The Human Condition: why greed is not a luxury
Everything has to be bigger and better – a lot better. These days, we don’t just want more – we’ve come to expect a higher standard of living and and an easier life as no more than our due.
Thanks to the pressure of advertising, we want a bigger house with more luxurious furniture, a more attractive partner and healthier children, a more powerful car and rarer designer labels on our clothing. We want longer holidays in better hotels in more exotic places.
But if we get them all – what then? Nothing is ever enough. Then we want a 10-bedroom mansion with stables and a swimming-pool, a personal masseur, a private yacht…
Things have got ridiculous now.
In New York’s Serendipity Restaurant, you can buy the Grand Opulence icecream sundae for $1000. In a world where other people are starving.
The Rolls Royce Celestial, a one-off creation with a diamond-studded interior, sold for around one million dollars. For a car!
If you think that’s a little expensive for your budget, an evening dress designed by Faiyzali Abdullah was priced at – wait for it – 30 million dollars!
Because it’s all relative, of course. If everyone is rich, no one is rich. If someone isn’t driving a battered old Ford Escort, there’s no advantage in owning a gleaming Jaguar. If some poor kids in a Third World country aren’t wearing rags and being ground into the dust, there’s no point in having designer clothes. The ‘more’ that we want isn’t more than we’ve got now, but more than other people have.
Now that we in the Western world have everything we need in the way of food, warmth and shelter, shouldn’t we be satisfied with what we have instead of wasting our lives in this endless search to grab more than our share of the world’s resources?
We need our greed.
Without the innate urge to accumulate more stuff than the people around us, we’d still be sitting in caves grunting and gnawing bones. Only when we grabbed the biggest bones for our own family did we start to make progress.
Our society simply cannot function without that competitive urge. Wanting success and a better life has created improvements not just in food and housing, but in technology, communications, medicine and knowledge.
Let’s hope that soon we’ll have the urge to be more compassionate than others, too.
Darn it! I’ve just noticed that Seth Godin’s blog has made exactly the same point today. But I made it better. And longer. And mine has a pretty picture.