Greed is an inordinate or insatiable longing for unneeded excess, especially for excess wealth, status, power, or food. It is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs. (Wikipedia)
From a moral standpoint, the word “greed” is usually the subject of reprove and is considered a sin. Jesus warned his followers to “take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:15, KJV)
As a result of this, a man who is fed up with his small bungalow house and desires to build a bigger and more beautiful duplex is considered by some extremists to be greedy.
A company that grows large enough to acquire or merge with it’s competitor may be considered by moralists to be greedy.
I can go on and on with many ridiculous examples of misinterpretation or misapplication of the word “greed”.
No doubt, from the definition above, you will be right to justify greed as evil.
I will agree with you if you define greed as an “insatiable longing for unneeded excess”; but where I will beg to defer is when you classify “ambition” – especially when it is directed at a greater good for oneself – as greed.
Given that Ambition is “an eager or inordinate desire for some object that confers distinction or fame”, the two are almost synonymous to one another though the difference is clear.
If according to most people’s definition of the evil side of greed, Ambition counts as greed, then pretty much every one of us is greedy.
I know it’s bitter and sarcastic but that’s the hard truth!
I am not denying the fact that greed (the bad side of it) is the foundation of the many vices we see today. Vices such as envy, lust, gambling, scavenging, theft, robbery, trickery and some negative emotional states such as despair, depression, stress, anxiety and exhaustion have their origins from the human insatiable desire for something beyond their reach.
However, looking at our society today, you will agree with me that in one way or the other, it appreciates and even rewards greed. I think this is because the human nature has a way of using it as the motivation for progress, growth and development.
Without greed or the desire for something beyond our reach, we would still be living in the primitive age.
Economically speaking, every one would be poor. There would be no businesses, no competition, no factories, no Entrepreneurs and no jobs.
Academically, all of us would be illiterates. No research, no books, no University, no degrees, no doctorate and no schools.
Socially, we would all be communists depending on the state to feed us.
Can you imagine such a life without the “greed motivation”?
Nature itself so conditioned the entire Creation so there is competition. That is why we hear about “the survival of the fittest”. Everyone has an intrinsic desire for self preservation.
If you are having difficulty grasping my point, I am going to highlight a number of instances to prove that “we are all motivated by GREED”.
In the Academic Environment
1. The brightest student gets the highest grades and takes the first position in the class and probably receives the Best student awards. Other students aspire to be like him, and are motivated to study hard.
In the end, everyone learns something new and is promoted to the next class….. Greed in perfection (claps)
2. If given the opportunity, every parent would rather send their children to the best private high schools in town where there is quality education.
As a result, they strive to earn more and tend to look down at the poorly funded public schools…. Greed in perfection!
3. After obtaining the Bachelor’s degree, it is every graduate’s desire to “forward his education” to obtain his Masters, Doctorate and possibly Professorship. Why are we not contented with the basic qualification for employment?
It’s because we “desire” the prestige, the higher pay and the sense of self-actualization that comes with these degrees….Greed at work!
In the Work Place
4. Whether in Government or Private Organisations, the Compensation system is designed in levels and grades such that the amount you earn is determined by the amount of work you put in or the result you get.
Because of this incentivized model, no employee is ever satisfied with his level of earnings. Every one seeks and strives for a raise, promotions, work benefits and privileges….Greed in action!
5. Entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to expand, grow and outdo the competition. Every Business needs the largest Market share and the best ranking in the industry and as a result, they recruit only the best and most innovative applicants….. Greed at it’s finest!
In the Personal Life
6. Between an estate or Government Reserved Area (GRA) with the tight security, water, calm, beauty and electricity and a ghetto with all the dirt, poor quality of life and insecurity, where would you rather live?
If you choose GRA, then can you boldly say that those in the ghetto are content with their lifestyle? No! Most of them are probably wishing and dreaming for better days and a few are actually working for a better standard of living. I bet they would do anything to get out of there…. Can you see “greed” in the picture?
7. Every man wants to marry a beautiful wife and no woman is attracted to a pauper. Okay, you want to tell me you are not after physical beauty and money? Fine. At least you want to marry the someone with flawless, compatible character and high morals. You wouldn’t want to settle down with a misfit. Aren’t you rather “greedy”?
8. He who walks on foot, wishes for a bicycle. The bicycle owner longs for a motorcycle. A motorcycle owner with a family of four suddenly realizes his life would be better is he had a car.
A family where both spouses are working needs two cars or even 5 for different occasions. A Business man who travels a lot has need to travel more by air than land…and the list continues.
I could go on and on the expose the various ways in which we exhibit characteristics of greed in almost every aspects of our life.
It is NOT a crime to aspire for MORE of anything in life, be it money, power, fame, knowledge, beauty or morals. Go for whatever appeals to you. In as much as it is going to lead to your personal development, satisfaction and will lead to the benefit of the society at large.
The problem is that we fail to admit that we are all motivated by greed in some way. We not only deny it, we tend to castigate and persecute those who are bold enough to go for their ambitions.
By so doing, we subconsciously validate the “average lifestyle” and indirectly hamper our own progress. That is hypocrisy at it’s best.
If man was not dissatisfied with the primitive lifestyle, how would he have made the many discoveries and inventions in Health, Transportation, Education and Technology that we are enjoying today?
For any progress to take place, you have to be dissatisfied with the status quo. And it is sad that some people in the society are wrong interpreting this dissatisfaction as greed.
This is When Greed Turns Bad
Where Greed becomes bad is when one uses it as a selfish motivation to advance himself at the expense and oppression of other people.
Such is avarice, vanity or what the bible calls “Covetousness”.
For me, Greed + Envy = Covetousness and it is very destructive.
This type of “unhealthy greed” places a high value on materialism and makes people immune to satisfaction. It produces a culture where object of desire is no longer satisfaction, but desire itself.
In this case, the victim is unable to control the reformulation of “wants” once desired “needs” are eliminated. Erich Fromm described such greed as “a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
Although greed is the bedrock of Capitalism, uncontrolled greed can lead to deep economic recession. It results in moral depravity or what the Christians call “sin”.
I am not an advocate for such!
In conclusion, I want to leave you with the words of Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street (1987), where he said:
“Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
P.S: What do you think about this article? Do you agree that we are all motivated by greed?
I really want to hear from you. Please drop your thoughts and questions in the comments below. I will respond to every one of them.
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