What defines a "basic need"?

I heard a story on an NPR podcast the other day about the economic impact the recession has had on the Navajo reservation. Since the story is about my back yard (literally, the reservation border is *right over there*) I took special notice.

The reporter began by describing normal conditions. "On the reservation many people don't have running water," she began, "indoor toilets, some don't have electricity, cell phone service is spotty at best, non-existent in some areas. The Navajo people have lived without these basic needs, even in good times..."

Wait, whoa, hold on, back up. Cell phone service is now considered a "basic need" along with electricity and water? When did that happen?

The story went on to describe how many people have reverted to the barter system to meet their needs and they're doing pretty good and yadda yadda yadda. It was really kind of a puff piece that didn't present any real information. But that one line totally threw me off.

From a global perspective, many people are "worse" off than the Navajo people. Some don't have access to clean water at all, some still live very "primitive" lives in mud houses. Obviously, the writer of the NPR story was writing from an American-centric point of view.

Now, that being said, the Navajo reservation is "in" America (actually, it's a sovereign nation that is surrounded by American soil) and it's hard to think of anyplace "in" America where there is no plumbing and no electricity. But should cell phone service really be considered a basic need? Have we become so techno-dependent that we've come to think of cell-phone coverage as a basic need along with water?

I don't have a cell phone. I haven't had one since I was working. Even then, I had one of those "pay as you go" plans and very rarely talked on it. I only needed it to be reachable by my employees. I did not, and still don't, consider a cell phone a necessity. I barely consider my land-line a necessity.

I guess my point is that here in the United States, some people have developed a very skewed view of what they need to "get by". In these hard economic times, we all need to step back and look at what truly is a necessity and what is a luxury. And what about your neighbor? Is your neighbor doing without groceries while you are writing the check for your "basic need" of cable television? Is that guy across the street suffering without an important medication while you are driving around in your "basic need" of a Lexus?

What are your basic needs?