Essay No. 178:
Greed: Greed connotes a tendency on the part of man—rich and poor, by which he longs for wealth, power and other material things. There is no end to greed. A rich may be fabulously rich yet he would crave for more wealth and riches. Sky appears to be the last limit of man’s greed. There is a degree of variation in the greed between the poor and the rich.
The former may desire an increase in income to a level as to come out of the poverty trap, while the latter’s avarice to gain more economic affluence, wealth and power knows no limits. Greed is a human phenomenon. Animals do not show any signs of greed as their basic concern is to satisfy their physical hunger. In a way animals are better than human beings.
A lion after preying upon an animal satisfies his hunger and leaves the residue meat of the dead animal for other animals to enjoy. A lion does not hoard meat, like man who hoards wealth for and other essential commodities for making an undue profit. This activity on the part of man is the result of greed. One may say that greed is not subject to the law of diminishing return. Man wants more and more and there is no limit to satiety.
Ambition gives birth to greed. Genuine ambition is necessary for progress in life. Man must have ambition within reasonable limits to propel forward in life. Life without ambition is dull, prosaic. It is over ambition on the part of man to grow rich over night that brings into play evils like greed. Once over greed overpowers man, the process of moral degeneration starts.
Particularly in a third world country like Pakistan, over greed manifests itself in different fields of life, especially the politics and industry. Elected members of provincial, national assemblies for ministerial slots, showing a high level of ambition, court gluttony and avarice.
Their energies are mostly consumed in socially undesirable channels and they turn out to be over ambitions. It is thus not wrong to infer that gluttony and ambition are closely related to each other. However, ambition can be sometimes altruistic, while gluttony stands for self-acquisition.
It is lust for money borne out of gluttony that gives rise to social evils like corruption, hoarding, profiteering, etc. the greediness blinds people to the sufferings of others. Greed is ingrained in the nature of men and can’t be avoided by ordinary human beings. It sets in a sort of competition of gluttony between different men.
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Each wishes to excel the other in terms for grabbing money through fair and foul means. Developed nation’s eye on the rich mineral resources of the poor for the development of their economies. It’s gluttony that compels the rich developed countries to exploit ruthlessly the underdeveloped ones. Nothing could prevent the former form indulging in the exploitation of the latter.
Moral appeals do not have any effect on the greedy individuals/nations, who go whole hog with immoral practices. All religions condemn greed, which among other factors cuts at the roots of morality. That’s why Islam advocates spirit of resignation and contentment to the Muslim believers. Bhuddha also forcefully called upon the followers to reduce material desires to the minimum level to avoid frustration in life.
Sprawling human desires generate greed in life, which is a source of many social, economic ills. Living Sufis preach the virtue of simple living and abstinence from gluttony and other vices. If at all one should show greed and that should be for humanitarian works. Let there be a competition among philanthropists to do acts of generosity to alleviate human sufferings.
Over greed can plunge man to unknown depth of moral degradation. Someone has rightly pointed out that greed lies in the eyes of man. As long as man has eyes, gluttony would swell and show no signs of diminution.