From Verdun to Rhymin' Simon

As I was lacing my shoes this morning I thought about Edmund Blackadder. I really loved the first Black Adder series with prince Edmund the utter prat, scheming beyond his ability, and with lots of Shakespeare jokes. Apparently this didn't get the desired ratings and in the following series Blackadder went down in class but up in cunning. I did not like these programmes and watched them only occasionally. But my friend Adrian lent me his copy of Blackadder—The Whole Damn Dynasty and I found to my surprise that the scripts were actually really good and witty but had been destroyed for me by Rowan Atkinson's overacting. In particular "Goodbyeee", the final episode of Blackadder goes forth, is a poignant and really rather sad piece on the senselessness of war, but while I did see the episode, I didn't notice its message until I could read the words. Blackadder has realised that an offensive is in the works and does his best to get out of the army, but to no avail. In the end, they all go over the top and only poppies remain…

Now Blackadder is a thorough cad with few scruples and yet he does not desert. Why would he voluntarily go into certain death? It has been pointed out that soldiers do not in general fight for freedom, home country or other lofty ideals, but simply and concretely for the other guys in the platoon. You Do Not Drop Your Mates In The Cacky. So, peer pressure is more important than life for most people.

Abraham Maslow is one of those authors everybody quotes but very few actually have read. Reading Motivation and Personality it is clear that he is considerably more nuanced than he is usually given credit for, and while he certainly discusses belonging as a motivating force, I think he has not realised its full strength. Indeed he sees as a property of the most self-actualised persons that they do not need the approval of others. (I was going to mention the Nietzschean overtones of this, but as I have not actually read Nietzsche, I should be careful.) But again, to most of us, belonging is important, sometimes I think perhaps the most important human motivation. Soldiers ignore their safety needs in order to belong. Some explanations of anorexia nervosa claim that the victims are ignoring their physiological needs for food in order to belong. Yes, of course we would jump off bridges if everyone else was doing it, because we want to belong.

Some people never say the words
"I love you"
But like a child
They're longing to be told
Paul Simon


Anonymous said...

So you are watching the telly, although having none!
I'm impressed!
Ewa L

kai said...

Geez, Black Adder was twenty years ago, I was still living with my parents then :-)