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Someday, I will have to experience this for myself. Perhaps in Nepal, or India. Or yes, maybe China on my own, Who knows?
It makes my idea of instigating a 10-second dance party at the morning bus stop (when I am in a good mood) seem rather tame. But I think to my fellow passengers, a 10-second dance party would be unthinkable.
So maybe next week, if I am in an exceptionally good mood, I’ll shake things up a bit. There’s just no need for such propriety.
In the 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gekko (no relation to the Geico Gekko), portrayed by Michael Douglas, intones the following line:
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
The line has been summarized as “Greed is good” and has been used by Australian prime ministers, Italian cardinals, and characters in Fallout 2. While it meshed well with the strong economic times of the 1990s, it now represents the high price that our society has paid for the actions of a covert few over the last ten years. The irony behind it seems to strike more and more people every day, like a dead fish in the face.
In the 1990s, I made more than I was making when my job left me at the end of March. I worked with ad agencies and pharmaceutical companies that had money to burn. This was back in the days when Tyco executive Dennis Kozlowski was spending $6000 of the company’s money on a shower curtain. Everyone seemed to be flying high on the proverbial hog. And then it all fell down – literally. September 11 changed things. Our soft underbelly was exposed, our humanity, our faith, all shaken. For an all-too-brief time, we put aside our differences, our desires, our classist distinctions, and acted like a bunch of good people. People who put others before our selves and our own needs. Do you remember?
Our economy took a dive. Executives like those at Tyco and Enron were exposed for who and what they were and shamed for the damage they did. Their victims were never compensated, but at least there was national, if not worldwide shame. Then came the War on Terror – GWB always made it sound like “the War on Tara”, as if we were attacking the plantation from Gone With the Wind – and like confused children, we were hoping that things would get back to normal, that our world would make sense again. But alas, that world was also gone with the wind.
(Please note that the opinions expressed here are just that – opinions – and my own.) Instead, we’ve been sucked into eight years of bloodsucking, fiscally exhausting conflict that has apparently done nothing but fill with impunity the pockets of a few very special cronies of the past administration. We all know it. We just can’t do a damn thing about it. Those of us who aren’t in a position to benefit from someone else’s power plays are resentful. In fact, we’re sitting here watching what little savings we have left rise and fall according to the temperament of the stock market. I swear, if I didn’t need my “assets” to be liquid, I’d be invested in real estate. Maybe that’s not a bad idea. As liquid as they are now, they’re getting pissed away.
And so, the point of this post….greed. It magnificently and unjustly benefits a few. I had lunch today with a friend who is going through a divorce (join the club.) Her “wasband” is trying to take her for everything he can, because he’s angry that she wants a divorce. Her lawyer says he’s never seen anything like it. And because she made more money than he did, he’ll probably get it. Is he deserving? No. It’s nothing but greed. Greed. One of the seven deadly sins. The question is, deadly to whom? To the one whose soul is consumed by it? Who has deluded oneself into thinking that things, money, revenge will soothe any pain that exists in the depths of the heart? To the one who is now rich is assets but poor in spirit?
I have committed some of the 7 Deadlies myself. I’ve been able to rationalize my actions – to delude myself, just like people who are guided by nothing but greed, into thinking that what I was doing was okay. I’ve suffered the consequences, justifiably, and come out the other side.
I now comfort myself with the knowledge that those who are consumed by materialism, covetousness, and selfishness, deserve my pity. And I know that they’ll get their comeuppance. Greed may be the new black, but it will go out of style again. It always does. The richest people are the ones with their love of life and others intact.
He who dies with the most stuff doesn’t win – he still dies. Maybe one day, the people who live their lives driven by greed, will see that. But I’m not holding my breath. Then again, thank heavens, I don’t have to.
No, I’m not talking about smelly babies. I’m talking about us, our society, how we interact with each other and the world around us.
Sitting in the coffee shop (Paul’s Coffee Shop this time – I like working in coffee shops), I’m listening to the general buzz of conversation. Several people are talking about how with the stroke of a key, they access this factoid or that piece of gossip. Look back 60 years. 60 years isn’t really that long – although at the age of 13, I would have said it was forever. I guess that perception is another thing that changes with time. (How many of you remember, at one point in your youth, calculating how old you would be at the unthinkable turn of the millennium and barely being able to imagine it?)
60 years ago, the world got its’ news from radio and from the newspaper. TV, while in existence, wasn’t common. The internet wasn’t even dreamed of. If you wanted to communicate with someone who lived across the state, you sent a letter. If it was urgent – and usually bad news – you sent a telegram. But the point is, you waited. You kept living your life, and when the news came, you reacted to it. You didn’t constantly check the news, because there was nothing new to check. Durham had morning and afternoon newspapers (the Durham Morning Herald and the Durham Afternoon Sun) when I was growing up, so you could at least get that level of timely update.
But now? We have access to facts that were only previously found in books at the library, theses, or encyclopedias. In fact, I have to wonder a few things about the unbelievable amount of content on the internet:
- Where did these facts live BEFORE the Internet?
- Who found them to put them on the Internet?
- How could anybody have the time to do the research it took to create the content on the Internet?
I’ve written content as part of my job. I know how long it takes. I know how long it takes to write one of my “Slightly Bizarre History” blogs, and those are somewhat tongue-in-cheek. How did the Internet happen? Are there bijillions of people out there taking obscure facts from documents and books and translating them to some page somewhere in cyberspace – and getting paid for it? Really?
I wonder if we were not more content before we knew everything real-time. While coffee shops per se did not exist 60 years ago (I think Captain Starbuck was still whaling back then), diners did, with white formica counters and dime cups of java served in thick porcelain mugs. Men (and sometimes women) wearing hats, came in for a blue-plate special. Sometimes they talked. When they did, did they talk about themselves? About the little known news of the world? About where they came from, where they were going? I am sure they didn’t discuss the various functionality of their Royal typewriters or the advantage of using a Remington versus an Underwood.
Were people more personal back then, because “personal” was the primary focus of society – not business, not money, not getting ahead? Or am I just living in a dream world of old movies? Are we afraid of being personal now? Or are we just so out of touch with what’s important that we’ve forgotten what being personal means?
This is the first in a short series of posts about our society, its high times, its low standards, and the general romp of life. Such topics have been at the forefront of my frontal lobe – must be a sign of my own changing times.