The unholy family of the seven deadly sins is usually seen as composed of anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride, and sloth. Four of those are greed’s parents: avarice, envy, gluttony, and lust — with pride and anger serving as aunt and uncle, as first cousin sloth drags himself behind.
An honest self-scrutiny would reveal that all of us, some or much of the time, have had at least a passing acquaintance with all of those sins; seldom does a day pass when most of us do not respond to one or more of them, whether with guilt, pain, pleasure, or shame: C’est la vie.
All or most of those excessive emotions and activities have their origins in our instinct for survival. They connect with essential qualities that can serve or disserve us and our society: Time and circumstance can make some (if not all) who might have spent their lives laboring in the fields into, instead, a Beethoven (who also had an ugly side to him); could, indeed did, make a housepainter into a Hitler (who did not have a good side to him).
Our genes are only the raw material of our lives; what kind of person we become with them depends upon whether the who, where, when and whats of our time and place and situation will bring out the best or the worst in us.
Unfortunately, we live in times and circumstances that discourage the best in us and encourage the worst: Where would capitalism, consumerism, militarism and racism, be, had they not found the ways to feed and to titillate those deadly sins — to make us want always MORE!, for us and ours, no matter what?
Greed signifies wanting whatever is wanted beyond one’s needs, even beyond one’s pleasures. Once on its way, it cannot be satiated: It becomes addictive, irrational, self-destructive.
The advertising industry and its media outlets and their big business paymasters depend upon pushing us to and through the wall of good sense, where greed awaits with open arms and is winning hands down — not only in the USA, but pretty much all over the globe, in large or small degree.
The greed standard we have allowed to be set for ourselves is fully and dangerously represented among our CEO’s, most obscenely in the pharmaceutical industry. Its top nine CEO’s average $19 million a year in pay and between them they own $900 million in unexercised stock options. What does this have to do with greed?
A little arithmetic concerning those numbers reveals their meaning. Suppose each of the CEOs finds ways to spend $1,000 every day, 365 days a year. That would come to a bit more than $1 million every three years. At the end of that three years, assuming they hadn’t invested the remaining $18 million or the incoming other two $19 millions and hadn’t cashed in their options, they would still have $56 million in the bank.
As CEOs of the parmaceutical companies — whose average profits are the highest of all the Fortune 500 industries — they are the ones who succeed in keeping prescription drug prices high and rising in double-digits every year; they who prevent less expensive imports, they who spend who knows how much on their more than 600 lobbyists, they who are at least partially responsible for premature deaths and desperate lives for millions of people.
Why, as they swim in both wealth and power, do they act that way? Because they’re greedy, that’s why — for money, for power, for status, for something irrational and destructive to others and — who cares? — to themselves. Viewed objectively, they and so many others like them in the seats of business and political power must be seen as deranged, unbalanced: dangerous.
We’re in good hands.