Sunday, May 07, 2006

Oh G(reed) I praise thy name...!


Long time now, I have been thinking to write about Greed. Why? you may ask. To me greed is one of the most defining characteristics of humans, and most importantly greatly responsible for unhappiness and misery. More often than not, an individual cannot possess all that he wants; yet unable to quest his thirst for what he desires, the greedy will continue on with his futile pursuits.

We see greed manifested in a wide range of human activities and behaviors: from politics to interpersonal relationships, greed is what often drives people to act in a way that others perceive as ‘absurd’. Quite often, though not always, greed is behind selfishness too- the latter is just the expression of greed. Greed and ‘the maximization of profit’? Oh, what a lovely relationship I see there…!

And before I proceed any further, I want to emphasize that I am not against economic productivity: It is just that this relationship can be potentially volatile, particularly if greedy men are in control. Of course, I am not implying that everyone is greedy; yet to mistakenly assume that money is not controlling the lives of many would create a great illusion. In what I consider a must-read book, “El mundo es ancho y ajeno” (The world is broad and alien), Ciro Alegría writes: “El más triste animal pasta soles” which literally translates: “The most unhappy animal of all grazes money”. Today, more than ever, money has acquired supreme importance in our lives, and the more industrialized is the country we live in, the greatest the role it plays.

Regardless of how you value this statement, one thing that strikes to most of us is that money, something that we invented to serve us - a commodity for transactions- has grown quite powerful, impacting the lives of many significantly, whether directly or indirectly. Money is one way of seeing greed: the willingness to accumulate more and more is based on the notion that it can be exchanged for good or services. Greed however can transcend beyond material goods; it can extend for example to power and beyod. For one thing, we need to recognize its might.

I let you with one of my favorite quotes from one of Wole Soyinka’s essays in “Climate of Fear”. Talking about power he comments: “power, as long as you are sufficiently ruthless, amoral and manipulative is within the grasp of even the mentally deficient”(57).

(In the photo a facet of modern Mexico. Aren't we really small?)

3 comments:

Pixie said...

Greed it is such an interesting issue and as you said anastasia it is present not only in the capitalistic society that we live in but it exists in the interpersonal relationships.We are running against time to accumulate as much as we can because we have learned wrongly that the more money we have the more happy we are.
Apart from that, envy and jealousy play a role and we seem instead of loving our neighbour to want to obtain more material things than they do.I think that this also serves society, they keep as happy with things and we forget about our rights and what is important in life.
I often think about this topic and I think that if I had to I would give up all the material things that I have.In the past I am not sure I could but know I think that I have valued what is important in life, friendship,health and love.
If we are stripped of all materials and we still feel lonely then what have we achieved in life?

Elpidia García said...

Esta es una inteligente reflexión Anastasia. Me parece que la avaricia - aunque existe en las relaciones interpersonales como comenta Pixie - en la sociedad capitalista es resultado del sistema de mercado en la economía neoliberal. Está claro que el propósito de los procesos económicos es obtener rendimientos o ganancias a través de la competitividad, y ésta competitividad a veces es feroz y triunfa a través de la explotación de la sociedad trabajadora. Son los capitalistas, los socios mayoritarios de las empresas que participan en estos procesos económicos, los que transforman su afán de competencia en avaricia.
Me encantó la frase de Soyinka. Yo te dejo con esta otra y con una abrazo muy grande:

"¿Qué es la avaricia? Un continuo vivir en la pobreza por temor a ser pobre."

San Bernardo de Claraval (1091-1153) Eclesiástico francés.

Scott Stirling said...

Hmm. 'Greed' is a pejorative and morally judgmental term. If your aim is religious or moralistic rhetoric with the intent of persuasion, OK, that's fair enough. But to investigate to understand what you're calling "greed" here, we might get further by, at least temporarily and for the sake of inquiry, thinking about what lies behind what many people call "greed," realizing, with compassion, that is a universal aspect of human behavior with motivations that probably go deeper than basic notions like evil or sin.

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