I wish I could recall who pointed this out, but I have forgotten. He is an astute man and I cannot claim credit for the thought. He pointed out that man is inherently greedy. We want more. As long as this is an abundant resource go knock yourself out.
Want smiles, help yourself. Hugs, compliments, handshakes, kisses, well wishes all do the world a power of good. Indulge in this stuff and you will surround yourself in happiness and positivity. Bulk up on love and romance. If you are the religious type overdose on prayer. Have as many friends as you want.
Material things also inspire greed, but of a less esoteric nature. We look down the glutton who does not know when to stop eating. We revile the drunkard and the drug addict. Many people hold a certain respect for those who amass piles of money, property, cars, handbags, shoes etc. But when you think about it how does a man with ten cars differ from a man who drinks too many whiskeys? But if that’s what you want go for it. There are plenty of whiskeys and plenty of cars in the world.
At some level of course, greed becomes so all consuming that it has the potential to harm the planet. The greed of those who want to drink leatherback turtle soup, eat millionaires cabbage, dine on Ortolans drowned in Armagnac, wear Vicuna knitwear, Gorilla skin gloves and are happy to drain desert aquifers to water a golf course.
However, greed becomes something really sinister when the object of the greed is power. Power really means “power over others”. We see it in politicians, in generals, in business C-Suite executives. Power is not an infinite resource. The higher you rise the more finite it becomes. The hunger for power is a tournament, a competition, a zero-sum game.
If you want to buy 200 cars I can ignore you. If you want to be the ruler of 2 million people, me among them, I cannot ignore you. Objectively the greed of mankind is a shallow thing, but when the greed is for power it is both shallow and dangerous.
Power over people is not a thing that should be lightly given. Increasingly I find myself inspired by the tenets of Anarchism. To paraphrase a biblical epigram: “Politician! Rule thyself”.
Sonnet XCIV; by William Shakespeare
They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing, they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmovèd, cold, and to temptation slow,
They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces,
And husband nature’s riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others, but stewards of their excellence.
The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself, it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity.
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.