The Culture of Greed – required: a moral revolution

We are witnessing the biggest financial heist in the history of the world; the most prominent and visual is from banks in most countries, but especially in America.  The culprits, not satisfied with cleaning out the banks, have now found a way that will bankrupt many governments.  But such thievery is evident in many other industries as well: the auto industries among others are following a similar pattern.  The reality is that the stealing is not just from corporations and governments, but from people, mostly the poor and the new poor.  The majority of the very rich and the new rich from ill gotten gains still have stability and relative security.  This plundering, more importantly its basis, seems to have been missed by policy makers and politicians.  They continue to throw more and more of people’s money at those that would steal. 

This heist began in a very small way a number of years ago, when banks began reducing interest rates which they paid on deposit accounts and subtly charging fees for all and sundry services that were originally absorbed as a cost of banking.  This enabled the banks to exploit peoples’ capital in ways that would have been unheard of in more sane economic times.  It appears that with coffers overflowing from this new revenue banks began increasing the remuneration of its more senior management regimes over time until it became obscene.  Why pay the poor schleps, naive enough to put money in banks for safe keeping, their main purpose for being, when bank decisions makers could take it for themselves.

No one seemed to notice or care: especially the regulators and policymakers.  Depositors and investors seemed oblivious of this scam even though at least one previous recession had been caused by the underlying change in banking style.  It appeared that a new found wealth had been created in the world – money became a resource that generated more money, in and by itself.  This wasn’t lost on other large industries as well, as many devised ways to create pseudo banks or lending organizations to make money from money, rather than the products which they produced.  Obviously, this new approach appeared more lucrative.

Bank robbers had come a long way from the days of armed holdups and train robberies.  In this era, they simply took over running the banks, subtly and deliberately pilfering more and more of peoples hard earned cash.  Others businesses and industries followed suite.  The reality of any such schemes, are that the perpetrators sense of entitlement grow, and greed sets in, especially when they see how easy people can be duped.  Now there were no sheriffs to chase them down, or politicians to question the morality of this systematic raping of the wealth of those less well off.  Regulators appeared dependent on the very entities that were being regulated, many because of the “perks” that were available and future opportunities that might allow them into the circle of greater rewards.

A sense of entitlement and greed is not only in the realm real “crooks” but exists in us all and is why these scams work.  Most thought they were getting something for nothing, or that, eventually they might get a piece of the real action.  Why else has there been such a growth in investing and gambling over the past couple of decades.  Casinos abound as the line between investing and gambling has blurred.

People were enticed by more lucrative returns, as short term thought became prevalent.  The realization that there was little return at all has only just dawned on most of the world, as the artificial money flows became exhausted.  People are now discovering the reason for such little return on their bank deposits, and why their investments are now practically worthless.  Most of it has been transferred, over time, to the thieves that headed these institutions in the form of legal salaries, bonuses and perks by which they rewarded themselves.  In a strict sense, legal it may have been, but moral it was not.  Perhaps, what has been forgotten is that the rule of law, in a democratic sense, only works and functions with a moral and ethical foundation.

What is more astounding, than the boldness of these scoundrels with their schemes, is the  complete ineptitude of those that are supposed to protect society in our governments and regulatory agencies .  One could surmise that those who are in charge in charge of governments and their agencies are either naïve, stupid, or in fact, part of a much grander conspiracy.  What is evident for the first time, in the modern history of our democratic countries, is that crimes of this magnitude are going unpunished with the result that the criminals are becoming bolder and more arrogant.  Apparently, there is no one to stop the plunder.  As with any such psychopaths, they will continue their game because, for them it is just a game.  Others’ lives and livelihoods have no meaning.  Moral and ethical values are not part of their beliefs; these are only for simple folk.

What is certain that the transference of wealth from the poor to the rich is going on, unabated.  What is also evident is that it will continue until some saner minds take charge, or revolution breaks out: the latter becoming a closer reality.  There is so much collusion in this whole debacle that it is hard to comprehend any one person being able to intervene.  As I said in a previous essay, “that in times like this people search for a saviour, but in this current situation, even if one if found, they couldn’t achieve the expectations”.  This is what is being witnessed now in the United States; a saviour has been identified, and it appears already that the crucifixion is being plotted.  In many other countries, most of the saviours appear scarier than the robbers themselves; perhaps they are all just part of the same gang.

What is being missed by most; is the fact, that this is not an economic crisis, but a moral crisis.  It has been in the making for over sixty years.  That is when the moral mores of more stable societies began being diminished.  Money, a human invention, has never been the basis of  morality or a just society.  The opposite is true; most great prophets throughout history have stressed, in their wisdom, the avoidance of excess personal wealth in order to have spiritual health and well being. In today’s world this wisdom appears more a fable than a truth: such is the diminishment of spiritual belief.

The economy, even the element of markets, was never totally about money.  Concepts of economy were invented and created to broaden the basis of relationships, exchange and to enrich the lives of people in the world: enrichment defined as money was the definition of the few.  Material benefit cannot be dismissed from any market based system, but in wiser and fairer societies, it was never the total context of the marketplace    Society has evolved through the millennium as a result of markets of one sort or another (no matter the political persuasion that was prominent).  In fact, markets were often the ways and means to usurp political oppression. It would be naïve for one to think that unethical people or those with few morals weren’t involved in the economies, markets of societies since time began. That’s why rules were created and laws were considered important and why markets always required an agreed basis of operation.

But it appears in our world today that we have such a widespread belief in the supremacy of fiscal wealth and personal gain that there is no moral compass to guide our societies.  It appears that entitlement and greed has overwhelmed sensitivity and care.  Individual gain reigns supreme, as does our more rudimentary animal instincts.  The more human aspects of our being have been totally diminished.  The creed seems to be that the end is nigh, get what we can before it’s over no matter the means.

The world faces a crossroads, but not just economically and ecologically: the mantra of most.  Without a spiritual and moral foundation neither will be addressed.  Money is such a small component in the human aspect of life.  Yet, money appears the only the only tool that policy makers and politicians alike think they have at their disposal.  Money can no more solve our current dilemma than it could build an economy in Africa, build a democracy in Iraq or cure the ills of myriad of countries at war.  In fact, money has been the catalyst for most of these disasters and of so many others areas of conflict in the world today.  This current crisis poses the possibility of an even greater disaster as people see the unethical, the inept and the criminals being rewarded with ever increasing amounts of “their money” and start to realize that they will only be poorer over time.  The seeds of revolution grow by the day.

Trust is the basis for any society and the foundation for any democratic governance model, be it government, business or social organization.  Belief is an imperative for any set of moral values to guide people, their institutions and societies.  Altering the culture of greed has never been an easy task in eons of human existence.  Dispelling the arrogance of greed is a more difficult task.  Tinkering with the mechanics of business, government and regulatory mechanisms will not change these attitudes, nor will all the money that can be printed until a total collapse occurs solve this dilemma.  What will assist in creating a new moral and ethical framework with a genuine demonstration of justice for the wrongdoers, compassion for those impacted and some form of agreement by the majority of people (where they live) of a set of values that should govern their societies.

This is no easy task, as we have witnessed through the millennium, but to some degree, it had been achieved in more developed countries, at least for a period of time.  These countries, in particular, need to rejuvenate their moral foundations as examples for others.  Neglecting this will create the possibility of total societal breakdown throughout the world which will result in mass chaos, turmoil and major conflicts; perhaps even global war.

It’s not an economic revolution that is required but a moral revolution.  So engrained is the culture of greed and the worship of ego that without it, the economies of the world will continue to decline.  There has to be a realization that money is not the answer, but that a rebuilding of the basis for a set of moral values that respect human and natural life is a necessity.  What the world needs today are more prophets, and fewer saviours.  It needs people with humanness, inherent wisdom and common sense to inculcate in people the basis of their own human compassion, encouraging them to share it with others, for the betterment of all.

Written by William Pardy

March 25th, 2009

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