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An Easter message: greed is not good

Written By: - Date published: 9:15 am, April 21st, 2014 - 14 comments
Categories: broadcasting, capitalism, class war, democratic participation, Economy, election 2014, news, poverty, sustainability, workers' rights - Tags:

It’s a slow news day, and I was browsing some overseas newspapers.  I came across this article on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald: “Greed is the market’s forgotten vice” by Ross Gittins.  It’s an op ed review of a book, Beyond greed by Dr Brian Rosner, principal of Ridley Melbourne, an Anglican theological college. I’m not religious, but the concepts are pretty relevant to today’s increasingly secular society: one where the Christian legacy is still visible in our culture/s.

Greed a disease

The article outlines how greed was once considered a major sin, but now is treated as something pretty trivial, or, in the case of the Randians, a major good. Gittins pulls some facts cited in the book:

A survey of regular churchgoers in America found that whereas almost 90 per cent said greed was a sin, fewer than 20 per cent said they were ever taught that wanting a lot of money was wrong, and 80 per cent said they wished they had more money than they did.

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It seems that, by comparison with the past, greed is regarded as a trivial sin. A retired priest has recounted that, in his long years of service, all kinds of sins and concerns were confessed to him in the confessional, but never once the sin of greed.

Rossner argues that greed has become a form of religion, within which  the “economy” has become regarded as sacred.

”Like God, the economy, it is thought, is capable of supplying people’s needs without limit. Also, like God, the economy is mysterious, unknowable and intransigent,” he says. ”It has both great power and, despite the best managerial efforts of its associated clergy, great danger. It is an inexhaustible well of good(s) and is credited with prolonging life, giving health and enriching our lives.

.

”Money, in which we put our faith, and advertising, which we adore, are among its rituals. The economy also has its

In greed we trust

In place of the celebration of greed, Rossner puts in a bid for the alternative as being “contented” – that is, contented with our lot, but not with the way life is for those less well off than ourselves.  Clearly he sees his target audience is the middle classes, or at least the better off working classes.

”To be content is to be satisfied, to enjoy a balance between one’s desires and their fulfilment. To be content is in effect to experience freedom from want,” he says. But note, it’s being content with your own lot, not those of others less fortunate than you.

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And the other side of the contentment coin is giving. Rosner says that if Charles Dickens’ Scrooge epitomises greed, giving is epitomised by Victorian jam maker Sir William Hartley. Hartley regularly and voluntarily increased wages, practised profit-sharing and supplied low-cost, high-quality housing to some of his employees and free medical attention to all of them.

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He was also concerned for his suppliers, and would amend contracts in their favour if a change in the price of fruit and economic circumstances conspired against their making a decent living.

These are admirable sentiments, but provide a counter to greed in the form of individual responses and Victorian era charity. A further point where I part company with the views of Rossner (as explained by Gitlin, is when he argues that greed underlies three major threats to our civilisation: terrorism, pollution and crime.

I do think that greed underlies major problems in our society, including the threats to the environment.  However, I l did a search to see what else have been said about greed and the state of 21st century western society.

According to a sketchy Wikipedia article, there is a theory that greed, fear and herd instinct are the “three main emotional motivators of stock markets and business behavior”.

Foreclose on banks not people

An article behind a pay wall at Scientific American, “Greed: How Economic Selfishness Harms Us All“, uses a Gordon Gekko quote from the 1980s movie, Wall Street.

 

Greed-Is-NOT-Good-For-The-People!

I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them!

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.

This has been the dominant ethos since the neoliberal or neocon revolution of the 1980s.

I found a part of a 2004 book, not behind a pay wall, that looks like it’s worth a read. It is from the book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives, by Sam Pizzigati. This author is described as a “long-time labor movement journalist”.

This section of the book, on a PDF file, The Cost of Greed is a secular analysis of the religion of greed and its sacred “market”.  Its focus is on inequality as being THE major social threat to our society and democracy.  The section concludes by pointing to evidence that income gaps translate to voting gaps: the decline in the numbers of people voting.  To function democratically society needs public forums that enable public criticism.

And that requires the development or more democratic forms of media, on and offline.  This should be a major election platform. See the Coalition for Better Broadcasting.

 

coalition-for-better-broadcasting-logo-300x140

14 comments on “An Easter message: greed is not good”

  1. Chooky 1

    +100 Karol …great post!…

    • blue leopard 1.1

      Yes +1 to that Chooky,

      Great post Karol – really pivotal information if we wish to improve our world, our society and lives. Pretty revolting that our current economic system is based on greed worship.

      Can’t go past Mahatma Ghandi’s message ‘The world has enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

      Great timing for the post too (Easter and all).

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    And that requires the development or more democratic forms of media, on and offline.

    And don’t forget a more democratic form of discussion and voting.

    Loomio

  3. Clemgeopin 3

    “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
    —Timothy 6:10

    “Inflamed by greed, incensed by hate, confused by delusion, overcome by them, obsessed by mind, a man chooses for his own affliction, for others’ affliction, for the affliction of both and experiences pain and grief”
    —Buddha

  4. greywarbler 4

    I followed up a story from 2008 through Google. I think this shows how you may not like what you get when you wish for money. Alan Dyer rushed the police with a knife in Brisbane and was shot in the stomach and died. He was living in Brisbane with a woman called Chantal and her daughter Crystal and boyfriend. He had been a millionaire but lost most of it six years previously and had received treatment for depression. He originally had been a furniture salesman and was involved in the early days of promoting the drug company Herbalife which he had made good money from.

    It wasn’t enough to give him a happy, stable life. A life where people go after money, and good assets, devoting themselves to having things is a greedy self-centred life. If someone is greedy for love, for attention, for owning someone really, that is not a good life either.

    And people particularly through some USA churches and then through their evangelising, spreading enrolments in other countries, are being sold a ‘prosperity’ message. It’s one that goes right against the edict that a rich man will find it harder to get into heaven than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Of course that is a saying suitable for the Middle East, so just replace the camel with a picture of a cow.

    The churches preach that if you find favour with God you will be blessed with good things, particularly money. They hold classes in money management, not unwise, but it shifts the emphasis from trying to live well with a morality that brings self respect and respect for others and following the rules set by Jesus and his later church. It really is similar to the selling of Amway products, and other public mass marketing products. Their method is that you bring someone into the organisation, they get signed up and start paying for product to onsell, you get a finder’s fee, and continue to look for others and at the same time sell the product and everyone should benefit. But you never know if people are really friendly for yourself, or because they are hustling you to get returns for adding someone to the commercial fold. These churches are selling a product too, it may be a good product but people get enmeshed in it and its ethos.

    • Rogue Trooper 4.1

      not one of the four canon gospels for ‘spiritual’ success.
      I visited such a church recently, where in, the congregation were persuasively asked four times across two services for money; eftpos machine at the rear of the hall, IOU’s asked for.

      • Mike S 4.1.1

        A quote I read or heard recently comes to mind. Something along the lines of that the bible says if you even just think about committing adultery it is the same as actually doing it and is a sin. So if you just think about putting money in the collection plate……..

  5. Red Rosa 5

    Great post, Karol.

    And as somebody famous once said, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    A quote noticeably absent from the usual christian rantings…;)

  6. Ad 6

    Which New Zealand politician said “Socialism was Christianity in action”?

    Current Pope would be fine with that. Canonisation of martyred Archbishop Romero will be next. Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith now run by an avowed Liberation Theology sympathiser … And Ratzinger gets to see his life’s work undone before his eyes.

    BTW Jesus came from the equivalent of Kawerau. He would have made Occupy work.

  7. Mike S 8

    Nice post Karol.

    Nothing will change while we live under an economic and monetary system that rewards activities which are detrimental to society and humankind such as greed, war, speculation, etc, with massive profits. If the system facilitates greed then greed will thrive.

    Beneficial activities such as social responsibility, sustainability, saving lives, peace, etc, don’t return much profit. It’s as though the system is completely backwards and is designed that way. Regardless, it is defective and is only going to get worse until it collapses big time, which it definitely will do.

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