The Neighbors are Zombies Living in Maslow’s Basement!

Imagine the laid-back life of a zombie.

First of all, you’re dead. So. No more taxes! That’s for sure. And monthly bills will bother you no more.

Besides no more worries about death and taxes, look at how focused you are: your meaning and purpose have boiled down to searching for brains to eat. Admirable focus.

And zombies have lot’s of friends.

Being un-dead has its moments. You’re well beyond all the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Your only worry is getting shot in the head.

Director George A Romero, who directed “Night of the Living Dead,” is credited with having created the contemporary zombie. He has this to say: “I just took some of the mysterioso stuff of voodoo out of it, and made them the neighbors. Neighbors are frightening enough when they’re alive.”

I have a suspicion this goes a long way toward explaining the huge popularity of zombies. Perhaps they represent all the danger we see in others and in ourselves.

Chip and Dan Heath, marketing gurus, have come up with the term “Maslow’s Basement.” Their argument is that most marketing depends upon the bottom end of psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “hierarch of needs” pyramid. In that model, there are three principles that motivate people to buy a product: fear, greed, or lust. These are base desires, Maslow’s Basement.

I suppose the high end of Maslow’s hierarchy, such things as morality, creativity, and spontaneity, as Maslow’s attic. (Zombies definitely live in the basement.)

Research shows that people report that other people are motivated by fear, greed and lust. But people self-report that their actions are motivated by empathy and compassion. In other words, we fear their neighbors, just as director George A. Romero claims.

The counter-intuitive fact may be that the self-reporting is correct. Meaning that all of us—including our neighbors—are more influenced by compassion and empathy than by Maslow’s Basement motivators of fear, greed, or lust.

We may be selling our species short! Perhaps our default mode is NOT to dwell in Maslow’s Basement. Perhaps our neighbors are not potential zombies.

Perhaps we all, as Oscar Wilde said, despite having our feet in the gutter, are looking at the stars.

The zombie apocalypse will not be televised. Because it’s not coming. Because most of us are inclined to treat our neighbors . . . not as zombies but as ourselves.

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