Back in 1943, a guy named Maslow proposed a theory in psychology called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In this theory, he categorized human needs into 5 categories: physiological needs, the need for safety, the need for love/a sense of belonging, esteem related needs, and self-actualization needs. He argues that these needs dictate an individual’s behavior. (In other words, failure to meet these needs results in disturbed or violent behavior.) Now, I need you to hold that thought for me.
Being Tunisian in the Age of Rush
Let’s put ourselves in the Tunisian context of 2020. If you try to Google, for example, poverty in Tunisia, you will probably find a number around 15% and some change. Not so bad. We’re hanging in there. The US has a higher poverty rate than we do. (Because, of course, we can’t be Tunisians if we don’t look at the western world as a reference in everything.) Sounds cool, right? Wrong. Leave the numbers aside, and take a good look around you.
Most employees of governmental institutions barely get paid enough to make it through the month. The supposedly “middle class” are gradually becoming an upper poor class. The rates of theft, sexual harassment, and crime in general are going sky high. The transportation in the country is a joke. The highest ambition of the youth is to get out of here and move to somewhere in the developed world… And I can go on all day stating depressing facts to prove one final point: a good majority of the people in this country are not meeting their most basic needs.
Now picture with me, in the age of the internet, globalization, smartphones, social media, dating apps, the Kardashians, Lady Zommara, and all that stuff that is bad for your health but you choose to consume it anyway, the state of this population that lacks its basic needs and that is in a constant state of trying to survive rather than live. Too depressing to think of? Let me help you a little.
First things first, we can notice the desperate need for attention by almost everyone. A perfect life, 500 stories on Instagram of random photoshoped pictures from the internet of places they pretend to have visited, cringe inducing videos of them trying to be funny and failing miserably, etc… Your typical traditional Tunisian mindset of having a 100m2 house with 90% of it a fancy living room for the eyes of the guests and the rest barely enough to put a bed in of course has contributed to this behavior.
However, it is rather the lack of a sense of achievement a good majority of the youth of this country have that played the biggest role. The standards went sky high with the unrealistic boasting on social media and the continuous news of young people achieving what millions of adults failed to that even the few lucky ones who manage to invest some time in their talents outside of the hellish Tunisian school system find themselves in a cycle of feeling that whatever they do can never be enough.
Next, we can note how overly easy it has become for people to break relationships whether with friends, romantic partners, or even family members, and also the increase in people’s tendency to prefer solitude. This is due to the huge amount of options we find online in terms of people.
We began feeling that everyone around us is replaceable and started refusing to settle for anything less than what our egos tell us. Of course, I am in no way encouraging people to remain and suffer in toxic environment. If that is the case, by all means, RUN! Or do the Radhwa Chirbini move: BLOCK, BLOCK, BLOCK.
And I left the best for the last: Everyone these days feels the urge to shove their opinion in everyone’s face and fight for an intellectual dominance they usually have no right to as their “scientific references” are typically falsehoods spread on Facebook. You’d be amazed by how easily people tend to believe anything you say if you start it with “Scientists confirmed”, or “ ’an Abi Hurayrata kal”.
It could do us all a little better if everyone stops for a second and thinks before we decide to share something, underestimate ourselves, push someone away, or pick a futile fight with a stranger online. It’s perfectly okay to take your time in an era where everyone is on a rush.
Suggested Read: “Kaf w Ka’ba Halwa”: Justifying Abuse with Acts of Kindness
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Jasser Hammami is a published author, a freelance editor and translator, a minorities’ rights activist, and an English major student.