I got this message for the second time in a few weeks today and it drives me nuts. It’s supposedly from Jay Leno and it’s all about how ungrateful Americans are. I’m not going to say that Americans aren’t ungrateful and spoiled, because there’s some truth there, but I have two problems with this e-mail.

First, it wasn’t written by Jay Leno, so I guess I’ll have to go back to not liking him because he’s not funny. (For the sake of ease, I’m still gonna blame Leno for this for the duration of this e-mail)

Second, it is a very selfish point of view, and also very simplistic. Leno’s basic point is this; In America we have an embarrassment of riches. We have homes, food, jobs, firemen, and police. What are we whining about?

We do have all of these things, I know I do personally, but is that all there is in life? Should I not be concerned about larger social issues like the environment or civil rights, or the war, or any of the other issues out there that deserve demand our attention.

When I was in high school I learned about Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of need. The basics are that humans have basic, fundamental needs that all humans seek out in order to feel fulfilled as people. It begins with physiological needs, like food and hunger. Until we have access to food and water we can’t spend time thinking about what’s on the next step of the pyramid. Which is safety and security; a place to live, and protection. Until you have food and water, and feel safe you can’t spend time thinking about the next step. Which is a sense of belonging and love, and the next step above that is self-esteem and recognition, followed by the top of the pyramid, self-actualization.

Jay Leno thinks all of our needs are met by the bottom two, most basic needs. We have those needs met, so personally we can go about the business of finding love and friendship, recognition in our work, and self-actualization. In society, it means we can focus on other things.

If we stopped striving to make the world better once each of us had food and shelter what a horrible world this would be. I’d prefer to work my way up the pyramid to try and achieve more in this life than four walls and a sandwich. And I’d prefer it if we, as a society demanded more of ourselves and each other. It’s just not enough to have grocery stores, fast food, homes, and police.

We have the luxury of being able to focus on the other issues in the world, and quite frankly, we have the responsibility.

P.S. The only part of that Jay Leno wrote was the last line. As part of his monologue. And it wasn’t even a funny joke. Peter Griffin was right.

"If you find Jay Leno funny, there’s a good chance I don’t care for you as a human being."

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