An online dictionary defines greed as an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth. Greed is the self-serving desire for the pursuit of money, wealth, power, food, status, attention, or anything that can be coveted, especially when it denies the same to others. Greed is generally considered a vice. It is one of the seven deadly sins in Catholicism.
Greed is a form of idolatry according to the book of Colossians 3:5 in the Christian bible. A greedy person values money or material possessions more than their spirituality. Another understanding is that greed serves to bring as many things to the greedy person, making him, or her, the center of the world, the one who deserves to be pleased, converting him into his own god and creating pride with a great deal of focus on the development of the ego. So if this is an acceptable definition of greed, when is greed a good thing?
Greed can lead to the dissolving of a community. People who would be working together for everyone’s benefit will start working against each other once greed takes root. And greed can spread like a wildfire through a community. It has become so natural for people in this culture to only help each other for personal profit that we fear anything that we recognize as being socially conscience. Socialism has become the antithesis of the American life. America is built on a solid foundation of greed and a love of money.
In the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko, brilliantly played by Michael Douglas, stood before the crowd at the Teldar stockholders meeting and told everyone that greed is right and greed is good, but good for who is the question. As Mr. Gekko made his millions acquiring and then destroying companies by dismantling them into smaller, more profitable units, everyone who worked at those companies stood to loose. People lost their livelihood, their savings, everything that they worked for to make those companies great, in order to feed one man’s greed. How is that a good thing?
The only time greed is good is when you’re the greedy one that causes everyone else to suffer. Greed works for the billionaire at the bank that got federal money to help the economy. But instead of helping put something back into the economy some of these captains of these industries that have run aground are using that cash to give retention payments that look remarkably like bonuses to a few while the rest of the economy seizes from the lack of flowing capital. But greed is supposed to be so good and so right! Good for whom is the rhetorical question.
We have all seen the affects of greed on the American way of life. The list of companies and individuals who gave into their greed at the expense (pun intended) of their social responsibility is long and grows longer every day. People like Bernie Madoff and Robert Allen Stanford are only the latest in a long list of men who thought there greed was good and right. Millions of people around the world will have a different opinion, I’m sure. What makes their greed so good and so right?
In a socially conscious environment there is no reason for greed. People want to make the claim that the drive for more is a good thing that increases productivity for people. But all it has done is divide us into a society of the people who have and the people who don’t have squat. America has become the land of jaw dropping disparity with some of the richest people in the world and some of the poorest. We’ve been sold a bum bill of goods intended to give us the impression that our lives are only happy if we have many times more items than we could ever use let alone need. And everyday that passes we need to go to jobs that we may not like so we can get more and more and more.
The movie American Beauty portrayed what could be the anti Gordon Gekko, Lester Burnham, well played my Kevin Spacey. Mr. Burnham woke to the realization that consumption for the sake of consumption and earning money for the sake of earning money was not the key to happiness. He got a job at a fast food joint flipping burgers and made the choice to live his life simply with the occasional toke on a joint rolled with herb developed by the military. While Mr. Gekko is rolling around in a limousine trying to find somebody to screw for his next multi million dollar payoff, Mr. Burnham is happy to drive his second generation Pontiac Firebird and flip burgers.
Neither man is perfect. But I understand my life more closely resembles Mr. Burnham that it does Mr. Gekko. I just don’t have it in me to screw people so I can have more money than I could ever spend. If given a choice I’d rather flip burgers, drive a fast car, and smoke joints. It might not sound productive and the type of thing that generates money for money’s sake.
Greed is never good. It is never a good thing to screw somebody over to get more wealth and status. Because every time somebody is able to feed their need to be greedy, somebody else looses. And unless you have the killer instincts of a Gordon Gekko or a Bernie Madoff or one of those alleged Nigerians who wants to give you millions of dollars if you would only help them get their billions out of the country by handing over your bank information, chances are you’re just one of the many being screwed to feed somebody else’s greed.