COVID-19, Racism, Hunger? Social Issues Through Maslow’s Lens

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As someone who aims to someday dedicate his life towards a social cause, without yet knowing what that cause will be and when that time might come, I continue to look at the social issues around me and wonder what moves me the most and if one problem can be attributed to be at the root of all others, if there is even such a thing. And as the world battled between the mayhem created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rousing anger in the global community fueled by the death of George Floyd, as yet another reminder of the racial discrimination that plagues our society, it felt to me that there is no way of calling one issue or problem greater than the other and it all boils down to each individual’s perspective.

I wondered however, how many such deaths occur in the “third world nations” (as much as I hate that term, as if describing aliens, and interestingly the origin of the term from the non-aligned nations during the Cold War had little to do with the “poor country” notion that it now represents) just about everyday at the hands of police brutality towards the economically weaker strata, or the lower caste or members of other parts of society whose lives seem to hold less value than others. Why then, is there no such revolution seen everyday, in just about every part of the world, to demand true equality and remind the world that each life matters equally? The answer I felt quite simply lies in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Physiological Needs – You need food, water, and air to survive.

In countries where a huge portion of population spends most of their time thinking about how they’ll earn their next meal, and where the “poverty line” is set at a little over a dollar a day, and still close to a 100 million people end up below it, it is quite clear where the priorities lie. The physiological needs of food, water, shelter and so on remain unfulfilled for an appallingly huge portion of the world.

Safety & Security Needs – Money, Health and Crime

For those that don’t have to worry about this, then comes the need for safety and security. And unfortunately again, rates of crime in most parts of the world are so high, that calling any place safe, isn’t quite safe anymore. And so there is that other huge chunk of population that struggles with ensuring their safety, and also their security whether it is financial, or health, and so the millions trying to stay at home and keep safe from the pandemic also fall under this category.

Social Needs – Love, Belonging and Freedom…

Once we go beyond this, just as the pyramid of Maslow’s Hierarchy, we’re now getting into the minority of the world’s population, that is beyond these needs and can focus on the 3rd layer i.e. the need for love and belonging. Now this brings us to a couple of different very topical issues that concern people today – fight against discrimination and the focus on mental health. If you’re lucky enough to have met your physiological and safety needs, you crave for the social needs, and this is where you need love and acceptance to stay emotionally and mentally strong and sane, while you also need a sense of affiliation to a community or religious group or whatever it may be that you choose. And so a lot of the focus on mental health, resilience on one end and discrimination, diversity and equality on the other seems to be most talked about in a certain strata of the society that doesn’t need to worry about the first 2 bits. While this does not take anything away from the seriousness of these issues, it does tell me that you’re partly lucky if you got to the stage where these are the primary issues that concern you.

Esteem and Self-Actualization – I’ll reserve for another time…

Beyond this, I probably won’t spend too much time discussing, because if you’re beyond the first three, you’re probably in quite a good place, and are striving to be a better version of a already pretty darn lucky self (and that luck could absolutely be a combination of chance and your own hard work).

Conclusion?

And what did I learn from this pretty long rant? That in my mind there is probably a starting point if we are to change the world, and it probably starts at ensuring that each person in the world is well fed and has access to the bare essentials of life. And by this I in no way imply that all the other issues are irrelevant (in fact I do deeply care about them, as you’ll find here), but if some day I do fulfill my dream of starting work towards a social cause, I think I know where my priorities will lie.

How to write your first poem?

Let me give you a beginner’s lesson,
on writing your very first poem.
While it may seem like a daunting task,
there must be some simple way to start, you may ask.

And so I’ll tell you the secret to do it in a way that’s quite easy,
without letting it sound too childish or sleazy.
Let us begin first with picking a topic of your choice,
don’t stress too hard, just listen to your inner voice.

Then start putting all your thoughts down on a paper,
don’t worry if it doesn’t feel Shakespearean or the substance starts to taper.
There are poems that rhyme, and others that don’t,
so try to rhyme it simply like mine, or forget about it, if you won’t.

Big words, small words, no matter what you use,
stay true to the theme that you decided to choose.
And take your reader through a bit of a journey that they will remember,
whether it is a joyful ride or a lyrical expression of feelings more somber.

Then read it again and refine it until you see those words flow,
as if each of them were strokes on the broader painting you’re trying to show.
You may be a natural or the effort may suck your mind dry,
but you’ll never find out unless you at least give it a try!

P.S. For a more formal guide on writing poetry, there are many tutorials / articles out there and you should surely go through these before you take your first step at being the Shakespeare or Wordsworth of your generation and find yourself on this list!

Embracing Diversity: What defines us surely can’t divide us?

The unfortunate incidents of May 25, 2020 brought to the fore an age-old fundamental challenge that discrimination of any kind poses to humanity. The trouble is, that when all is said and done, George Floyd may go down as another name that sparked a wave of movements that promised to change the world for the better, but faded away into oblivion with the passage of time. The world has seen its fair share of individual revolutionaries and mass movements, each fighting for a different cause, but none that can claim to have uprooted completely the evil that they fought against.

The problem is that we continue to fight the symptoms but it is practically impossible to cure the disease by attacking the symptoms. What defines us and makes us unique is the very thing that divides us. Imagine a world with no color, caste, creed, religion, countries or any form of individuality has been eliminated, much like Ayn Rand’s Anthem – is a world like that desirable? Surely you couldn’t discriminate against another that is almost identical to yourself in all aspects, but is there then a point to existence without identity and individuality? Isn’t it the diversity of mankind that defines us? Don’t we all take pride in who we are – as unique individuals that then share certain common characteristics and take pride in identifying with that community. In fact, doesn’t each characteristic owe its uniqueness to the existence of the opposite other? Isn’t white unique only because of the existence of black, don’t we aspire to be rich because poverty exists?

Where then did the notion of “superiority” sneak into the beautiful co-existence of all these differences and characteristics that define us and make us unique? A part of my favorite quote from Kahlil Gibran says “I despised my soul when she despised the ugliness of a face, and knew not that it was one of her own masks.” Isn’t that true today more than ever?

But is this disease of discrimination curable today or have we come to the point of no return? The answer to that I do not know. What I do think is required is to tackle this at the root – for each of us to raise our children in a way that they learn to embrace one another for who they are and learn to value and respect the differences, as our differences are what define us and make us who we are. Education is not and should not be about being the smartest person you can be, but the nicest human being you can be. And like all big revolutions, the change begins with each one of us. What movements like BlackLivesMatter will do is just amplify and raise this awareness more rapidly, and hopefully one of these days, it will spread wide and deep enough to bring a lasting, permanent change.

7 Parenting Lessons from the Pandemic

Over the past 6 months or so, while most people have had to deal with a tremendous amount of personal and professional stress in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents of infants, toddlers and school-going kids alike have probably had the worst of it.

However, as a father of an 18-month old son, I think I couldn’t have asked for anything more than the unique opportunity this has turned out to be purely from a fatherhood perspective. For all those struggling with balancing their professional duties along with being a good parent / partner, I’ve summarized a positive take on all the things that are the constant struggle and challenges.

  1. Dump the pursuit of perfection – The simple fact that you are juggling between multiple responsibilities, only two of which are being a parent and a working professional (in addition to being a partner, doing household chores, self-care, etc.), means that you will not always be perfect at all things. It is not only OK but imperative to be a jack of all trades and not really a master of any, because that luxury isn’t afforded to most people at such times.
  2. Manage & Own your Schedule – While it’s hard to be too prescriptive on your daily schedule, spend 10 mins in the morning to broadly allocate time to the various tasks that lay ahead – including your work, time for kids, chores at home, time for yourself (me-time is still important), and any other things of importance to you. Most importantly – STICK TO IT.
  3. Quality over Quantity – The one thing I can vouch for is that quality time spent with your kids is probably more important than the quantity – both for you and your little one. While I miss all the time with my son all week, I also don’t ever have the energy to handle him alone all Sunday even if I wanted to. Find a few things you make your own – bedtime stories or routine, enjoying the meals together, homework (if your kids are old enough), screen time (my knowledge of rhymes today is incredible), or whatever suits you!
  4. Don’t judge yourself – None of us have been used to “working from home” and handling kids at the same time for such an extended period of time. So making mistakes is natural – and you will have the occasional parenting “mistake” or “oversight” – letting them watch too much TV, not checking in on that homework assignment, forgot to remind that Zoom class, let them have too much chocolate / ice cream, left an infant unattended to check on the smell of burning food, left the soiled diaper on for too long. But it is OK. Don’t be harsh on yourself and start doubting your parenting abilities.
  5. Sharing is Caring – And this is all the more true when it comes to child rearing. We often are brought up to believe that moms have more of a duty towards their kids when it comes to their daily routines, but that should never be the case. You’re both in this together – so find a balance and agree on sharing the responsibilities of your child(ren) as that will not just lighten the stress from each of your minds but will also bring you closer together as a couple.
  6. Your Way is the Right Way – The age of internet and social media often leads to information overload. And as parents, we’re constantly striving to be the best versions of ourselves, and come across advice (wanted and unwanted) from a whole host of sources – parents, immediate and extended family, other parents, books, journals, parenting articles, endless youtube videos on the endless Do’s and Dont’s of being a good parent. While it is good to be informed, as long as you keep the emotional and physical well-being of your child the top priority, trust me that your parenting style is the best parenting style for your kid.
  7. You are your kids’ BEST MOM / DAD – Call it a blessing or a curse, we don’t choose our parents. So unless you’re doing something awfully wrong, chances are your kid will love you and think of you as the BEST parent in the world. More than anything, they love the fact that you’re able to spend more time than ever with them, and so while it lasts, enjoy this special time and don’t sweat the small things!

How do I write my first post?

Well, I just created this blog and kept wondering what my first post should be and the Blogging University advises me to just get going without being too self-critical and do a “crappy first draft” if it may end up being that.

I should probably start with the motivation behind this blog and there probably isn’t one big “Why”, but a combination of many “Why Nots”. So, basically I thought Why Not…

  1. start a new hobby – With the painfully long amount of time the current pandemic stricken world has allowed all of us to spend with our own selves, why not use this time to start a new hobby?
  2. rekindle the love for writing – Throughout my childhood growing up, as well as as a college kid about 10 yrs ago, I dabbled my hand at writing blog posts which sit in a blog that shall not be named and I’ve always been convinced I’ll one day write a book and sell enough copies (read millions) to retire on the money, so while that sounds like a distant dream, why not start small?
  3. build a memoir for myself – And when I am telling the world my journey after I am a successful writer (see #2), surely a blog will help me write a memoir and serve as inputs into the greatest autobiography of all time, so why not make a start towards that now?
  4. find out if people really care? – Haven’t we all had a feeling that the world is missing out on all these incredibly profound thoughts we have, these incredibly funny jokes we make that make our loved ones laugh, these amazing life hacks we just figured? And so why not put it all out there and see if there is an audience?
  5. make a little side income? – This isn’t surely the least of all but it makes sound less greedy if I optically place it last, but after spending my free time reading a ton of articles on how to make money online or on how to retire at 40, why not explore if uncle Google can actually help you take a penny from the billions it makes via ads?

And so, as I start this new blogging journey, we’ll see how long this lasts and I am going to use this short 5 point list as a checklist for what I set to achieve and where I ended up.