On our structural integrity

Why concern ourselves with the structural integrity of a building and be so ignorant of our own?

Engineers will spend countless hours defining, studying, designing, and testing the structural integrity of everyday objects such as automobiles, buildings, or air crafts. Tirelessly, they strive to derive structures that can withstand the forces of nature, protect their content, and last over a number of years, efficiently and effectively. With two case examples, let us then consider the manner in which we develop our bodily and mental structural integrity and if we build this to withstand the challenges and experience the joys of life.

The foundation for our bodily and mental structural integrity is laid during our childhood, a time in which the materials of our foundation – physiological, psychological and sociological – are molded and put in place for we are literally clean slates. We do not yet have mental models of how things work; for even though we might see things in action, our intellectual capacities are yet to be fully developed to comprehend and process things accordingly. We are eager to learn and absorb anything that we encounter, but without the capacity to discern whether it is right for our bodily or mental foundation.

In Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business, Postman wrote that “save for sleeping there is no activity that occupies more of an American youth’s time than television-viewing.” And what exactly is it that the young watch on the telly or read on story books, or have narrated to them? Fairy tales. Nowadays, perhaps video and mobile games may take precedence but even these are largely based on fantasy. On face value fairy tales are tame and harmless; removed from reality as possible, where perplexities are resolved with expositions of magic (wands) or superhuman powers. The placement of reality in fairy tales, if any, takes the shape of heroes overcoming villains where the obvious lesson then is an aspiration to become superheroes, to conquer evil in society by violent or magical means.

.. the pupil is never educated to the degree of consciousness, but only to the degree of trust and reverence, and a child is not made a man, but kept a child

Observably, kids when the situation allows demand to be bought nothing but the toys of their superheroes, so they may relive the fantasies learned, enacting what they have incorporated in the foundations of their mental structures. Which is to develop a taste for such content even though it simply corrupts their structural integrity. Furthermore, in aspiring to become superheroes, they become accomplices in propagating villains, for a superhero can only exists where villains do. An outlook of life where evil is thought natural rather than as a by-product of structural design. It is to construct the structure of a building based on wishful thinking and utter ignorance. This is worse than not laying a foundation at all. Woe unto us that a whole industry is dedicated to the production of fairy tales. As David Thoreau implied in Walden, the mental structural integrity is “instructed only in that innocent and ineffectual way […] by which the pupil is never educated to the degree of consciousness, but only to the degree of trust and reverence, and a child is not made a man, but kept a child.”

Why not teach the young about everyday things in such detail so that by the time we expect them to chip in, they might be thoroughly aware of our cultural weaknesses, that they might question them and bring fresh perspectives on the table?

For instance, we could make a holistic narrative of automobiles. Starting of course with the raw materials mining, shipping and refining processes, not to mention the conflicts involved, and the industrial waste resulting and its handling. Then the employment of car manufacturer workers and the work laws and benefits involved including the fact that they make far way too less than their bosses while they collectively produce more. Then the unbelievable fact that automobiles kill about 1.3 million people annually, not to mention injuries and disabilities. That in addition to using conflict minerals, they rely on conflict fuel for their operation, emphasizing here on the endless wars fought in the acquisition of oil.

As private means of transport the amount of time they are used versus parked, the amount of parking space they take, the amount of time people driving in them have to spend – waste – sitting in traffic jams, looking for parking, etc annually. That automobiles are perhaps the most un-environmental object mankind has created so far, how much carbon dioxide not to mention other gases do they emit annually? And so on and so forth.

We could be far off better in the immediate and distant futures by informing if not educating kids this way over merely about car racing and super cars, or about invisible men whose objective is to reward acquiescence once a year, haunt them in the dark or condemn them to damnation.

Here is the physical and emotional structural integrity being weakened from the foundation, even before we start laying the bricks

How about the nourishment of the body? I have observed a mother feed her children sugar free cereal meals for breakfast only to serve them a piece of cake hours later, and supplying candy, chocolate and biscuits as treats for good behavior. At the same time, the family watched the Olympics, admiring the physical strength and motor abilities of the sports men and women. Later, the kids are driven to fast food restaurant where their meals come with toy packages. My turning down a meal from the fast food restaurant, prompted the mother to opinion that it is okay to have such every now and then. How comes construction engineers have not gotten to that conclusion, to tell us it is okay to weaken the structural integrity of buildings or cars or air crafts every now and then? I could not help but wonder what aspirations for the physical structural integrity the mother had for her kids, or why she would be so bothered to feed them healthy meals only to supply the unhealthy stuff afterwards. In addition, the use of treats as means for controlling their behavior and emotions implied a mismatch between what the kids expected and what they got in reality. Here is the physical and emotional structural integrity being weakened from the foundation, even before we start laying the bricks.

Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows how much effort it takes, and it cannot be easier to kick off such non-obvious addictions to sugar or the like, especially when these have been learned as the means of resolving conflicts or more precisely, leaving them unresolved. Structurally, it is to use wood where reinforcement bars are required or mud in place of concrete. A builder who has had to reinforce a building with poor structural integrity may affirm this, that it is easier to build afresh than to attempt to strengthen a structurally poor building. Inescapably, there is not much to like in the character of kids raised thus, for they are simply maladjusted to the realities of life. It begs the question: Why concern ourselves with the structural integrity of a building and be so ignorant about our own? It spells utter betrayal on our part as adults for kids are fully trusting of everything they learn and from adults.

.. the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures

Unfortunately, Thoreau in Walden was not convinced that the old have something of value to teach to the young: “One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors said nothing about.” 


I have eaten junk food, spent countless hours reading novels, binging on the telly, amusing myself to death and I am barely able to see the nitty-gritty of my life, leave alone concern myself with only that which can truly reinforce my structural integrity.


Design for optimal engagement (a thesis)

The human experience: design for optimal engagement

v. 0.98: PDF

v. 0.97: PDF

Table of contents:

  • Introduction
  • Approaches to Human Motivation
  • Humans are not Machines
  • The Human Purpose
  • Levels of Human Engagement
  • Types of Human Relations
  • Design for Oneself
  • Conclusion
  • Notes

Comments, feedback, questions highly welcome and appreciated!

A 100+ rat killing machines

Rat killing machines can include poisoning, trapping, cats, sticks, drowning, electric shocks, staring (see ‘Men who stare at goats’), and surely, if the rats are a delicacy, they can be taken as a source of food. None of the rat killing tool can be said to be better than another, because they do not merely fulfill the task of killing rats but also embody the relationship that respective individuals have with rats, and their human needs and values in time.

A rat killing machine must embody shifting human needs and values

The introduction of technology – idea, institution, or tool – into the lives of humans with the intention of bettering their situation must be preceded with a thorough experience and comprehension of the human experience, on a level that is as human – subjective – as possible. In addition, such change must be coupled with the acknowledgement that human values and needs are variant and dynamic. Thus, deployed technology should be as disposable and modifiable as possible so as not to inhibit human spontaneity, ingenuity, and shifts in their needs and values.

Needs and values are subjective

The processes of designing, using, modifying and disposing off of technology intended for the betterment of the human experience must be left in the hands of every individual, for it is in those processes that an individual can build their unique needs into the technology, understand its impact on their lives and have the ability to modify or do away with it, to accommodate their shifting needs and values, and a balance that is suitable for them, individually. Any other alternative inescapably is an imposition of the values and needs of others on the individual.

Indiscernible effects of technology

A lack of individual control in the design, use, modification and disposing off of technology inevitably creates a manipulative and exploitative dependency. On the one hand, we have the user, who as a result of being detached from these processes, increasingly becomes unconcerned with the design of the tool, and thus is deprived of learning how to organically design for himself. This dependency on another party to fulfill the needs and values of an individual inevitably results to what has been termed ‘invisible curriculum’ in schooling. In such a relationship, the user is inherently blinded and prevented from understanding all aspects of the technology they use, especially the disadvantages that it imposes on them.

If my tools are designed for me, I naturally become less concerned with, or worse blinded from the process in which they are designed including the materials that are used and the impact to environment and other entities. On the other hand, the designer – the party which designs tools for me – gains an upper hand in our relationship and stands to benefit by strengthening and propagating my dependency on him.

Most importantly, in such a set up, it must also be noted that I am prevented from having critical thought. If I am in a position to design my own tools, I am likely to be in a position to see their upsides and downsides. However, once I am detached from the design, then most likely, whatever technology is appropriated to me is ‘advertised’ without a critical analysis of its potential impact – both good and bad – to me as its user.

The individual who is deprived of human reality is also deprived of truth. He is separated from his concrete human and social reality, deprived of a consciousness of the practical, historical and social whole; even though, nowadays, given modern social structure, science and techniques, such consciousness is both possible and necessary. Turned back upon himself, secure within some imaginary inner fortress, he is the plaything of every hallucination, every spontaneous or deliberate ideological illusion. – Henri Lefebvre

The invisible curriculum

Surely, we have an innate desire for learning. However, to assume that another party can have better understanding of an individual’s learning needs, and values, and their shifting over time, can only result to a tool better known as the schooling system. The tool inherently prevents the individual from designing their education according to their needs and values, and thus invites them to appropriate themselves to be used by the tool that another party designs. Inevitably, the individual stands to be exploited in various ways  by the tool and its designers. The tool, not only limits the subjects of learning, but also inherently the fields of knowledge and thought. This should be of concern to any learner. From the onset, it suppresses individual interest, spontaneity, expression and ingenuity.

Regrettably, none will be more hopelessly enslaved than those who will lose the awareness that their freedom is alienated from them (Goethe).

Technology; the medium, is the message

Technology is not neutral when it embodies human needs and values. By itself, technology is implicated even before it is taken into use. Even though a language enables communication, it, in addition, also permits and restricts certain views of reality. It embodies our needs and values in its structure – how we relate to nature and others, what we can talk about and what we cannot. If a language is a box, then it enables us to effectively talk about things in the box, while it restricts our view and our talking of anything residing outside the box. The fact that the medium is made for us, then, inevitably, needs and values are also made for us, and in most cases, we have no say over the matter.

Inherently, we are deprived critical thought, we are dumbed down. We are in Waking Sleep, a state of consciousness in which we are completely immersed in some a phenomenon yet we are unaware of all consequences we suffer from it.

In waking sleep we ingest the parts of others their values, attitudes, opinions or other aspects of their personalities, and incorporate them into our image of our self.

Of the dumbed down user, his submission to the designed artifact follows a trajectory such that, the more he uses it, the less he lives; the more readily he recognizes his own needs in the tools and practices proposed by the designer, the less he understands his own existence and his own desires (Guy Debord – the society of spectacle). Effectively since he merely follow a script, merely appropriating himself to the values and needs of others, he becomes impoverished in his capacities.

If there are a 100 ways to kill a rat, a rat killing tool can only accommodate a few if more than one. Thus by using a tool designed for us, we have to set aside our individual shifting needs and values for killing the rat and assume those embodied by the tool. A rat killing tool appropriated to us freezes our needs and values in time or else also exerts the values and needs of its designer on us. However, when we each design a rat killing tool for ourselves, we not only learn how to design, but we are also at will to alter our design to accommodate our shifting needs and values – insights we gather through the design and use of the tool – and eventually to do away with our tool if we deem it useless to our needs.

Design for oneself / Organic design

The embodiment of one’s shifting needs and values by a design, implies an organic design; ‘design for oneself’. Design for oneself, or organic design implies simplicity in design as any tool designed is within the bounds of one’s values, needs, ingenuity, spontaneity and critical thought at any given time. In other words, the tool lacks any complexity that can surpass these capacities and thus can be used with minimal possibility of using the user.

The more needs a human being has, the more he exists. The more powers and aptitudes he is able to exercise, the more he is free.” – Henri Lefebvre

Any tool that surpasses or freezes the capacities of its users – the needs, values, ingenuity, spontaneity, critical thought – is inherently a complex tool. Inescapably, a complex tool, when used, potentially stands to use its user.

The human being ceas[es] to be human [and] is turned into another tool to be used by other tools” (Henri Lefebvre).

In other words, whatever complexity the tool bears – e.g. in its needs or values – can be a means for abusing the user. This is true regardless of the form the tool takes. Whether it be a legal or technical contract, a derivative (complex algorithm for financial trading), a school curriculum, a computer or even a hammer.

A 100+ rat killing machines

Rat killing machines can include poisoning, trapping, cats, sticks, drowning, electric shocks, staring (see ‘Men who stare at goats’), and surely, if the rats are a delicacy, there is no reason why they cannot be taken as a source of food. What is clear in these hypothetical tools is the varying human needs and values implied and critical thought revealed through various connections and meanings to the larger ecological context.

None of the rat killing tool can be said to be better than another, because they do not merely fulfill the task of killing rats but also embody the relationship that respective individuals have with rats, and their human needs and values in time.

8 Forms of human relations

..belongingness, respect, protection, love, security, self-esteem, .. cannot be satisfied by trees, mountains or even dogs; only from healthy relations with other human beings. It is also, only, to other human beings that we can give these in the fullest measure – Maslov (p. 97-98)

In designing social institutions, perhaps not enough focus is given to the human relations that would be inherent or nurtured by their structures. A good social institution gives to its members the greatest possibility of health and self actualization by having its institutional arrangements set up to foster a maximum of high level relations and a minimum of low level relations (Maslow, p. 105). This essay attempts to describe various human relations that can be classified either as high or low level.

At the heart of all human relation are the various capacities that are characteristic of the human organism, including those in the hierarchy of needs. In high level relations, these capacities are permitted and nurtured, contributing to the health and self actualization of the individual. In contrast, in low level relations, the capacities are exploited, suppressed for the purpose of domination, and thereby contribute contribute to the development of neurotic and other behavioral and chronic illnesses (Maslow p. 151-157, Mate p. 1-12).

Dependence is a key factor in all relations. While it, in high level relations, can be said to be healthy, empathetic, cooperative, mutual and reciprocal, in low level relations, it is unhealthy, isolating, exploitative, competitive, enslaving, demeaning and dehumanizing.

Characteristics of high level relations

(Maslow p. 151-157)

High level relations permit the greatest self expression: spontaneity, the greatest naturalness, the greatest dropping of defenses, and protection against threat.

The relations are not a struggle but something that just happens;  there is a growing intimacy and honesty (allowing one’s faults, weaknesses, and shortcomings to be freely seen by the other) and self-expression, … it is possible to be oneself, to feel natural. Furthermore, it is not necessary to be guarded, to conceal or to try to impress, to feel tense, to watch one’s words or actions, to suppress or repress. One can be themselves without feeling that there are demands or expectations upon them; they can feel psychologically as well as physically naked and still loved and wanted and secure. It can also be said that the high level relations are also cheerful, humorous, and playful. They come naturally as an enjoyment and a delight.

(Maslow p. 154): Respect is also a fundamental characteristic of high level relations. Respect is the ability to be pleased rather than threatened by the triumphs on another individual. Respect also acknowledges the other person’s independence and autonomy. Respect also means that the wishes of another are not controlled, or disregarded. It affords the respected individual a fundamental irreducible dignity, and protection from humiliation. Inherently, one’s relation to the other is  of enjoyment, admiration, delight, contemplation and appreciation, rather than use.

High level relations also allow the expression of a healthy amount of passivity, relaxation, childishness, and silliness, since if there is no danger and we are loved and respected for ourselves rather than for any front we put on or role we play, we can be as we really are, weak when we feel weak, protected when we feel confused, childish when we wish to drop the responsibilities of adulthood (Maslow p. 98).

In addition, high level relations feature cooperative behavior, mutual reciprocity, a responsibility towards each other, and empathy.

High level relations enable the gratification of those human needs that only other humans can fulfill e.g. Love, respect, belonging, …

High level relations tends toward holistic growth of the individual and thus health as there is no repression on individuality. High level relations also enable the gratification of those human needs that only other humans can fulfill e.g. Love, respect, belonging, .. It is healthy individuals that are also more likely to have high level relations with others (Maslow, p. 97-98). As Mate (p. 202) explains, “one learns to love not by instruction, but by being loved”.

Characteristics of low level relations

Low level relations’ characteristics can be said to be the opposite of high level relations. The litany can include the absence of genuine concern for the other, and interaction with others that is strangulated and mixed with embarrassment, guilt, defensiveness, role play, and with a struggle for dominance (Maslow, p. 99).

Boundaries are a fundamental aspect of low lever relations. Boundaries are usually implicit e.g. as traditions or identities but can also be explicit for instance in a constitution, or in society’s human or organizational roles. Boundaries limit the expression of oneself and conceal one’s true nature – one cannot be oneself. Individuals involved in low level relations therefore struggle as their true nature is repressed. At their most extreme e.g. in ethnocentrism, the boundaries afford little or no human freedom or expression.

Low level relations inhibit the gratification of those human needs that only other humans can fulfill e.g. Love, respect, belonging, …

Low level relations are likely to result to psychopathology and other forms of sickness as there is little or no gratification of needs that only other humans can fulfill (Maslow, p. 100). As Mate (p. 16) argues ‘a lack of psychological independence, an overwhelming need for love and affection, and the inability to feel or express anger have long been identified as possible factors in the natural development of the disease’It is also the sick that are more likely to have low level relations with others.

Another way to look at low level relations is in terms of what can go wrong in human relations; i.e. either things that should happen do not happen or things that should not happen, happen.

High level relations

1. Parent-child

Before birth

The Parent-child relation is a special one. Firstly, the relation is cemented by nature. It contains a bond that goes beyond the bodily interaction with one another; one that is fundamental to the growth of the baby and the parent. The bond is like no other in the sense that at the beginning of the relation, the parent and child are one; they both reside in the same body; the need for belonging for the human organism begins here. Even before birth, the baby can experience its environment including the physiology of the mother and experience a belonging in it.

After birth

A parent-child relation is perhaps the highest form of human relation. It involves the enjoyment of the other, as it is, without necessary seeking to change it. It also features an interesting form of respect and empathy; one of speaking the language of the other; a mother speaks to a child in a simplistic manner so that the child can understand, a child tries on his parents shoes. The mother and the child play together, with each finding joy and laughter in the actions of the other even when they are simple and not necessarily meaningful. They enjoy the company of each other.

As Maslov (p. 86) suggests, one of the reasons that babies are loved and wanted so much must be that they are without visible evil, hatred, or malice in the first year or two of their lives.

Most interestingly to note in this form of relation is the fact that the child is without (for lack of a better word) hypocracy and prejudice. He or she acts out and speaks their minds without fear of judgement. They may show uncertainity towards things and people they are not familiar with but they do not withhold their curiosity in paying attention to them.

“No infant is born with a propensity to repress the expression of emotion. If an infant is uncomfortable or unhappy, she’ll cry, show sadness, show anger. Anything that we do to hide pain or sadness is an acquired response. We repress our emotional intelligence in order to avoid an ongoing war with the crucial people in our lives, a war we cannot possibly win” (Mate, p. 200 – 201, 254, 267).

We may hypothesize that it is not until they have been prejudiced that babies develop the character of repressing their intentions or emotions, saying things they do not mean and so on. Perhaps it is at this point in life that a disconcerting split occurs within them; that they are one thing yet they are expected to be another, a burden they have to carry hence forth.

As a result, the parent-child relation may transition to friendship, neighborly or other low level relations depending on the reciprocity exchanged by the two as the child approaches adolescence and seeks independence.

2. Love-Sexual

This relation, we may say, is a foundation for the highest form of human relation: the parent-child relation. In addition to the various values exchanged and experienced in friendship and neighborly relations, the love-sexual relation surpasses these two specifically in one aspect: it leads to the gratification of sexual needs, which are considered important for the human organism, at least in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

A difference (and perhaps an important one) that may be noted between the love-sexual relation and other high level relations is that while you can be a parent to many children or be friends or neighborly to many, cultural/state/religious/ideological arrangements have at some point suggested or dictated that an individual only love one and not many. Why has this been the case when we know in practice it has not been so? Why have the social, economic and political institutions suppressed the expression and satiation of a basic human need? Why is the sex need, out of the many, singled out to have this limitation?

3. Friendship

Friendship may be described as a long term relation between individuals, with respect, understanding, enjoyment and caring for each other as its main aspects. It may also involve love for each other but not necessarily with a sexual aspect.

Friendship mainly differs from the neighborly relation in the dimension of time; in friendship the striving to be the guardian of the other is long term while in a neighborly relation, it is short term – it happens only in the moments of contact without necessarily being future oriented. It may however, be said that friendship transmutes from the neighborly relation and in turn it – friendship – can transmute to a love-sexual relation.

4. Neighborly

Simply put, a neighborly relation involves a striving of one to be the guardian of the other. Not in the sense of running their affairs but in safe guarding their well being (in the moments of contact) as if it was one’s own.  It is best expressed in non-commodified social transactions such as giving a seat to an elderly in a bus, or helping a child cross a road, or noticing someone is experiencing a problem and attempting to help them. It is not necessarily determined by the familiarity of each other but the acting of each other as humans – the acknowledgement of human vulnerability depicted by developing, declining or weakened human capacities. Neighborly relations are however endangered and are quickly getting replaced by the strangerly relation.

Low level relations

5. Strangerly/Proximal abandonment

Just as it sounds, this is a strange form of relation. One way in which is it is expressed is in the feeling of loneliness in the midst of other people. This form of relation is weird as it appears to be neutral – there are no negative attitudes towards others even though genuine concern for others is usually subdued – yet it bears negative results; that of feeling alone. Inescapably, since there is no relation with others, there is no gratification of human needs that only other humans can fulfill.

The phrase proximal abandonment has been used to refers to the strangerly relation – where people in the same physical location – whether it be in a house, car, office, or whatever – do not interact with each other for whatever reason. Mate (p. 208) calls it proximate separation and defines it as “the phenomenon of physical closeness but emotional separation.

Perhaps proximal abandonment can be seen as an inherent characteristic of social institutions. Urbanization, schools, businesses, health institutions; hospitals, nursing homes etc separate generations and tear familial and high level relations for various reasons (Mate, p. 223). Children are kept separate from adults and their parents, in schools or daycare, adults are locked in offices, the old in nursing homes, the disabled and the sick in hospitals or in special schools and homes. This means that no generation can withstand, understand or know how to interact with the other. The young cannot stand adults. The adults do not stand the young. No one understands or can stand the old, the disabled, the sick and so on, and they in return are unable to stand other generations. A household may physically appear to be but its members could be emotionally detached. Every generation is a waste to the others. And so, like the garbage they are, they have to be placed out of sight of each other (Carse, 1986 p.133). The resulting society is one whose members are maladjusted to dealing with their own human condition.

The danger of proximal abandonment has to be taken seriously, as it is now acknowledged, the lack or denial of physical or emotional contact is detrimental to health (Mate, p. 199 – 209). Proximal abandonment is the case where what is supposed to happen – social and emotional attachment, gratification of social needs – does not happen. Mate (p. 187-198) describes in detail how these contributes to reduced immune systems leaving individuals susceptible to stress and illness. He (p. 211 -225) strongly cautions on the neglect to resolve social-emotional stresses as this are easily transmittable across generations as has been demonstrated with the Adult Attachment Interview and Strange Situation studies.

Particularly and increasingly, urban dwellers are not part of any reciprocal, continuous, well-articulated community and are profoundly alienated from their own human interests – those of interacting, relating and having genuine concern for each other. It may also be said that the ubiquity of communication technology is contributing to the rise of proximal abandonment: increasingly, people are tending to technology rather than to their fellow beings next to them.

In contrast to other low level relations, in proximal abandonment, what is supposed to happen does not happen, while in the other low level relations, what is not supposed to happen, happens (Mate, p. 202).

6. Explotative – dependence (master – slave)

This form of human relation is mostly found in commodified interactions. I.e., where the basis for relating and interacting are on the one hand exploitative – one party gets more than they give back – and on the other hand are structured in such a way that the dependence recurs. As Dr. Richard Wolff [Youtube] illustrates, exploitative-dependence is the hallmark of leading economic paradigms.

It is through this type of relation that the modern society has achieved the 1% – 99% split among other socially stratifying and disintegrating elements. This form of relation impedes the realization of the high human relations especially when it replaces genuine social transactions with commodified ones.

A fundamental aspect that may be observed in exploitative-dependence relations is that they start out with seemingly good intentions but end up as undesirable. For instance with fractional reserve banking, loans may be seen as good, except the end result is an exploitative dependence.

By this measure, the exploitative-dependence relation can be described as addiction if addiction as Mate defines it is any pattern or behavior that you crave that gives temporary pleasure or relief in the short term but negative consequences in the long term, that you still persist in despite the negative consequences. And in turn by this measure, the exploitative-dependence can also be termed enslavement.

In schooling, emotional and intellectual dependencies (both effects of the invisible curriculum) impedes the growth and development of children. Inevitably, they become maladjusted for their own futures. Governments and corporations may also be observed as institutions that cement and promote this relation; whether it be the in cases where a minority govern the majority or the business owner gives less to the worker than he gets from the worker. For economic institutions to promote high level relations, Dr. Richard Wolff suggests cooperatives as alternatives.

Another main aspect of this relation is that the individuals involved in them do not voluntarily choose each other, unlike in the high relations such as friendship or love. Maslow (p. 101) argues that human relations aimed at improving the health of individuals should be based on participants selecting each other where the choice should be made not solely on the basis of reputation, size of fee, technical training, skill, and the like, but also on the basis of ordinary human liking for each other.

Vigilance is a necessity in the design of social, political and economic institutions, else they result to and nurture exploitative-dependence relations whenever applied.

7. Competitive-combative

This human relation strives to find, expose and exploit the vulnerabilities of one by  another, so that the one is diminished and the other exalted. Sibling rivalry may also be seen as a competitive or combative relation (Maslow, p. 87). When the competitive-combative relation takes place over long periods, it may impede or inhibit the coming into being of the high levels of human relations. Enemies, as the opponents they are, either come together with the intent of defeating or destroying each other.

While the intent of relating to each other is of this kind, any high relations that may form are likely to be factitious. Potentially this form of relationship can transmute to ethnocentrism

8. Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism can be said to be the lowest form of human relationship. It is built on the premise that one’s culture – beliefs, customs, and traditions – are better than those of others. By default ethnocentrism seeks to belittle, demean, disregard and even to outright eliminate the other.

No need to point fingers on this as most societies have histories laden with ethnocentric driven atrocities. Unfortunately this is also evident in the present. To sidestep a bit, Stephen Hawking have warned us against making contact with aliens; he believes that what happened to the natives in the Americas with the arrival of the Europeans would be a likely occurrence were aliens to visit earth.


Peculiarly, it is possible for a human to have all forms of relations with others simultaneously.

It is paramount to consider the human relations that may be nurtured or inherent in various social institutions arrangements, if not for other things, simply for the health of the human members participating in these institutions. As Maslov (p. 92-110) argues, there are human needs that can only be satisfied through positive interaction with other humans.


A healthy human relation is akin to the relation between a seed and the soil, where a seed sees a part of itself health – the source of growth – in the soil and the soil – its renewal – and thus part of itself in the seed.

In other words, the relation is of mutually reciprocity and non-exploitative. The seed sees the source of its growth in the soil – through the use of the various minerals in the soil while the soil sees its regeneration (renewal) through the growth, fruition and finally fertilization by the plant (after its life), – not in an exploitative way but to continually nurture new seeds. The plant itself does not necessarily die but rather also goes a renewal. This relationship is special in a number of ways, but most importantly in the respect of the well-being of the other (perhaps due to the recognition that the health of the one is also in the other).

Certainly if either or both the soil and seed would suppress their relation to each other, growth for both would be inhibited. The seed would lack vital nutrients and minerals for its growth while the soil would not regenerate. Both the soil and seed would be under stress; they would lack an expression of their originality in themselves and the other. In absence of a vital attachment – healthy relation – to each other that spurs growth in each, both would eventually die!

Ref & further reading:

  • Maslow, A. (1987). Motivation and personality (3rd ed.). New York: Harper & Row. [Love in self actualizing people. (p. 199 – 209, 151-157)]
  • Maté, G. (2011). When the body says no: The cost of hidden stress. Random House LLC.
  • Carse, J. P. (1986). Finite and infinite games. (p. 4-10)