Friday, April 03, 2009
The Seven Deadly Sins: Greed
Well, it's Friday and time for the sixth (I think) of Kay's (Perhaps We Learn) Seven Deadly Sins Meme. This week the subject is Greed.
Once again the voices of my inner demons are all shouting at once. On the whole, I don't think of myself as a particularly greedy person. I don't think the world owes me abundance and I don't want anything at the expense of someone else's well being. The kind of greed we've seen on Wall Street and in big oil is beyond my comprehension. Greed for power - greed so intense that we would kill for it - is beyond my comprehension. The greed of insurance companies that choose profit over the life of fellow human being is disturbing to me. It enfuriates me. It makes me feel all righteous and judgmental, which isn't really a good quality. I try to avoid feeling judgment. But this is an area where I struggle with it. I can't imagine thinking I deserved a salary of $6 million or $20 million, no matter how wonderful I was, especially in a world where children are going hungry and without health care. I just can't imagine it. I'm not opposed to money, either. I'd love to be rich. I'd love everyone to be rich. I actually think there's enough abundance in the world that everyone COULD be rich. But I'm getting off topic. Greed. Greed is the issue today.
So anyway, I'm really clear that living off the fat of the land at the expense of others and while others go without is greed. Capital G GREED.
But I struggle with the question in my own life of what's greed and what's healthy longing. Anyone who has visited for any amount of time can probably guess that my mother's voice is about to surface. As I mentioned when I wrote about gluttony, my mother grew up destitute and abused. She was such a wounded soul. Born to uneducated parents in 1910, she had to fight her family to even finish high school. She married a brilliant man who grew up less poor, but not rich. He got his college education free by attending City College and as an actuary made pretty good money. He and my mother survived the Depression. I think it was a hard time for them, though they never talked much about the details of it... or if they did, I don't remember. But anyway, I grew up middle class and my mother spoiled me with one hand and then judged me for my good fortune with the other. I don't think it was her intention, but I felt guilty for everything I owned. My mother taught me that wanting anything was a form of consumate greed. I believed her and I learned for much of my life not to want anything or if I did to push that longing down and punish myself for it. During the brief time in my life when I had some money to spend, oh what a battle it was to give myself anything.
When I first got my own apartment, I borrowed money from my father so that I could put carpet in. Not lavish carpet, pretty cheap carpet in fact. You should have heard my mother on my greed and selfishness. But she had the same response if I said I was going to a movie or out to dinner with a friend. Irresponsible and selfish. That's how she saw me. It's how I saw myself even though part of me knew better. Did I have a right to have anything? What had I done to deserve pleasure?
But is that greed? Nowadays, living on Disability, the subject of greed has great power once again. Though I have healed/quieted my mother's voice in some ways, it is not totally still. I've mentioned before that I really want a new TV. I'm hoping the prices will go down to $300 or less for a 22" flat screen. But then the debate rises in my head. Do I have a right to want this? This winter I got help from HEAP to pay my fuel costs. I get a small amount of food stamps help each month. What right, then - if I eventually do it - do I have to buy myself something like a television. Granted, I live pretty modestly. I don't own a car. I don't drive, I don't smoke or drink, but I also get help from the rest of the country to live in my little house and to eat and be warm. How greedy is it for me to want something that is ultimately a luxury. I can rationalize that TV is my companionship in a life lived largely in isolation. I can say that I'm not looking to buy a 50" or a 60" with bells and whistles. Just a small flat screen slightly larger than the 15 year old TV I have now. Then there's the whole question of whether I deserve the help coming to me sometime this summer from Delaware Opportunities? What have I done to deserve such help? Is it greedy of me to accept this largesse when I'm sure there are other people out there - people with children even - who have as great or greater need? Do I have a right to want anything? Or even if I have the right to want it, do I have the right to HAVE it?
So is my greed any less than that of the businesses who pay their executives millions and make the public pay for them? I like to think so, but is it really? Or is it even greed? I admit to great confusion on the subject. Having worked most of my working life for non profit agencies at salaries that barely paid the rent, while I did work that was supposed to be done by my bosses and for which they were earning considerably higher salaries, I like to think I'd never take a golden parachute salary. But then nobody ever offered me one.
And I feel myself starting to go into spiral thinking. I'm getting ready to second guess my second guessing and then it's just all downhill from there. So I guess I'll leave the subject on this sort of incomplete note. Not going to go back and read it. Hope it makes sense. Now I have to go and tackle writing some wordzzles. Agggghhh!
Other Deadly Sins Posts: