The animal gorges himself because he does not know when he may find food again; this uncertainty is the origin of greed.
– Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage
The desire to possess more than what is required, by any means, is the definition of avarice or greed.
Gamblers addiction is blamed on their greed. A few initial “lucky” wins at a slot machine can easily turn a first timer into a compulsive gambler. The constant feeling of “maybe the next coin slot will turn me into a millionaire” can ruin people faster than any drug.
Money, and hence capitalism, is one of the foundations of greed in our society and is deep rooted within us, but is this harmful?
It is never enough. The average human appetite for materialistic pleasures is boundless, which gives us the fear of losing everything much more stressful than anything. Not just that, but our fear of our mortality fuels our greed.
Is there anything good about greed?
Even an average cricket player must be greedy about spending his time in practices, even if that means he has to sacrifice everything else. However, it does not make him a good family person. Determination to reach the top comes from the greed of being the very best, and this virtue has powered mankind’s transformations through history.
Greed, although an imperfect force, it is the only consistent source for human motivation. It is greed that our society acknowledges and rewards, and that supplies a majority of our goods. Modern political systems that try to crush this system have mostly failed.
However, there are exceptions. The discovery of polio vaccine by Jonas Salk was a life saver for millions. He refused to patent it, so as to make it affordable to the majority. It was estimated that he would have made at least $7 billion and clearly he was not greedy.
The motivation for most researchers and scientists, who spends years and years on their work can be clearly traced to their constant thirst for knowledge. But as Socrates had once implied, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.
But without this constant greed to be better than others, will humanity be able to move forwards? Will society be able to sustain itself?
Maybe the right idea is to focus on ourselves and the people around us, be selfless in our actions. We might want to be as rich and famous as Jeff Bezos, but we also want to be seen as heroes and as likeable people. We may not always be selfless, but at least we should not be greedy.
Food for thought: Consider this example, if you had to take one of two pills, one that gives you the power to end poverty and the other gives you 10 crores in cash , which would you chose? Are you considering your interests and losses?