'Needs' versus 'Wants'
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27-08-2011, 01:22 AM
 
'Needs' versus 'Wants'
I assume everyone is familiar with the old debate about our ‘needs’ versus our ‘wants’.

It is important to differentiate our needs from our wants. I define ‘Needs’ as those requirements commonly identified with survival of the individual as a healthy (both physically and mentally) self-aware biological entity living in a society of his own species.

I define ‘Wants’ as those requirements that are not essential for survival—they are mere luxuries that can enhance one’s zest for life, the flavor of one’s existence, but there would be no serious negative consequence to life and health if they were denied.

Of course, I realize that I just opened a can of worms. You pick a hundred human beings and you get a hundred different answers as to where to draw the line between needs and wants . It is impossible to come up with a sharply drawn boundary. It is also unnecessary (I remember reading about a mother who used a drug-store precision scale to divide a chocolate bar exactly equally for her two children). There are a number of things on which everyone can readily agree. We can say that food is a need and a diamond necklace is a want.

In a functioning society based on organized production, we have no difficulty describing food, housing, clothing, medical help, education, transportation and communication as needs. Luxury yachts, ten rooms per person mansions, gold serving dishes, half-million-dollar cars, etc would be described by most people as mere wants.

So, if we start out at the extremes and proceed systematically towards the middle, somewhere in a zone of not-being-quite-sure-any-more, we can draw our line arbitrarily.

We don’t have to quibble. As far as I am concerned, we can draw the line anywhere in that zone. We would have made enormous progress.

If I try to make a list of my own basic needs, I come up with the following:

Personal needs: Food, Clothes, Home, Energy, Medical help, Meaningful work, Exercise, Sleep, Rest, Privacy, Play, Beauty, Nature, Animals. Social needs: Mate, Family, Friends, Community, Transportation, Communication, Education, Entertainment, Justice, Interdependence. I am sure I missed a few but I believe that all my really essential needs are there.

If I had a life that satisfied all these needs in balance and harmony, I know I would be a contented person. And it is very important to differentiate between ‘contended’ and ‘happy’.

We often feel happy when we are excited, thrilled, having a ‘high’ of some form. This feeling ‘high’ can be stimulated by artificial means (like drugs, alcohol, sky-diving, etc.) that are not real needs.

And the consumerist capitalistic system cashes in on this artificial addiction to ‘excitement’ and ‘thrills’. Not only cashes in, but actively promoting it via TV and other media ads.

I think it is important to satisfy our needs in a good balance. Most people have a lot of some and almost nothing of others.

Many have almost no meaningful work, even though they spend most of their time at a place where they are supposed to have lots. They have practically no time for exercise, play, beauty.

Many also don’t have any really close friends; no community to speak of, hardly any time for education and entertainment. This isn’t the life most people would choose.

Our lives are shaped more by convention, social pressure, inertia and accidents than by intelligent planning.

In this sense, we are truly 'created' in god's image. Undecided
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27-08-2011, 07:43 AM
RE: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'
I've been discussing the wants issue a while, though generally I discuss the fact it's not really likely that this group will change it's ways. Ever since the hazardous discovery of agriculture (sure it's a great innovation, but this was the first and most major schism) the western world has focused on wants more than needs. I realized this young because I have many complex needs which MO, USA doesn't really care about. I grew up in a broken house with a middle class two income family. Half of the time I scrounged the cabinets for food, because the money either went to gambling or other random objects. I have a lot of medical issues and they have remained mysteries all my life due to the fact that I can't afford to fix them. Not being able to afford to fix health problems also made me less likely to discuss things with my doctor(who switched every two years). There's a lot of other pertinent examples within my life, but these ones seem sufficient.

Beyond the regular group of bottom feeders society is used to, the richest members tend to miss out on needs. Many rich families don't really interact with each other. Without a nutritionist on staff rich people are actually the most likely to fail to eat healthily. Even poor families which can only afford crap food tend to eat healthier than rich people without someone controlling their diet. But you see, this is another thing about rich people. From chefs to personal trainers they realize that they don't have the time to focus on their needs, so they hire people to focus on needs for them. They make so much money that there should be nothing that they could possibly want, but at the same time they have no real understanding of their own basic human needs.

The system of wants over needs which is the western focus still works because we have been conditioned to accept many poor health issues that are natural for our slave labor and lack of proper focus.

To parallel the western culture with a small tribe:
In western life a child is born with millions of possible choices of what to do in life. The child grows being given an understanding of how vast the world is and a few nudges of what to do. As the child seeks to find its self countless amounts of money are spent on this pursuit of just realizing what they want. Many times this turns into a child going to primary school and only getting 6 hours of sleep as opposed to 8-9 hours since they're young. Attending college and spending a few years broke and barely eating because they really know nothing about handling needs (children are taught how to chase their dreams more than how to live a day on their own). Followed by a likely death sentence to a career they hate because the "smart" choice of job is to go for one that makes more money. They then seek the comfort of others in order to try and fill gaps they were never shown existed. Western individuals tend to have no idea what it is that's wrong with their life, but their body and mind tell them.

In tribal life (yes a small scale but the only scale that uses this example currently) a child is raised by the group and learns quickly what it needs most in the world and how to help everyone else. This child is raised generally with one possibility growing to be a helpful member of their society. This child never misses sleep and is very attentive of their body. Many smaller issues are understood and curable by medicinal herbs as long as the person notices them before they cause issues. The lack of stress, insomnia, bad dieting, fatigue, anxiety, and many other "first world" issues allows the person to feel quite content with their life. Without any ability to truly find their own path in life the tribal member knows their place and is fully capable of understanding their own needs. They also better understand the needs of others and tend to have the ability to place proper importance on that as well.

As Zatamon discussed the feeling of happiness the western culture seeks is called bliss. Bliss is an addictive state of extreme emotion. There is no way to possibly reach this state continuously, though with a constant focus on achieving arbitrary goals it is maintainable for long periods of time. Part of why most westerners seem so unhappy is that they have lost the realization of what being happy means and seek only to attain this bliss. They will sacrifice anything in order to obtain it. Bliss is the most powerful opiate within western societies and is also cultivated in every child.

Yes there are westerners who enjoy happy lives, generally these westerners lived miserable lives for around 40 years. The ability to fulfill needs is still possible in western society, though it is part of a complex puzzle designed to stimulate creativity. This basic bit of information is your reward for a life of trudging and endlessly seeking an answer which other parts of the world are shown in the beginning. When you get past the major section of your life where things are easiest and most capable to do, you are finally able to understand the contrived mystery of life. A mystery that many groups of people have never had, not because they lack philosophical means, but because in realizing the answer their children were raised to know rather than to seek.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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27-08-2011, 02:15 PM
RE: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'
My two cents on this topic.
The rule of the diminishing returning needs

Observer

Agnostic atheist
Secular humanist
Emotional rationalist
Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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27-08-2011, 02:51 PM
 
RE: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'
What comes to my mind is Maslow's chart of Hierarchy of needs. I work in a nursing home and we were taught this chart in school. The reason being that as a nursing assistant, we have the most contact with the residents. We help them with their daily tasks of living. These are human's stripped down to the bare necessities. Some of been in so many hospitals, the only thing they have that is personal from their past are their tattoos if they have them (one of the reasons I got my own). Anyway, we are taught to care for them holistically which includes spiritual. This can be simply being a friend. In a nutshell we are caring for them from feeding them, to dressing them, listening, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on.

Maslow's chart is still used even if some see it as outdated. These are our basic *needs* to survive and be a somewhat happy human being:

(I've attached the chart) It begins with our basic physical needs to live. Food and defecation. It ends with "self-actualization", which I would include in there, some sense of purpose, even if this purpose is very simple one just for a single day at a time.

   
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27-08-2011, 02:58 PM
RE: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'
So, here we are again!

Love the lightbulb analogy, Observer. Perceptive, persuasive and concise.

More thoughts on western social weirdness.
We are constantly told to be happy, happy, happy - and if we fail to attain a state of bliss (I liked that word better in "follow your bliss", but i can adapt.), we need therapy or external correction of some kind. At the same time, another set of messages tells us to be miserable unless we dye our hair, eat zesty mayonnaise, drive a new car, or avail ourselves of a thousand other consumer items. At the same time, another set of messages tells us that our happiness depends on being a "good" something - Muslim, citizen, parent, sport - the definition of which is never clearly enunciated, and changes daily; all you can be sure of is that you fall short. At the same time, another set of messages tells us that, in order to be happy, we must win, prevail, defeat another guy, be on top, and if we come in third, fall into the water or - horrors!! - are first to be voted off the snotty blonde's date slate, we're lower than slime.
So we grow up, and many live entire lives, believing a bunch of contradictory things about what we should strive for, get and want, and never get time and peace, let alone guidance, to find out what we really do need.

I wholeheartedly agree that small is the way to go. Large organizations are crazy-making, need-denying and ego-destroying. That goes for large societies, as well.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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27-08-2011, 03:37 PM
 
RE: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'
A joke to lighten things up. It is appropriate to this thread.

During the war three officers go into a village to decide where to set up officers’ quarters.

After looking at all the houses they have a conference.

The Lieutenant says: “I recommend the big house in the center. The young lady is quite fetching!”

The Captain says: “I agree – her mother made us a really delicious lunch.”

The General says: “Gentlemen, I agree – the only decent toilet in the whole village”.

Some of us, General-age, appreciate this more than the rest of you youngsters.
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31-08-2011, 03:10 PM
RE: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'
Are the two not intrisically linked together....with one sounding more urgent than the other???

You may want something because you (feel) that you need it.

You may also need something......because you feel you want it.

For no matter how much I use these symbols, to describe symptoms of my existence.
You are your own emphasis.
So I say nothing.

-Bemore.
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31-08-2011, 03:45 PM
 
RE: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'
(31-08-2011 03:10 PM)bemore Wrote:  Are the two not intrisically linked together....with one sounding more urgent than the other???
You may want something because you (feel) that you need it.
You may also need something......because you feel you want it.

An intriguing thought -- could it be that someone actually suffered serious physical and/or mental breakdown for not having a diamond necklace?

I guess, it is remotely possible.

However, I would say that the person needed serious therapy more than the necklace.
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31-08-2011, 04:20 PM
RE: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'
(31-08-2011 03:45 PM)Zatamon Wrote:  
(31-08-2011 03:10 PM)bemore Wrote:  Are the two not intrisically linked together....with one sounding more urgent than the other???
You may want something because you (feel) that you need it.
You may also need something......because you feel you want it.

An intriguing thought -- could it be that someone actually suffered serious physical and/or mental breakdown for not having a diamond necklace?

I guess, it is remotely possible.

However, I would say that the person needed serious therapy more than the necklace.

Do I sense a bit of sarcasm??? Or is it me applying a meaning to emotionless words???

Lol

Ok let me put it another way.

Human basics for survival (food water warmth etc etc)

These are "needs"..........however before you obtain something you "want" it, and Vice-Versa.

Thats all I was saying my friend.

For no matter how much I use these symbols, to describe symptoms of my existence.
You are your own emphasis.
So I say nothing.

-Bemore.
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31-08-2011, 04:31 PM
 
RE: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'
(31-08-2011 04:20 PM)bemore Wrote:  Do I sense a bit of sarcasm???

I was just good-naturedly amused by the thought.

No sarcasm intended.

Smile

It was your second line that gave me a pause: "You may also need something......because you feel you want it."

It seems to trivialize the very real difference between needs and wants -- absolutely essential concepts if we want to understand the human condition.
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