Sarvesh Mehrotra in this classic writes how greed is the new God. Read on
I was reading an article today about how technology is the new religion. It explored how people gather at Apple conferences with a sense of anticipation and euphoria at a new product launch, and how a shared world of technology that was common between everyone created a sort of tribe that celebrated the “god” and worshipped together. I believe that is because in today’s world, two fundamental beliefs form the basis of our world-view and lifestyle: first is that there is no continuity to our existence beyond birth and death. We are born, we die, and that’s it. The second one, which actually in some ways follows from the first, is that only what is experienced through the senses is important and real. Everything else is either overrated, or unimportant, or at least dispensable.
These two fundamental beliefs give rise to the next set of beliefs, some of which are: a human being starts his/her life as a blank slate, and must achieve or become something to make their life a success; a successful life is one in which there are signs of material prosperity and a relatively large ability to possess material things; the aim of life is to make it successful in this manner; problems in life must be resolved through application of the mind; any course of action of decision taken in life can be evaluated through its impact on one’s ability to possess material things; every right/good thing, person, or decision can, must, and should be measured in material terms; failure is a decrease in the ability to possess material things; all available time must be utilized; and so on.
This structure of beliefs then gives rise to a value system, in which we categorize things, situations, decisions, and people as right/wrong, good/bad, etc. which then becomes the basis of our decision-making in everyday life. Examples of thoughts that form this value system are: the creation and consumption of material things is a great way to fill the time available in life; increase in the ability to acquire material things is good and decrease is bad, unless it can later help take a decision that leads to an increase; the best way to solve problems in life is to use the mind’s logical and analytical abilities; anything not perceived by the senses is most likely a hoax or hallucination and therefore not to be trusted; success is good and failure is bad; time spent not working to increase one’s ability to acquire material things is time wasted; and so on.
Living in a world where the belief and value system described above is commonly shared, it is natural that things become our saviours from the uncertainties of life, and anyone who creates great things becomes a hero or god, which is where Apple and Steve Jobs (and a host of others) currently are in popular mindset. And while it is true that things have resolved problems humans have faced for survival on the physical plane, I believe we’ve taken the fascination with things too far at this point because anything that’s not a thing isn’t important anymore. In today’s world for an artist to matter, their art must sell; for a sportsperson to matter, they must win; for a worker to matter, they must bring the greatest profits to their employer; for a parent to matter, they must leave the greatest inheritance for their child; for a partner to matter, they must bring the ability to earn money to the relationship; for a forest to matter, it must be attractive to tourists; for a tree to matter, it must provide wood or fruit or leaves or pulp or sap which can be sold; for an animal to matter, it must be eatable, or have the ability to be a pet, or an attraction in a circus, zoo, or a wildlife sanctuary; for the rain to matter, it must increase the yield of our farms; for the air to matter, it must provide ventilation in our homes and offices and electricity in our windmills; and for the planet to matter, it must fulfil the unending and ever-increasing greed of its human inhabitants.
Because greed is so common today and percolates and suffuses the entire mental, emotional, and social experience of human existence, it has become indistinguishable from human life. In today’s world, to be human is to be greedy. To be a good human is to be greedy with a little bit of conscience. In today’s philosophy, greed is good and is our saviour. Greed is the definition of modern and the new model of idealness.
However, the negative impact of greed is all around us. Increase in crime, breakdown of relationships, pollution of the planet, ecological disasters like floods and famines, increase in stress and obesity-linked health problems, and poverty are all related to the increase in greed. Ralph Waldo Emerson had once said “Things are in the saddle, and riding mankind”. His prediction has direly come true and is evident in front of us. The solution to the world’s problems lie not in complex technological solutions, but a simple change of human emotional orientation – away from greed and towards compassion as the model of life.