The Bible classifies the seven deadly sins – greed, envy, sloth, wrath, gluttony, pride and lust – as the characteristics of people which will lead to unhappiness. Of all the vices that humans possess, greed could be said to be the most disturbing. A pernicious evil that pervades our lives in both conscious and unconscious ways, will it help to overcome this vice if we each ask ourselves everyday – What are the things that really matter to me in life?
The Ugly Monster Called Greed
“Greed is not a trend, greed is greed; it existed as long as there have been human beings I suppose.” -Joseph Akrotirianakis.
The society that we live in today is being gripped by one of the strongest delinquencies, which is an integral component of human nature – greed. We have spent our fair share of time pondering on the consequences, and the evil results confronting us in our daily lives, when we should be dwelling on the very nature of what causes all these tribulations in our society. It is therefore imperative for us to ask ourselves now, the reason for anything wrong done by us, however minimal. It will trace back to just one and the only viable reason which is GREED.
A deeper understanding of greed can help us to see that it is not only material goods that we desire for, but also the security and independence that wealth can bring. Wealth is not a bad thing, in and of itself. It can help us meet our needs as well as provide luxuries which can make life a lot better. However, greed is an excessive love or desire for money or any other possession. Greed happens when people pursue their own agenda at the expense of others leading to selfish or spiteful behaviour. It could also serve as the gateway to moral bankruptcy and the trigger for devastation. What drives our thirst for more, what is its impact on our personal sense of peace and the state of the world, and is it a behaviour that can ever be unlearned?
Everybody sings corruption, dishonesty, fraud and all other sorts of vices. Ask the high and the low and they will pour out their disgust for it. Many intelligent and well placed citizens have suggested measures and have also created institutions to combat and eliminate social and political ills within our society. Unfortunately, all kinds of corruption and anti-human manifestations sit on top of all the labour put in so far. No matter how rich you are, you can always imagine being infinitely richer, and the greater your imagination exceeds, the more corrupt you are likely to get. It seems that shame itself has vanished from our civilization, and nobody seems responsible for anything anymore.
Misdeed or transgression seldom strides into our lives announcing its hostile intentions; rather it prefers stealth, camouflage, or even better, to appear friendly. As rightly pointed out by Thomas Aquinas, when we do evil we always tend to act “under the aspect of good”. It typically cloaks itself in rationalization that mitigates or hides our wrong doing from ourselves. We need to have a good grasp on the actual nature of evil and vices. It is necessarily related to standards, and varies from individual to individual, organization to organization and institution to institution. There is always a benchmark in all human activities largely expressed in norms, codes, rules, regulations and laws governing all endeavours, and hence if we are to delineate wrong, misconduct or corruption in a given society, it is a reduction or fall in the standard application, implementation or execution of any or all of these. Many of us are certainly not wise enough to realize this and our inability to realize and locate all misdemeanour at all levels is ignorance.
Likewise, in the political arena as well, political corruption cannot take place without the knowledge of the state administrators and the people. However, the silence only widens and deepens the inequalities and undermines good governance. It creates a culture of corruption that diverts public resources from social services and productive investment to personal wealth. This is not only immoral but it also provides an atmosphere ripe for political corruption. It becomes extremely difficult, therefore, to know who are the major exponents and engineers of corrupt practices. When a man of means misappropriates resources he is entrusted with, there is no doubt that he is under the spell of an agent of corruption known as GREED. It is certainly insatiable and is not really an obvious trend; rather it is more of a psychological propensity. Such individuals will go on to seek more, take advantage of the poor and ignorant mass, encroaching into the little available to them and appropriating it. They will continue to accumulate things they barely need for the sake of amassing wealth.
In our society today, greed has become a principal evil, operating in the lives of the low and the high, dwelling in the religious and secular, in the traditional and the modern, strengthening itself day after day. Many of the times, it is so subtle that even the victims hardly comprehend they are under its pressure. This is one major reason the battle against corruption has been elusive.
It is true that we have very little control over the choices being made by the self-serving individuals or institutions, but are we in control of our own choices too? As individuals we can choose the higher ground and set an example to others. Some may say that there is no room in the real world for idealism, but the world has never been in greater need of higher ideals and positive people willing to reject greed and take a stand for compassion. The things that really matter, family, love, compassion and harmony, transcend the notion of power and status, it is through them that we can achieve true peace and contentment.
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.