Greed: Humanity’s Case Against Financial Reform James Campion April 30, 2010 Columns 1 The principle hazard of the columnist trade is its guarantees of repetition. The aim is to take a fresh angle to arguments or unfolding current events and spin them in a readable and oft times, hopefully, convincing manner. We do none of that here. Repetition to the point of revulsion is our practice. You would be correct in assuming it something of an art form. It may be presented in various and mainly vulgar and chaotic ways, but it is nonetheless the same tired crap. For nearly 14 years now, the Reality Check News & Information Desk has regurgitated one particular point—whether dealing with politics, social issues, pop culture, art, music, sports, or civilization’s frailties and triumphs—that human nature is what it is, and no matter how one wishes, hopes, even prays to alter it through speeches, protests, laws and other tawdry over-reaching miasma, it remains human nature. And nothing in the realm of human nature is as strongly defined, nurtured, and set alight than greed. I tried to break the spell—the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness—that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions. —Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness Freud and his minions would argue sex, and others of a more spiritual slant would cite love, but they are both way off. Love & Sex are emotional offshoots of greed. From the moment a child latches onto a breast for milk or grabs some inanimate object and attaches a sense of self-esteem and comfort to it, irrationally blurting, “Mine!” thus begins a sense of entitlement and destiny engendered in a spirit yearning to breath free. It is nothing more than greed; pure, unblemished, and groaning with hormones. Egalitarian all-for-one-and-one-for-all concepts are unnatural. Sharing; the most selfless act we teach our youth, is unnatural. Do you share your spouse? Maybe, if there is a special arrangement and it’s kind of your thing, but mostly, you don’t. You also don’t share your home, but for a few days or a room or two, or your car or your bank account, unless it is part of another spousal arrangement, and so on. These are possessions granted as such by a free society. It is the blessed freedom to build ownership, but, alas, also the freedom to lose it. This is the beauty of America; in all its horror and glory. The liberty bestowed on our human nature, unbeknownst to generations of peoples from all over the globe, allows us to find out about ourselves. This has led to terrific progress, greatness, and societal evolution; well documented in volumes of U.S. history, and it stands to reason that the no-so flattering elements are also part of that history. It is a history built on the freedom to break it all down to one common denominator; greed. A bunch of British landowners wanting to gain ownership of property—a word denoting greed—carved out of the wilderness. Period. Basically, the Declaration of Independence is a 1,338 word hosanna to “Mine”! This country’s entire formation, foundation, and evolution in a brutally and furiously free nature, is all about G-r-e-e-d. Two men watch as two wolves struggle for survival. The first wolf is kindness, the other is greed. One man asks, “Which wolf will triumph?” The other smiles and says; “The one I fed.” —Native American Proverb Its ultimate manifestation is Wall St., the speculation of trade, commerce and economic fluidity; where the everyman to the titan can take his most precious commodities and send them adrift on a wing and a prayer, striving for fortune with a modicum of fear it may disappear in a puff of smoke. And if the art form of the columnist is repetition, then those who call Wall St. home deal in prognostication, and all the manipulation and subterfuge that comes with it. Guess work. Con artistry. The enticement of the gamble—the definitive greed high. A risky place to play with human nature, but one built on it most primeval form. It beats in us, as a heart of darkness. Certain members of our society, some in the media, and others in our churches and most in a civic capacity, tend to separate human nature from our institutions. It is an easy target, mainly because institutions are so prevalent. It is simpler to cast generalities upon subjects we don’t like and ignore the diametrically opposed equation when something we do like is attacked in the very same fashion. This allows for human nature to define, for instance, something like Wall St. bankers or massive investment firms with their cloudy vernacular and inside jargon, as an evil conglomerate. Of course this is nonsense. Evil is just an intangible quality we attach to shit that doesn’t work in our favor. It is used against us when those in opposition want to paint us with the same broad stroke, whether al-Qaeda or some other ridiculous palaver, as we in turn use it to wipe them out. If anything, Wall St. and everything it stands for is based solely and completely, and I dare say, uncompromisingly on our inherent lust for greed. Make no mistake about it, Wall St. exists because people want to make money, not advance society or observe moral obligations, or serve the greater good. Sometimes these ideas happen as a consequence of “making money,” but more times than not, it’s the bottom line. Its aim is to feed the greed, and use our freedom to grab the brass ring in any way, shape or form it can. But then when those freedoms are “abused”, as in the case with much of the crazed feeding frenzy that sank the economic solvency of the Western World in late 2008, whether it’s massive banks or irresponsible investment gurus, a fantasy housing market or other tried-and-true free market scams, the ensuing outcry rings a tad hypocritical. Do people take their assumingly hard-earned cash and dump it into a system to buoy the spirit of humankind or prop up the economic structure of its people at large? Or do they do it to grow it for a sense of financial security—another buzzword for greed. Big dividends, big losses; all part of the free market society, which explores the very nature of our being. But people being people, we love the former part of the equation and the latter not so much. If the latter happens then things must be regulated and controlled and goddamn it people have to go to jail for acting like… well, acting like us, only in a much wilder and wholly criminal way, of course. I’ve recently heard an alarming number of our citizenry, from the president to many pundits and politicians claim that the free market system does not exclusively subsist for greed, that it is not some bizarrely massive casino, and that somehow the freedom to make scratch is outweighed by the thorny issue of losing one’s shirt. This is gobbledygook, like vapid yakking about Founding Fathers and American Spirit and Shining Cities on Hills. Freedom, really true freedom, allows for human nature to run its course, and to regulate, castigate and investigate its ambitions runs counter to our own nature, the nature to grab and hold and keep away from others. Like what I told the jeering throng at the NJ TEA Party Tax Day extravaganza two weeks ago; if you really want freedom, true American, unhinged freedom, be prepared to have a stark and yawning chasm between winners and losers, survivors and victors. Financial Reform? Good luck. James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus, and Midnight For Cinderella. One Response bobf April 30, 2010 In a plutocratic society, it may now be considered “natural” that large numbers of people are now socialized by the mass media conglomerates that the plutocrats control to be as greedy as the billionaire plutocrats are. Yet, historically, many people have always acted in unselfish ways [Remember John Brown at Harper’s Ferry in 1859, for example) and found it more natural to get their psychic kicks from sharing their material wealth with other people rather than being greedy, plutocratic or miserly (like Scrooge, , in A Christmas Carol, etc.) But once the people in the USA who are most economically victimized by the greed of the Wall Street bankers, however, eventually band together, collectively take control over the U.S. mass media machine and begin utilizing the U.S. mass media to promote unselfishness, sharing, equality, freedom from 9 to 5 slavery, a leisure society orientation (and other traditional hippie-anarchist, 60s-counter-cultural, traditional Aquarian Weekly-promoted values/ideas, etc.), presumably, it might eventually start to seem as unnatural and unhip again for most people in the USA to still be greedy (in a recycled 1950s “pig mentality way), as it was during the 1960s. 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