Lazy Luddite Log

19.5.10

Needs And Wants Are Different Right?

I have been noticing an absence of some things in my life that has been affecting my mood. One thing that is helping me cope with this is contemplating the difference between needs and wants. I have also been considering how the concept of rights interacts with this distinction.

Definitions of needs and wants change from generation-to-generation and within particular class and cultural contexts. Rather than produce two lists of things, however, I will make a few statements to help distinguish needs from wants.

* The satisfaction of needs allow one to live. In contrast the satisfaction of wants helps one to be happy.

* If something is a need then one has a right to its provision while if something is a want then one only has the right to pursue it.

* Needs can be provided by society as a whole by cultivating a mixed economy (providing both jobs and welfare services). In contrast providing for wants will frequently call for the consent of particular persons one interacts with personally.


I will expand on that last statement. Have you noticed how philosophical assertions are often supported by ludicrous scenarios that never happen? Well here is mine.

A person named Ego wants intimacy and so propositions someone. That someone has the right to decline the proposition and does exactly that. Ego then propositions another person…and another… and another. Every person refuses Ego. Eventually Ego has propositioned every adult in the world except for one. That last person has as much right to refuse Ego as the first did. It then follows that Ego lacks any right to intimacy.

For me it is important then to say that what Ego is looking for is a want rather than a need. The notion of a world in which someone can be rightly refused something they need disturbs me.

In life there are many shades of grey that mess with my nice black-and-white model. Possibly that is why I have qualms with particular actions that I feel muddy the waters.

There are all sorts of societal pressures that make us think that particular wants are needs. Sometimes these messages are reinforced by government - consider home-owners grants and baby bonuses. There are also other societal pressures suggesting that some wants are practically crimes. Once more government gets into the act with the imposition of ‘sin taxes’ on assorted behaviours. I understand the motivation behind these but just find them philosophically problematic. We get all sorts of mixed messages we need to sift and assess.

This topic has given me a bit of perspective. I recognize that I have what I need and only lack some of what I want. I feel fortunate for what I do have. And even if I sometimes get frustrated I can amend the internal statement of “need need need” to the more accurate one of “want want want”.

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5.5.10

My Milkshake Moment

Particular memories have been presenting themselves to my consciousness like bubbles emerging on the surface of a pond. They have been of a specific kind lately. They are all experiences I enjoy and conform to the same basic description.

I am on my way to something fun - like a party with lots of friends - but am yet to get there. I am taking public transport and have possibly come to a juncture in which I must change from one route to another. I have given myself plenty of time, however, so I take a rest on the way. I am alone but in a busy public space such as Swanston Street. I have stopped in a cafe and am having a milkshake. I sip at my drink while watching the world go by and idly ponder what the evening may hold.

This is definitely on my list of some of the truly contended moments in my life and, fortunately, it is one I have had many times, and I expect that will continue. But I wonder what it is that makes this mundane recollection at all noteworthy. Its status as something at the borderline of conditions may be what makes it attractive.

For one thing I do enjoy commuting. I get colour and movement and sometimes even some cool observations. But in this case there is more happening.

My milkshake moment sits at the cusp of the public and private. In many ways I feel I am only truly me while I am alone. And yet I feel most human if I am among humans. In this case I get both. I am "alone in a crowd" but in a good way. I feel confident in my anonymity and enjoy the freedom of movement represented by this scenario.

My milkshake moment also sits at the cusp of the present and the future. I am enjoying the moment but part of that moment is anticipation of the night to come. I spend a lot of my 'internal life' living a very short way into the future. The party I imagine is some kind of amalgam of past experiences blended together and representing the better aspects of what a party should be. In such a scenario I will never be "alone in a crowd".

Things are never exactly as we imagine them but that is okay - sometimes they are worse but sometimes they are better. But a bit of certainty in life is nice and my milkshake moment gives me just that.

And Another Thing

This is all bullshit. I am clutching at straws - living on nice notions as a form of escapism. So here is more of the same vague long-winded stuff I always post to help preserve the facade of a happy and fulfilled person. The doldrums are never far now and the smallest thing can push me into them.

Like just now I wanted to insert an image into this post on my blog just for the heck of it. But somehow the coding that has worked in the same way in other posts behaves differently this time. There is some explanation but I cannot see it. And so this just reminds me of all the things I cannot do well.

And now I think I should just delete this addendum because it has nothing to do with this post. Besides which my problems pale in comparison to those of many others and will just get lost in the crowd. This belongs in a journal that nobody ever sees. So do I press "publish" now?

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