Truckers vs. Convoy-ers and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

It’s now been almost two weeks since the “Freedom Convoy” truckers and allies rolled into downtown Ottawa and started honking their horns, ostensibly to protest vaccine mandates. As Canadians know, many protesters left the area after that first weekend, but some are still there and still making noise. Well, not just noise, but according to the news, also mischief and property damage and threats and hate crimes.

After reading some upsetting Twitter threads, I have restricted myself to the basic news only. I dislike this whole story so much that I’ve been avoiding writing about it or even commenting. Besides the fact that there are plenty of voices already chiming in about this (so that mine is likely superfluous), there’s also the fact that I didn’t want to spend time thinking about it. Because ugh.

But now the rally has become an entrenched occupation of the capital, making international news. And I’ve started asking questions that are helping me to think differently. I need that, because the mess is now worse, with copycat protests happening in other places, and reports of more ugly behaviour every day.

Before I address that, I need to say something.

To the truckers not involved in the protest: THANK YOU. Not just for staying out of this, but for doing your job. Trucking is a career I know I could not do well. It’s a tough line of work, but it must be especially so during the pandemic, when protocols and restrictions and bureaucracy etc. make it that much more isolating and frustrating. You have kept on trucking through all the Covid chaos, and your grit has benefited us all.

And now here is a small fraction of people (many of whom have nothing to do with the trucking industry) causing many Canadians to shudder when they hear the word “truckers.” It sucks to be in a job where a few bad apples give the group a bad name (I know, being in one myself). Just know that I appreciate you and am very aware of how much we depend on you. Our lives would grind to a halt without you. So again, thank you.

Also, to Ottawa residents affected by the convoy: I’m so very sorry. It is utterly unfair that you are dealing with this, on top of everything. I am thinking of you, especially those of you fearing for your safety. I hope that your sanity and health are still intact.

Now for some questions.

The first question I asked of myself was, Why am I so upset about the convoy? I don’t live in Ottawa. I can’t solve this. Is it really my problem? But every time I would read something new, my mind would rant. This is ridiculous. This is unbelievable. This is not how adults get things done. I wanted to give those protesters a stern talking-to.

{And here it is. Once I got going, I couldn’t not write this. Skip if you wish.}

  • This is not a “peaceful protest”. Loud noise leading to sleep deprivation is LITERALLY A FORM OF TORTURE. When police judge the threat of violence too great to even engage… When health care workers and soup kitchen volunteers and people of colour and LGBTQ2S+ folks and children don’t want to leave their homes because they are being verbally abused and feel unsafe… That’s violence. ANY gathering that involves Confederate flags and swastikas is an attack and an abomination. Peaceful, my ass. I hate false advertising.
  • The behaviour displayed is not justifiable. Weren’t you trying to make a point? Something about freedom? Your point gets lost when it’s associated with partying on war memorials and actual human shit everywhere. And what kind of evil douchebag messes with Terry Fox?? The point you’re making is that you feel free to act like assholes.
  • You are hitting the wrong people. Loss of money for the city and the nearby businesses, school closures, gridlock, large amounts of pollution that the locals have no choice but to breathe… How does this get you closer to what you want? The people suffering are just regular people trying to live life – after also living through two years of pandemic. Where do you get off putting them through extra hell?
  • If you are saying “I’m not part of that bad stuff, I’m here to protest,” you are fooling yourself. You cannot distance yourself from the hard-core obnoxiousness. If you are there, swelling the numbers, you are not just condoning but supporting the whole thing, including the worst aspects. Likewise, if you are not there but you say you support the “truckers” or the “convoy”, you are saying to the general public that this extreme and disgusting behaviour is acceptable. Did you mean to say that?
  • Was this really your best plan? Block roads with trucks, honk loud. Let supporters run amok. Then blame your choices on the government? It’s so… childish. Did your kids plan this? (I hear a lot of you brought them with you; heck, maybe they did plan it.)
  • Do you really believe these tactics will work? It seems that you do. Which would make me laugh if it weren’t so gross. It’s like that kid at school who persists in making noises, or saying the same thing over and over, or getting right up in other kids’ faces. Those kids haven’t yet learned effective ways of communicating. They want to be heard, but as all teachers (and parents, and animal trainers) know, you can’t reward inappropriate behaviour. You have to sit down and work through it. And typical advice to the classmates of those kids is, “Don’t engage. Don’t let them provoke you. Ignore them.” Which may or may not be the best solution, but does seem to be the tack that Trudeau is taking. Your strategies are not working for you.
Wait, hold on.

This was the point where I suddenly switched gears in my thinking, seeing the trend my mental rant was taking. The feeling I kept having, looking at convoy-ers’ behaviours, was that these people are stunningly immature. I have learned so very much from my young (naturally immature) students over the years. It would be a waste not to use that learning.

Thinking about various students I have known, I was reminded of a conversation from teachers’ college during an Educational Psychology class. We had been discussing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and how when kids misbehave, it has to do with needs that are not being met. They are missing something they need, and when it’s something fundamental, then of course they can’t develop cognitively or socially.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs - Wikipedia

There is a very small child at my school right now who has a really rough time. You can regularly hear him screaming obscenities at his incredibly patient EA. He uses words his classmates probably never heard before this year. And then sometimes, you can hear him laughing and playing like any other kid. It’s both chilling and heartbreaking.

We don’t call that kid a jerk. He’s very difficult to teach, but he’s just little. He is so young that whenever I hear him, it sounds like an adult possessing him, yelling through his tiny shrill voice. He learned this language, and this tone, so he uses them. There are deep, tragic reasons for this behaviour.

My teaching experience has borne out this theory over and over. The children with the most difficult behaviours have been dealing with things children shouldn’t have to deal with. If a child doesn’t feel safe or loved at home, nothing else is going to fall into place easily. Not the self-esteem needed to be generous with empathy, nor the cognitive abilities needed to engage in critical reasoning.

It’s harder to excuse similar aggressive and/or abusive behaviour from grown-ass adults. It really, really feels like they should know better. But presumably, when children with unmet needs grow up, they can still be lacking those developmental pieces.

Combine these deficits with social media’s unrivalled ability to foment anger and validate all opinions, and you have… this. The Freedom Convoy Shit-Show. A scenario that makes a bit more sense in this context of needs, but no less problematic.

So how did this happen? Why are people so angry and full of vitriol? What needs haven’t been met?

I have been wondering this for several years – particularly since Trump was elected. He encouraged people to speak their hate – but I don’t believe he caused it.

Where does the anger come from? It’s a question I obviously can’t answer with any certainty. Nor can anyone, probably. But I have ideas. Mostly in the form of more questions. And that answering that question may be linked to figuring out how to turn around trends based on bitterness and hatred.

Okay. This is a pretty long post as it is, so my also-long string of ideas and questions will have to be for the next post. In the meantime, I am pondering.

What did those convoy protesters need that they didn’t get?

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2 thoughts on “Truckers vs. Convoy-ers and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

  1. Beverly Shepard says:

    You’ve said practically everything I’ve been thinking about this disgusting situation — especially the thanks to the truckers who are NOT a part of this and even more especially those who have publicly renounced it.

    No one is forcing truckers to get vaccinated. It’s just that if they exercise the freedom not to protect themselves, they forfeit the freedom to do anything they want to when other people’s health and safety would be put at risk by their actions. It’s the same kind of restriction as driver’s licenses, and legal drinking age (and the combined non-freedom of its being illegal to drink and drive), and all sorts of other freedom-restricting laws we must conform to in order to keep our society safe and functioning.

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