When I was in 3rd grade, I vividly remember learning about the difference between wants and needs. We talked about it in class, and then my teacher gave everyone a worksheet with items such as food, shelter, television’s, toys, and other simple items on the worksheet. We were told to write “want” or “need” next to each picture. I finished my worksheet quickly, and decided to take a peek at the worksheet belonging to the kid sitting next to me. I saw that he had written “need” next to television. Without thinking, I yelled out loud “A television isn’t a need!”. My teacher proceeded to tell me that this was a quiz and now I received an F for looking at the other kids paper and announcing that to the class. I was outraged that I got an F and the kid next to me would get a better grade than me, even though he thought that a television was a need.
“False” are those which are superimposed upon the individual by particular social interests in his repression: the needs which perpetuate toil, aggressiveness, misery, and injustice. Their satisfaction might be most gratifying to the individual, but this happiness is not a condition which has to be maintained and protected if it serves to arrest the development of the ability (his own and others) to recognize the disease of the whole and grasp the chances of curing the disease. The result then is euphoria in unhappiness. Most of the prevailing needs to relax, to have fun, to behave and consume in accordance with the advertisements, to love and hate what others love and hate, belong to this category of false needs” (Marcuse).
As I look at it now, the kid sitting next to me was identifying a false need. The idea that the television would be thought of as a “need” for a child because it brings satisfaction and enjoyment, or “have fun”. This is the idea that I believe Marcuse was trying to get at. We become so accustomed to our lifestyle, that there becomes a thin line between what our needs are compared to our false needs. We do not need to be happy, yet we have a false need to be happy.
Marcuse, “The New Forms of Control”.