Saturday, December 22, 2012

Greed is Survival, but no Longer Necessary

'Greed', in the sense of the desire to accumulate material wealth, whether in resources and good, or more abstract capital measurements, is a primary factor in all socio-political system imbalances that are the cause of so many ills in the history of at least state-like systems of organizing people.

A full description of those ills is a full topic in itself, but suffice it to say the main ill is the co-opting of any instincts towards more egalitarian or compassionate behavior in individuals at large. The sickness in the system is its subversive influence on people leading them to justify their participation in a way of life that is obviously so damaging to so many.

Greed, however, is still only a proximate cause itself the result of other factors. This becomes clear when one sees that it is not the system that causes greed but greed that created the system, or at best the two are self-perpetuating.

The origins of greed as a manifest behavior can be seen when human populations first transitioned from nomadic to sedentary lifestyles. This is true for the simple fact that living a nomadic life a person is limited to what can be carried, and items that do no contribute to survival must, as a necessity, be kept to a minimum. The nomad, at his/her origins, is survival focused.

This survival focus is turned very easily in the human mind for a day-to-day subsistence existence to embracing a longer-term outlook that begins to take into account that the surplus in times of plenty can be turned to a benefit should the excess be able to be stored and retrieved at some point in the future when resources are low. Such 'rainy day' planning is displayed by a number of creatures in the animal kingdom, and to imagine this behavior in prehistoric humans is not much of a stretch of the imagination.

Thus the desire and behavior towards accumulating excess would have already been in place by the time of the first human settlements. And how easily our minds confuse wants with needs are of the same importance.

The next steps are simple, excess becomes influence in its ability to be used to shape the behavior of others, and influence becomes power. Eventually the 'Big Man' of the tribe emerges, and where powerful enough solidifies his dominance and begins to crystallize social hierarchies until we get to where we are now.

Today the behavior of accumulating and storing excess is dominant and pervasive across populations in at least all developed regions of the world. What is enough money? Enough to survive - survive at what level? The fact that these questions have no answers is the co-opting force in modern society, and from one angle it can be seen as the survival focus still at work. Who is to say to anyone there will not be some personal calamity on the horizon with the potential to tax their resources below the survival level, and to which accumulated wealth could potentially offset. Where then to tell them to stop, without the guarantee of the absence of future risk.

And therefore the drive never ends.

For me the question this all leads to is, imagining that a society could be created where survival at an accepted level can be guaranteed, could this have the effect of conditioning people over time into abandoning their 'greed' behavior? Then what would such a society look like?

The success of any revolution would be contained in its aims, and I believe that in order bring about any substantial change we would need to wipe the slate clean and start again. Tear down all existing systems and rebuild with only a simple idea in mind - creating a society where no one need ever fear the ruin of destitution. Undoubtedly the resources exist, any many imbalances can be corrected with the simple elimination of waste.

The socialists and anarchists are too busy hyphenating their divisions over orthodoxy to ever bring us there. Their beliefs are artifacts of the current system. Trust not in anyone who claims to know all the answers.

Leave nothing intact.

Money-greed illustrationIllustration By Frits

Mongolian NomadPhoto by Tonio94

Libyan Dictator Moammaer GaddafiUsed under creative commons license

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