Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Greed: The Name of the Game

This morning while sipping my usual coffee and reading some blogs I follow I stumble upon a fellow blogger who happens to be an expert in media affairs, Carmi Levy. Carmi was upset and rightfully so. A local morning show had been cancelled, the employees discharged from their duties unexpectedly, brusquely and cruelly, no warning, no gratitude, nothing, just a cruel good-bye, good-riddance dismissal.

I know the shock these people feel. I too have been on the receiving end of this type of thing. There are many people who are on the receiving end of sudden unemployment lately but the cruelty of this particular incident hit close to home for me. I know that they are in shock now, their lives have changed suddenly and it wasn't anything they did. They've been the victims of greed.

Greed. That is the name of the game. As we watch the economy crumbling, rolling, changing what stands out for me is the inability and the unwillingness of anyone to name what the actual underlying,deep problem is. It is greed.

There is greed on every level. Let's start with the stock market. People invest in the stock market to make money on the money they already have. They don't want to work for more money, they want their money to work for them. They invest in speculative stock rather than safer bonds and GIC's. Why? For more money of course. And almost everyone does it. Not just the wealthy but the regular guy with his retirement fund. He's in there too, he's got to make money on his money. After all that's the game you have to play.

Now let's look at the the brokerage firms, the financial services industry, the banks. The entire backbone of that industry is greed. They are designed to make more money. And stockbrokers, when they sell this fund or that fund it's not necessarily based on whether they truly believe it's a good stock/investment(though that's what they'll tell you) but rather they likely will garner better commissions from it or a trip to Hawaii for the family if they sell a certain number of units of a particular fund. I used to work at an investment firm. It took a lot of soap and hot water to clean the stench of that two year period off me, to get rid of the smell of Greed.

The Media Industry, the newspapers, the television companies, radio, any place that gives you the news is also rife with greed. I'll use the newspaper industry as an example. That's one I know well.

There are two main departments to a newspaper, editorial and advertising. Editorial staff and reporters want to tell you the news. Advertising and the the advertising representatives want to make money. Early in the days of newspapers, while there somewhat of an advertising element to newspapers, newspaper people ran them, editorial types, those with a vested interest in the news of their local community, town, or region.

Then along came big business, and decided they wanted a piece of that pie and the face of newspapers was changed forever. They've been bought, streamlined, pimped out for cash, sold again, merged, amalgamated, downsized, restructured, re sized, sold again and all in the name of the almighty dollar. When I worked at a newspaper the running joke every two weeks on payday was to check and see who signed your check that pay period, we were bought and sold so much. I'm not a vindictive person but I'll admit to feeling a little bit of karmic victory the day they hauled Conrad Black off to jail.

The victim of the greed in the newspaper industry is first of all the true-blue editorial type, the heart and soul of the paper, nearly all of them are either jaded or gone. Rarely in the downsizing of a media outlet of any type does the sales representative lose employment. The second victim is the reader. The product is reduced to a cheap replica of the original and sold to the highest bidder. You cannot maintain quality with a skeleton crew of reporters. More victims of Greed.

And on a personal level, we all are guilty of greed at times. If you have personal debt, a car payment, a loan or line of credit carrying more debt than you can pay at the end of the month then yeah, you may have practiced greed as well. All of us who have been greedy and chosen to live above our means so that we can have that which we really can't afford and then become wracked with grief at the thought of losing that which we don't even rightfully own. I too am guilty of it. I've practiced and am guilty of greed.

What would happen if there was no credit? What if we had to wait until we saved before we bought the things we wanted? What if we took greed out of the equation? We'd have much less of course, we wouldn't have the nice car, but we wouldn't have to worry about making that payment if we lose our job. We wouldn't have the nice house but heck, we wouldn't have the mortgage either. There are a lot of things we wouldn't have. And there would be a lot of things we wouldn't have to worry about.

I'm as guilty as the next person of course. We've got the mortgage and the house we don't want to lose. We've got bills we wish we didn't have to pay for things we could have done without. We've fallen into the trap as well. But I'm accepting personal responsibility for it as I'm sure you all have.

It's time for us, as humans, to address this common failing we have. The need to have more than we have already, before we can afford to have it. It's irresponsible and it's unnecessary.

It's time to take personal responsibility for this mess as well, own up to our part in it. We can blame the big companies for being greedy, we can blame government, we can blame other countries but until we've wiped the greed out of our own lives we cannot and do not necessarily have the right to do so.

And still, no one is addressing this. It's the way things are done. Credit, instant gratification, paying interest, investing in the stock market, trying to make more and more money, trying to get more and more stuff, yeah, it's greed, but hey, that's the name of the game.

Someone said "wanting more of what you don't already have is the definition of insanity". Think about that. You don't have it. You are alive and well right now without it. Yet you want more of it simply because you don't have it. Pretty insane.

I suggest we step back. We stop consuming and wanting and learn to be happy with what we have. We need to let go of the idea that we own anything that isn't paid for already. Look at what is really important in life, family, friends, community, the earth, relationships, happy days, comfortable nights, peace of mind, self-reliance and blissful work. Let's work towards these things, concentrate on being at peace with what we have instead of being driven by the force of greed to want more of something we'll be fine without and have been fine without all along.

So I say, if the name of the game is greed, take your ball and go home. I'm not playing anymore. I'm up for a game that requires cooperation rather than competition, where I do my work and you do your work and we know there is enough abundance for all of us. I say we change the game. And I say we change the name of the game as well.

We'll call it generosity. We don't need to roll the dice. I'll go first.

8 comments:

Carmi said...

Very nicely said. And thanks for the kind mention. It frustrates me that society mus now live with such a disconnect between investment and return. There's no longer any correlation between an individual's hard work and a long-term sense of stability, family and community.

I fear the fallout of the economic downturn will be deeply social, and in many ways long-lived. Scary stuff, and all because so many failed to appreciate the big picture, or the little things that mattered most.

Breeze said...

Or failed to care.

Audrey said...

Excellent post. And I totally agree - greed is one of the 7 deadly sins. It appears lately it is more deadly than we could have ever imagined.

Arwyn said...

My credit card debt came from paying for food and healthcare and bills (including keeping our one economy car in shape so it would last) when both my partner and I were un(der)employed. My minuscule retirement IRA exists because I chose to save for retirement at age 21 rather than spend my earnings immediately, because I know my society won't support me. How are these reflections of greed? I could have made different choices that might have lessened my fiscal support of greedy credit and investment companies, but I'm not going to accept implications of greed on my own part that are not reflective of my lived experience.

Breeze said...

Paying for food is not greed, it's necessity, paying for healthcare is not greed, it's necessity. I would beg, borrow and steal to feed my family. Its not about about never using credit, its about looking at things and seeing what our own responsibility is in this and fixing whatever it is on our end that we've done that we could have done differently. There are those amongst us who have no responsibility whatsoever and have not acted out of greed often in their lives..this does not apply to them. This applies to me, a regular, middle class person who was a consumer, a purchaser on credit of things I didn't need, but rather things I wanted. And it's people like me who need to accept some responsibility in this, not those people who acted out of necessity and desperation.

Breeze said...

and remember Arwyn, I live in Canada where health care debt is almost unheard of to the extent it is in the States..that creates a whole other reality that just doesn't exist here. I hear your story a lot from American friends. We've got a bit of a bubble here when it comes to that.

skywind said...

In a market economy, if not the mentality of greed, then there is no chance to survive.

http://eyesinkaleidoscope.blogspot.com/
http://fymtyh.blogspot.com/

Breeze said...

Then I guess I won't survive. But I'm not a black and white thinker..there is a whole lot of space between the downfall of the free market economy and a successful and fair free market economy with an emphasis on need over greed.