The Point of Being Human; Part Two

Greed

What do you need to survive and to provide a decent level of existence for yourself and/or for your loved ones?  It's an interesting question when you really think about it.  As a recent university grad, I have been "existing" on OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Plan) money almost exclusively for a number of years.  That means two things; I have MASSIVE student loan debt and I have learned to curb my family's "wants" down to a minimal level in order to get by without drowning financially.

Greed, as a concept, I could extrapolate out to the Nth degree.  I will make this much simpler to understand though, because I believe that societal greed starts first with personal greed and then is duplicated many thousands, tens of thousands or even millions of times by the people within that society.  It is an insidious thing and I honestly think that most people do not think of themselves as greedy, and wouldn't think of their friends that way either, but think about this common thing (that I have also done); has there ever been something that you didn't need, but you wanted it and you decided that you "had" to have "it," regardless of the difficulties in acquiring "it."  At what point do we acknowledge that some of those "must have" wants are little more than greed manifested in a digestible and friendly package?

Unfortunately, a clear sign of greed in the North American context can easily be seen by the rampant epidemic of obesity.  I am an overweight person, so I am not slagging anybody!  My overeating has nothing to do with junk food.  I LOVE vegetables and fruit and yogurt and whole wheat, beans, legumes, and Xylitol  (a naturally derived sweetener that does not react with blood glucose levels) is my friend.  I have given myself a physical sign of my emotional chainmail against ever being hungry, because as a kid, sometimes I was hungry, very hungry.  It's the sad joke: when I was a kid, we were so poor that we were po; because we couldn't afford the other two letters.  So, I have been bent-over-double-with-excruciating-gas-pains hungry, in my lifetime.  I don't know if my brother had the same experiences as me, because I often gave him some of my food, because he ate more and because he was my little brother.

It's hard with that history NOT to have another plate of food if it is available and I've now screwed myself.  By keeping that lovely armour of fat around my gut, I have given myself the family curse of type 2 Diabetes.  Family history and excess doesn't necessarily affect everybody the same way, but it certainly affected me, and since fat people are easy to spot, I know that I am not alone.

One important point that I have to raise, as the child of a single parent, is that my mother did HER BEST.  It was not for the want of effort!   My mother is (to this day) an OCD clean freak (my estimation of her behaviour, not a diagnosis!) without a single lazy bone in her body!  I wish I had more of her personality; it would help me out on many levels, I'm certain.  I wasn't hungry because my mother didn't try.  It was only after I left home in my early twenties that I realized, all of those times when my brother and I ate food and I asked my mother if she was going to eat with us and she said she "already had," was actually code for; "there's not enough food to feed you guys and me too, so I'm going to stay in the kitchen, stay hungry, pray and cry silently while you two eat."  However hungry I was, she was hungrier by far!!!  Single mom's holding down everything with class, grace and dignity, deserve PRAISE in SPADES! 

Getting back to the issue of "greed," ask yourself this; is it possible that if you have a lot of gadgets, multiple TV's, multiple game systems, nick nacks, do-dads and whatchama whosits, that you could be compensating on some level for what you may lack internally?  Maybe you work long hours and that keeps you away from your kids so you give them a PSP and a Playstation and cable for the TV in their bedroom because you feel guilty about being away from them.  I will say this though, there is NO thing that you can give your child that is worth more than your time and attention.  Even if it is just 20 minutes a day.  Find the time to listen to their stories and hear who they are becoming as burgeoning people that you are helping to craft with every single thing you say and do.

Don't get me wrong about having stuff though!  I have a TV, but I don't have cable, but I make up for it with about 400 movies (at least).  So I'm not suggesting we dump all of our technology and go back to banging our clothes on a rock by the river, I'm just asking you to consider the possibility that we could be overloading on a "stuff blanket" in place of something that we are all missing intrinsically.  Perhaps, you measure some aspects of your self-worth by the stuff you have around you.  Do you own the stuff or does Visa, MasterCard or Amex own it and it's just sitting in your home looking pretty?

To this point, I've suggested that greed could be considered for some of us as an emotional issue and/or as a means of compensating for something that we lack within.  That leads me directly to the last point I want to make about this; greed as identity.  

Once we have accepted "stuff" as compensation for our lack of time or lack of internal resources, we eventually become accustomed to a certain acceptable level of greed.  All the things we have cannot be equated to necessarily being greedy.  I'm only talking about it in terms of making up for something we may or may not realize is missing; how many of us relentlessly pursue greater pay, greater status, greater symbols of our accomplishments and when we get them, turn around and start on the path again to acquire more?  We as a collective are never actually satisfied and that tells me that we are pursuing the wrong things.  If you actually get what you need, or what you think you want, shouldn't that make you happy?  So, are you? 

Consequently, greed becomes a part of who we are.  Where do you think expressions like, "keeping up with the Joneses" come from?  We are trying to keep up with a look of status to show the world that we too have worth.  I am going to challenge that right now!  Every single (good, gentle, peace-loving) person on this earth has worth, buck ass nude in the shower!  When you open the door for that elderly gentleman even though you're running late, you have worth.  When you listen to a stranger's pain, you have worth!  YOU HAVE WORTH!  You feel that worth, that connection, with what is good in this world, when you selflessly do something kind for someone else, be they in or out of your family.

Am I against having nice things?  Of course not!  Buy a nice home for yourself and your family!  Put nice furniture that has been well-crafted in it.  Buy the best that you can afford, but just remember this one thing, if you remember nothing else; at the end of the day, your family and your friends want YOU not all the stuff in the world.  YOUR contribution to their lives is worth EXPONENTIALLY more than you realize.  Besides, if (goodness forbid) all you had was threatened by a flood, fire, tornado or other natural disaster, what would you save?  In that critical moment, would you bother with any of your stuff, or would you grab your kids, you partner, your pets and get them out to safety?  "Stuff" is cool; I'm just asking you to keep in perspective what it's really worth.