The End of Greed
I recently came across an essay by Andrew Greely entitled, "America's Disease is Greed." The essay chronicles what you and I already know: that we are living in an Age of Greed. In our society, the pursuit of wealth seems to trump most other values. That is why fossil fuel sales continue during a year of such record heat that even the CEO of Exxon Mobil has admitted the reality of global warming.
You don't have to look far to find evidence that this is an Age of Greed. Our society can justify virtually anything on the basis of profitability, including war, exploitation of the workforce, endangering public health, and destroying entire ecosystems. And it's important to note that most of us are contributing to this trend through our patterns of consumption, our career choices, and perhaps most importantly, our willingness to chase the dangling carrot-on-a-stick.
One thing we can safely say about this Age of Greed is that it will be coming to an end very soon. Even if we do nothing, the gears will grind to a halt inevitably. The reason is that the machinery itself is unsustainable. Climate change means crop failures and food shortages. Forestry, fishery, and other industries dependent on natural resources will vanish overnight as those resources become scarce. Financial markets built on elaborate forms of gambling are destined to collapse.
When the Age of Greed screeches to a halt, what will take its place? The answer to this question is entirely up to us. Now is the time to envision and put in place new social and economic models that are based on something more fulfilling and sustainable than greed, such as resourcefulness and cooperation. Whereas greed is insatiable, the spirit of selfless service is infinitely satisfying. Perhaps the next era in human history will be an Age of Loving Kindness, as predicted in Buddhist teachings. Instead of dollars and cents, the currency of the new age might just be love and joy.
9/13/2012 02:11:38 am
Thought provoking post, Victor! What's daunting to me when I try to grasp greed on a scale of global control, is that it's the most greedy who have control of the resources. The rest of us consume and use, true, but it's very difficult to extricate oneself from the web of consumer goods and transit and economy and so on on which we depend. I think a great many folk, the majority, maybe, have a capacity for empathy with "others" (including animals and plants and ecosystems and so on), and yet we're also limited by a perception of "nature" as a thing over there, to exploit, have a vacation in, whatever, instead of grasping that we coexist with everything, and aren't separate, even if we feel we are. On NPR the other day I heard a climate expert describe the melting polar ice having an effect on the "local ecosystem", as if it's only a cordoned off area of polar bears, walruses & seals, and little else. Meanwhile, he mentioned areas of economic opportunity (not sure those were his exact words) opening up because of ice melt, e.g. cruise ships having access to previously inaccessible areas, and so on. He did mention effects of global warming affecting "us", but again in a local way, or in an economic way, but not taking into account the devastation of extinction. It's like the grief is highjacked before the loss happens. Certainly oil companies see global warming this way. Taking "how does disaster affect me" a step further to "how can I exploit disaster" or even "how can I cause disaster, which I'm obviously benefitting from, so I can get more?". It's not simply trying to accumulate everything for ones own benefit, it's capitalizing on every one else's (including all beings) suffering, by minimizing climate change & beating on war drums. The pessimist in me sees this trend continuing for awhile, not necessarily improving in our life time. I suppose at some time it has to get so bad the top greedsters even have are hard time having fun, eating pie and golfing on a wasted planet, but not sure when that happens. I think for us, the "99 percent", we need to come to terms with the global catastrophe that is happening right now. Not the apocalypse to come, but the one we're in right now. I understand the "act locally" sentiment, but our thinking, from an ecological standpoint, must take in the whole globe. So the question is, what is acting globally? Maybe understanding is the first, essential part, especially in the meditative sense, and opening up to truth that gives voice to suffering.
9/16/2012 02:31:40 am
Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Nancy. There is much to digest there. If climate change were the only environmental issue to contend with, that would be challenging enough. But there is so much more. For example, we recently saw an excellent documentary called "Bag It" that shows how plastics are turning enormous expanses of ocean into a garbage dump. The movie pointed out that in some areas, the density of plastic debris is 30 times that of plankton, meaning that there is no way for fish and marine mammals to avoid ingesting it.
9/24/2012 08:12:02 am
Such great conversation! You talk about "envision[ing] and put[ting] in place new social and economic models that are based on something more fulfilling and sustainable than greed..." how though is it possible in as close to a true Market Economy as their is on the globe to break our "another dollar another day" mentality down and build a hybrid economy based on principles that currently hold no monetary value? If those principles did hold value, over-fishing, pollution, deforestation, etc. would not be a problem, and natural resources would be in excess. I truly hope that one day society does understand the need, or even the concept of resource sustainability, but with most more concerned with making money than finding personal fulfillment, it's difficult to find global change happening in the foreseeable future.
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