The Tale of Greed and the Vicious Circle of Human Nature

Devil man

Our editor, Patrick Gruhn takes a look at the human condition and what’s wrong with us today.

It is one of the most commonly found symptoms of modern society, the insatiable appetite for more and that’s regardless of what we already have. When have you ever heard someone say: Oh I’ve got enough, I don’t need this or that, I’m happy with what I’ve got.  Such statements are rare commodities nowadays and that’s a shame for more reasons than you might think!

It has been said that in life, the human being is majorly motivated by two factors: fear and greed, aside from idealistic motivators like love and compassion which are rapidly fading in our landfill society.

Is it naïve to ask why it is not good enough that the economy is performing in a stable manner, most people have a job and that growth is slightly positive? I have to ask this question because growth requires ever improving productivity and higher demand. That in turn undoubtedly takes a toll on both nature and those who have to work ever harder to keep up and work ever harder to earn more to consume more whilst the distribution of wealth is more and more distorted. Worst of all, this is not sustainable in any way.

Despite the fact that greed and the appetite for the finer things in life has always been present in history, how can it be that such greed and insatiable desire for ever more and ever newer things has multiplied so rapidly in the recent past. Is such behavior not the doom of society? Doom not as in the physical death but rather the total loss of real human values. Without any intention to sound too dramatic, it is evident that we as a whole don’t live together or share each other’s lives but rather co-exist through smartphones and behind flickering TV screens. Our lives are all 3G, HD and 3D but they are no longer real. Tears and laughter have been replaced by smileys and abbreviations. We are connected in many ways nowadays but none of it is real. Have you ever seen the face of someone sending you “LMAO”? 9 times out of 10 they are not even smiling…

I’m not reminiscent of times when consumption wasn’t at the forefront of our everyday lives simply because I’m too young to know such times, but whatever happened to intangible values and judging people by the way they act in their community rather than how much money they have in their bank account or how big their house is or how fast their car is? Again, this seems naïve but if you think about it, its not. Rather it’s idealistic at best and what does that mean – dare to hope for the good in mankind. If that is naïve then we are truly on the wrong path well past the point of no return.  The cherry on top is that if you achieve the success that the collective mind believes we should all strive for, the collective becomes envious, tries to make you trip so you fall to their level again because your success is a painful reminder of their own failure… Where’s the fun in that.

Did you know that the number of patients being treated for depression or anxiety disorders in many western countries has soared insanely over the past decade? In some places up 400%! Doesn’t that tell us something? I think it is only one symptom of a crippled society but we are not listening to the warning voice because we don’t seem to have a choice. Today’s one-second economy is a cutthroat place – more than ever. Here is some more food for thought: obesity is constantly on the rise, why? Because bad food is cheap and engineered to taste good?

That’s proven so no surprise there but did you contemplate the relation between people who eat to feel better and the rise of obesity? It’s easy to blame it on the quality of the food, despite the fact that there is a clear relation between troubled minds and expanding bellies. We eat to feel better and that starts in childhood! So if we look at it from this angle, we’re really heading for a rude awakening. Particularly from the productivity perspective we can’t afford all these fat and sick people – but we create them exponentially.

Especially if we add into the equation that bad foods are consciously chosen over good foods because it means less expenses for consumers and more profits for corporations. It is a collectively forced symptom of modern society! We try to blame fast food chains like McDonald’s for our problems but where or when did McDonald’s ever claim that they sell healthy food? All they say is that they sell cheap fast food. Burger and fries! Those who claim that they don’t know that there are healthier alternatives probably dispose of a sub-optimal IQ. Stop blaming everybody else for your own problems…

The human being is the apex predator on this planet, nobody eats us and logically what does that have to mean? We have to be our own worst enemy, destroy each other and ourselves by nature. The paradox here is that we are equipped with minds that allow us to make conscious over instinctive decisions which should mean that we can chose not to auto-destruct but still we do it.

The outlook of the economy and therefore the outlook for any society is the collective sentiment of prosperity or depression. When life becomes more and more demanding as standards are raised in both personal and professional lives, objectives are ever harder to reach and no matter how strong the mind, the majority will give up sooner or later. Once the majority gives up, what happens? Recession, Depression…

As economies falter, we give up and we make our projections become reality so ultimately, if we wanted to we could live in extensive growth cycles but that’s simply wishful thinking because it’s easier to give up than to work hard. It is a fact of the present that we want to have more but work less. We are saturated on our couches and that needs to change.

Setting this thought aside, it is also essential to look at the role of corporations, investing absurd amounts of money in advertising. Did you know that global advertising expenditure in 2012 is estimated to be more than 500 billion U.S. Dollars? And this number is growing several percent each year. This amount is so mind-boggling that we have to put it in perspective. This number is more than the entire national, annual budget of a strong economy like Germany. We spend this much to make each other want more. It is simply astonishing.

Religion is a topic in this matter as well! Whilst it may appear that greed, over-indulgence and over-consumption to the point of waste have been deadly sins, religiously outlawed for centuries, we don’t seem to care much about those traditional guidelines of faith.  Historically these “laws” worked well for as long as the majority of people were fearful of god or the church but it seems that the desire for more has drowned out the voice of reason. Another paradox here, as in some countries there’s an actual church tax, people chose to leave the church, as money is their new god.

I’m not a believer myself but even if I was, it’s interesting to connect those dots and to see what money has made of us all. Like hamsters in a wheel, running, running and running and then some more running…

Some may adopt a philosophic approach to real satisfaction. If that’s something you’d adhere to, try this on for size:  money has to be the tool to achieve certain things or to do things nothing more nothing less. Money cannot be the ultimate objective because money as such doesn’t create anything or give you anything; the hard-working men and women of this world create things!

How much time have you spent thinking about what money really is? OK, in the past our money was actually backed by physical assets like the gold standard and before that money was actually made from precious materials representing the value, but nowadays money is based on faith and trust in the country that issues it. At the end of the day its colorful paper and scrap metal or worse, binary codes on computers. It’s all rather surreal when you start to think about it. It becomes harder to make money but it flows through your fingers faster than sand…

One thing is certain and this shall be my closing argument; our last shirt doesn’t have any pockets. You can’t take anything with you so it may be futile to amass more than you can need. OK, you might say that you want to care for those you leave behind, that is a valid argument but beyond that? At the end of the day, when you look into the mirror at night, you have to know that you’ve done more positive than negative things in your day. That is all that matters. It doesn’t matter what you own – all that matters is what you do with the time you have. Time is our most valuable possession; we can’t make more of it so we need to spend it wisely, not chasing something we can’t keep…

We have to revive the thoughts of identifying each other by what we do and not by what we have if we want to build a better tomorrow filled with human values because as things stand, our society is exponentially rotting from within, one gadget at a time.



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