklyn born of Russian/Jewish parents) long considered the father of humanistic psychology and most noted for his "hierarchy of human needs". I have utilized Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in all my Human Resource deliberations over the last thirty plus years and find them to be as relevant today as they were when he conceived them in the year of my birth, 1943.

Just about in the middle of Maslow’s Five Step Hierarchy Pyramid is “Belonging”, above the basic psychological needs of food, shelter, health and safety but below “Esteem” and the ultimate value of “Self Actualization”.

We know that belonging is a basic fundamental need and probably the reason why we gravitate towards and ultimately join those kindred spirits who share our values and beliefs. For most of us, it is this association that ultimately helps drives our personal growth.

The bottom line is that all Humans need to feel, “a sense of belonging and acceptance.” Aside from the basic concept of safety in numbers, a sense of community evolves where the urge to share your accomplishments and grow your group becomes pervasive. The absence of sharing and belonging can prompt the misfits of our world to resort to violence in order to express their philosophy or to just express their ultimate frustration (a laTimothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski).

While this post is not an ethnographic study it is intended to validate Maslow and my assertion that we all want to be part of something that tells the world (well, at least our immediate community) who we are and even what we stand for (good or bad). I could surmise that the ultimate association for many of us would be that we are Americans standing up for Freedom and Justice, etc. (i.e. Proud to Be an American). That sentiment is obviously not shared by many in the world, witness the recent savage terrorist acts targeted against Americans and many others in Mumbai, India. But, that’s another story.

Most of us primarily operate at a much lower level and that is all predicated on our individual social, political and economic standing in our respective communities. In Texas where cheerleading appears to have ascended to iconic social status, we are not surprised to see signs in front yards all over the state identifying Lori or John as cheerleaders for the XYZ High School. Maslow would have understood the significance of the decals on rear car windows or bumper stickers that proudly declare affiliations for named daughters and sons who are members of the football, lacrosse, baseball, basketball, hockey and, yes, cheerleading teams for whatever school.

Indeed, decals and bumper stickers have evolved into a great vehicle for those of us so inclined to raise our heads above campus culture and use them to. “…identify the artifacts, values, and assumptions that comprise an organization’s culture” (Kuh and Whitt- 1988). Others have noted that bumper stickers and decals can even be viewed and interpreted as “cultural artifacts” that can provide valuable data when attempting to understand individual cultures.

OK, let’s roll with that premise. We can have a field day with our American culture. No doubt that bumper sticker and decals have evolved from the campus into the preferred way to express opinions and reinforce affiliations and hobbies by many who interpret this act as a “constitutional right.” Of course, that doesn’t protect the inflammatory, obscene (yes, S__T HAPPENS is one of those) and other false, misleading, bigoted and patently offensive signs that appear to adorn many automobiles these days. Of course, most have nothing to do with the owner’s “right of free speech” though I personally appreciate them for the display as I can eliminate these folks from any future positive social interaction.

The new car decal culture appears to operate in the stratosphere though they also have their degenerates (more later). We can’t help but notice all the Aggie or Baylor Moms in the world and proud alumni from a myriad of schools declaring their pedigree. In the Lone Star State we are blessed with an abundance of Texas Ex’s… They are all one again with their Austin roots and, yes, the eyes of Texas are upon you. Given my father’s vigilant tutelage The Eyes of Texas and Brunonia, Brunonia were the two first secular songs I ever learned as I was identifying a potential alma mater even at an early age.

Many choose to declare their faith and especially their specific church affiliations with car decals or evangelical bumper stickers enthusiastically inviting one and all to join them at the ABC Church. Some are OK though for me religion is an extraordinarily private expression of faith. Recent bumper stickers and decals that insinuate or even proclaim that the End Is Near of if you don’t cop to Christianity you will forever roast in Hell are patently absurd… My God is compassionate and understanding…

My former choir masters at St Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas and St. Dunstan’s in Providence, Rhode Island (Mr. O’Connor and Mr. T. James Hallan) would have appreciated the most recent rear windshield decal I spied on Preston Road the other day declaring allegiance and participation with a local school’s choir and glee club (I say, Well done!).

My Friends and family will not be surprised though others probably disappointed that my favorite decal/bumper sticker does not involve a body part or function, is fairly clean and mostly accepted – especially in the Scottish Disapora, “If it’s nae Scottish, it’s crap”. Of course, it is true, it does get the point across and I have heard it in all the cities and far corners of the United States, Canada and Scotland.

That leaves us with those that have apparently failed in all their endeavors to associate/identify with anything worthwhile and can only (we assume proudly) display their car’s name and/or a young boy peeing on an opposing brand (Ford v. Chevy and vice-versa)? Yikes, what an example for young folks!

I was reminded the other day of an ingenious bumper sticker that invoked other drivers to, “Stop texting/calling and drive” though the offending drivers probably wouldn’t/couldn’t look up long enough to spy the other car, though they might have a unplanned meeting with that opposing bumper.

Don’t think that either of the latter two will get to Maslow’s self actualization level…


Ned Buxton

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