Thursday, July 1, 2010

Politics of Greed

I’ve noticed that greed seems to be a popular topic of conversation lately. Maybe it has always been a popular topic, but I just seem to be more aware of it lately. There are certain targeted groups when greed is discussed. Often it is those greedy wealthy people. You know who I am speaking of, those people who have more money than us. Those tight-fisted people who won’t share with poorer people like you and me. Unless it is Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Oprah or a member of the super wealthy elite, we really don’t put names and faces to those greedy wealthy people. We know about the altruistic deeds that Bill Gates and Oprah do, so perhaps it is not fair to bunch them in among the greedy. Or should we still?

What about those greedy corporations? You know the ones that I am talking about. They have more money than they know what to do with. We want them to share their wealth with us, don’t we? They don’t deserve it.

Those greedy people get all the breaks, don’t they? How did they get so wealthy? This is the part that we tend to ignore or overlook. Long ago I was reading a book that stated that we wouldn’t be able to spot the majority of millionaires in the United States. Why? Because they look like average citizens that live frugally in modest homes. They drive modest cars. Those are a couple of reasons that they are millionaires. They worked hard, often at long hours at jobs like you and me. They did without, sacrificing immediate pleasures while making wise financial decisions. They have too much money, don’t they? Shouldn’t they be giving some of it to us?

Who is greedy really? Can those of us who feel poorer than the millionaires or billionaires be greedy? Isn’t it greed that causes us to want what others have? I intentionally used the words ”feel poorer.” How poor are we really? If you are reading this, then you more than likely have access to a computer. You probably have a house or apartment to live in, food to eat, clothing and lots of entertainment options. You and I have money to blow. Some more than others. One author I like says that if we have shelter, clothing, food to eat, and a mode of transportation, even if it is just a bicycle, then we are wealthier than 95% of the world’s population.

Who are the truly poor? To me those people who do not have adequate shelter or perhaps they might have a place to live, but due to circumstances beyond their control, they do not have the financial ability to purchase enough food to subsist on or properly clothe themselves. Compared to them, we must seem wealthy, wouldn’t you agree? They may even think that we are greedy. I think that if we are not helping them when we can, then we are being greedy.

I am greedy. I work hard for the money I earn and I want to spend it on myself and my family. I rarely feel like I have enough. Usually it is hard for me to share my earnings with others. There are occasions when it is no problem at all. Sometimes I see the need, I understand the need, and I have the desire to alleviate the need. But most of the time, unless it is staring me in the face, I want to pretend that there are no needs other than my own and I want to keep my money to myself. Rarely do I give so much that it feels like it hurts.

I am also greedy when I want more than I earn and think that those who have more than me should give some of their money to me. I am greedy when I want them to provide me with things that they have. Things that I can’t afford. Sometimes I don’t quickly recognize my greed, and then when I do, I struggle to rise above it.

Should we require wealthy people to share their wealth with the poor and less fortunate? Should we make them do it? Legislate it? Make laws? Take that money from their greedy little hands and spread it around? Does someone need to do this to you? If we make money legally while working hard and making wise decisions, I believe that it is up to us and our conscience to decide what we do with it. No matter how much we make. Would you agree with that? Perhaps not.

Shouldn’t we check ourselves and our own motives? Give sharing a try? Make it a new habit? Encourage our friends to do the same?

For years I have been involved with 12 Step groups. They have a slogan about helping and encouraging others. It is “We keep what we have by giving it away?” Perhaps that slogan could apply to our finances and whatever wealth we have. I think it does. What is wealth? I think that wealth is anything we have above what we need to take care of our basic needs.

Who is greedy? Perhaps we all are to some degree. Why? That’s a subject for a future date. In the meantime, I’m going to be careful who I call greedy.

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