Dan O'Heirity

I wasn’t going to look at the Covid-19 statistics today but given that there has been another landmark in the history of the Wuhan virus with confirmed cases around the world exceeding 2,000,000 for the first time, I have decided to do a quick review of the data.

Today’s Data on Confirmed Covid-19 Cases and Confirmed Fatalities

Using my preferred data source – which is updated in real time GMT with the data for new cases and new deaths with the daily figures being reset at GMT+0 – the number of confirmed cases worldwide stands at 2,017,667. The number of deaths stands at 128,041. The United States has an incredible 614,246 confirmed cases along with 26,064 deaths. Spain continues to report huge daily increases of confirmed cases with an additional 3,573 cases today bringing the total number of cases to 166,633. There have been 18,759 deaths in Spain. Italy is also suffering with 162,488 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 21,067 deaths. France has reported 143,043 cases with 15,729 deaths. Germany has 132,210 confirmed cases with 3,495 deaths. The United Kingdom has 93,873 cases with 12,107 deaths.

China, with figures that no one believes, has reported 82,295 cases with 3,342 deaths. Iran has reported 76,389 confirmed cases and so will soon surpass China in terms of the total number of confirmed cases. There have been 4,777 deaths in Iran. Turkey is also set to move beyond China for the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases with the total number of cases in Turkey currently standing at 65,111. There have been 1,403 deaths in Turkey. Australia, the country where I currently reside, continues to report figures for confirmed cases and deaths that make Australia appear to be one of the most successful countries in the world in combatting the Covid-19 virus. Australia has reported 47 new cases today – a number not dissimilar for numbers over the last 5 days or so – bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 6,447. Australia has reported 2 new deaths today bringing the total number of deaths to 63.

I will note – as I have noted on so many occasions – that Australia is carrying out so few tests with testing criteria being so stringent that it is no wonder that the figures for our reported cases appear to be so incredibly “good”. It is worth thinking about what this means at a human level. Basically, if I were at home now with a fever and / or with respiratory symptoms I would not be able to get tested because I do not meet the additional Australian Government criteria for being tested. For example, I have not been in contact with someone who has been confirmed as having the virus. The fact of these stringent testing criteria means that I would simply be sitting here, wondering whether I have the virus. As Australia has tested only 1.4% of its population as of today 15th April 2020, it seems fair to conjecture that there are a lot of other Australians who actually are in the situation of having symptoms but not being able to have a Covid-19 test.

Maslow’s Model of the Hierarchy of Needs Considered Under the Aspect of Normal Conditions

Today, for some reason, I began to think about Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” in two respects. First, I wondered if and how the model might be relevant to my life under “normal circumstances”, meaning circumstances without a pandemic. Secondly, I wondered how the model might be interpreted or utilized in the context of the Covid-19 virus. From a motivational theory point of view, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs basically suggests that people are motivated in their actions by five broad categories of needs. From a self-fulfilment point of view, the argument goes that we can or will be satisfied as human beings if we meet the needs that are defined by within the these five categories. The five categories of needs are represented in the diagram below:

Graphical representation of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs model. The model is explained in the text.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

These needs are generally represented in terms of a hierarchical order commencing with our most basic physiological needs such as having enough food and water and getting sufficient sleep through to needs that have to do with our self-actualization through, for example, engaging in creative activities. In between these two extremes we have the need for safety, for feelings of love and belonging and for having a sense of esteem.

I should say, before I present some thoughts on these needs, that I am no Maslow expert – far from it – and that any ideas that I will jot down here will be little more than preliminary notes ahead of doing some research into Maslow. Secondly, I will not be delving into questions that might be asked about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs even though such questions are important. For example, we might question if the hierarchical nature of the model holds true because a person struggling to meet basic physiological needs could still feel loved and could still experience a strong sense of belonging to a community. We might also question whether self actualization – becoming the best that one might be – is a necessary condition of living a fulfilled life.

In terms of the relevance of the model to my life under “normal circumstances”, I would concur unequivocally that my physiological and safety needs must be met. As for love and belonging, I have no need for family, friendship or intimacy and I have only a minimal need for a sense of connection. I realize this need for some connection with the world through ensuring that there are some people on the periphery of my life with whom I interact. For example, I talk to waitresses at the cafés that I visit and I see my masseuse once a month. In terms of esteem, I require only a strong sense of self, nothing more. In other words I am not concerned with my status in the eyes of the world or with recognition from others.

And so we come to self-actualization which I would currently consider to be my primary drive to the extent that with my needs met at a basic level, I can now consider those levels in terms of how they serve to my aim to overcome myself. Thus, I would say that this primary drive towards self-actualization now informs and directs the other needs that must be met. I will provide a concrete example. I do not engage in employment unthinkingly. Rather I consider my employment from the perspective of my primary drive to write. In this sense, my employment is sublimated to my greater goals. Any thoughts that I might have on owning a property are directed by whether that property will provide conditions conducive to realizing my primary goals including living in solitude and leading a creative life.

Maslow’s Model of the Hierarchy of Needs Considered Under the Aspect of Pandemic Conditions

It really doesn’t require too much thought to see how a pandemic could lead to people struggling to meet their needs in any of the five categories in Maslow’s model. The extent to which people would struggle to meet these needs would be contingent on the severity of pandemic. If we take Covid-19, there are people have lost their jobs, people who can’t pay their rent, and families who are struggling to put food on the table. Family relationships have collapsed as result of having to live confined lives under lockdown measures. Mental health issues are rife as a result of people feeling socially isolated and alone. Finally, there are people struggling with their sense of self worth or self respect in conditions that seem to be beyond their control. In short, Covid-19 has meant that people who were leading stable and fulfilling lives have found their lives disrupted and in worst case scenarios this has meant that their basic needs are not being met.

Whilst the impact of Covid-19 has been reasonably severe, it has certainly not been catastrophic. I know, people have died, the world economy has collapsed, China is becoming increasingly belligerent and so on and so forth. However, consider that the fatality rate from Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was around 34%. Sure, the number of cases of MERS was absolutely insignificant compared to Covid-19 but that is not the point. If MERS had turned into a full blown pandemic then we would have seen 34% of those who contracted the virus dying. Now that would be catastrophic and the world would not just be in some trouble. The world would be in a state of turmoil to such an extent that societies would find it hard to provide for basic physiological and safety needs. In other words, there would be millions of people struggling to meet their basic living needs.

One of my favourite management aphorisms is, “Hope for the best and plan for the worst.” The worst case scenario for the next pandemic is a virus that is as lethal as MERS with an infection rate considerably in excess of Covid-19. In other words, hundreds of millions of people become infected with, say, 40% of those people dying across all age ranges, not just the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions. I have read sufficient research around pandemics and viruses to strongly incline towards the view that it is not a matter of whether this scenario will be realized. It is a question of when this scenario will be realized. In concrete terms, I might assume an infection rate in Australia of 50% of the population which stands at roughly 25,000,000 people. I would then assume that 40% of the 12,500,000 infected die from the virus. This gives a figure of 5,000,000 fatalities.

Given that a much more lethal pandemic is almost a certainty, there is only one rational course of action. Prepare for that eventuality. Preparation means putting in place plans to ensure that one’s basic physiological and safety needs would be met. My plan involves finding and purchasing a cabin located in the middle of nowhere and ensuring that I have sufficient provisions, personal hygiene products, medical supplies and sources of energy to enable me to survive for 12 months without ever having to leave the cabin. As already stated, I have no need for family or friends and so I will be thinking only of myself. I would be concerned with my sense of self because my sense of self would bear upon my having the determination to survive alone for 12 months. Ironically, these conditions would be perfect for my self actualization because I would be able to dedicate my days to my writing.

First Published April 15th, 2020

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s