Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Greed

Greed is funny stuff. Not funny ha-ha, funny weird.

It is difficult to argue that greed is good, particularly now with our national economy in teeny little pieces.

Greed is what caused banks to give out mortgages like Halloween candy and what caused people to take them. Greed is what caused banks and institutions to buy, swap and trade really complex financial products that eventually just became a house of cards that seems, in the past two or three months, to have come tumbling down around us.

Greed is what caused people to refinance, consolidate their debt and keep spending.

Greed is what caused companies to cut jobs and increase dividends. Greed is what shipped manufacturing jobs overseas - people there do not get health insurance. People there do not get coffee breaks or 8-hour days or weekends. People over there get $20 a week to stitch our sneakers and sweatpants.

But where is greed based? From whence doth it come?

I think greed is tied (again, I know) to insecurity. Somehow, some people want more than their neighbors. They want to have the biggest house, the shiniest car, the sexiest mistress. They want to have the most money.

Why do we want to be better than our peers? Well, that comes I think from some innate thing that makes us feel less than our peers. We are insecure.

Bullies are insecure, so they make themselves feel bigger by making other people feel smaller. Once it is no longer socially acceptable to beat up the kid with glasses and take his lunch money, the bullies find smoother, more suave ways to fleece people of their cash. They set up shady financial deals, schemes that only Nobel-winning economists can understand and they take our money that way instead. The greedy find a way to get their share and ours, too.

And why? What is it that drives us so? What is it that makes us insecure like this and what makes some people respond with bullying, or greed or whatever. It is almost a pathetic caricature, really, like Dickens' Scrooge cloistered away with his money, never happy unless he has more and more and more. Never happy unless he is wringing every last farthing's worth of light from the oil, heat from the coal, work from the help. I said earlier in this series of essays that I thought waste was bad and sinful, but I think so is avarice, or being miserly or stingy.

Having things just to have serves no purpose. I cannot see the good in that. Things are made to be used. Even art that hangs on a wall is meant to move and inspire people. It is not passive. To own things just to show off is wrong and wasteful. On the other side of that coin is hoarding of resources, which is equally sinful in my mind as wasting them.

If a man has a million dollars in the bank, his house is paid for, his life is comfortable and everything in his world is good, good for him. However, if his neighbors are hungry or in need and he refuses to use his wealth to help them, that is very bad indeed. I understand protecting one's investments and not spending the capital, but one should help where it is needed if you are able. It only makes sense. It is the right thing to do.

Greed gets in the way of good, I guess, and that is what bothers me the most. By its nature it is selfish and self-centered. Me first, to hell with the rest of the world.

I have been working these past few years to not do that stuff. I have been trying to put service first and self second. There are some things that I need to be very self-first about. My sobriety and recovery, for instance. But part of my recovery work is service to others and to my community. Greed cannot be a part of that and still allow me to grow.

NaBloPoMo is nearly over. There are three more days. I have one virtue left to explore, one sin, and one other topic I have reserved for Friday. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving day. The pies are cooked, the turkey is waiting in cold storage and the dining room and living room both need to be cleaned before we put on the show at lunchtime. And I have to get up at the ass-crack of Thursday to wrestle with a cold, wet, naked turkey. Oh joy. Happy Thanksgiving everyone (all six of you). I will post probably late tomorrow, laden with triptophan or whatever that stuff is in turkey that makes us stupid. Should be a fun post.

3 comments:

laughingatchaos said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you too! :) Hope you have a great day, full of food, friends, and fun.

MRMacrum said...

Greed - I think everyone has it to some degree, in small ways and about some things. In small doses it is tolerable. When it manifests itself as you write about it can be one of the worst flaws a person can have. Infecting all aspects of their lives and often leaving them alone and without anything but that what they were greedy for. It dsovetails nicely with so many of the other "sins", like it was at the core of the others.

Happy Turkey Day. Stay sane and keep the leftovers handy.

Bull said...

I think greed and envy make a lovely couple. They fuel each other and the United States of Consumption so nicely.

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you pinned the turkey and not vise-versa.