Greed is The Stem of Our Own Evil
Human behaviour is one of the most perplexing enigmas that scientists and the “average-Joe” is actively trying to figure out on a day-to-day basis. Why do we do certain things in a certain way? Is it genetically written within our DNA or is it simply instinct guiding us to choose certain options? There is this certain qualm about not knowing the full truth (in anything in life). This qualm is fueling the curiosity to further understand the possible influences that ultimately dictate our individual behavior as humans. There is a plethora of strong evidence to support that context, character, and cultural repercussions affect our eminent choice of action. The culmination of such experiences is our brain’s mundane method of absorbing/extracting information that can be translated into certain actions (which reflect our behavior and our experiences as individuals).
There are three texts that will be used to express the truth about context, character, and cultural ramifications on the behaviour of our species. Malcolm Gladwell, a best-selling author, speaks out on the social and cultural forces that mold the individual. In Rent Seeking and The Making of an Unequal Society, Joseph E. Stiglitz speaks out on the contentious dilemma of the wealthy 1% pillaging from the denizens of an established area because of means of conniving capitalism. Lastly, in the Biography of Hegemony, Karen Ho explicitly stresses the life of how the elite work in ways of nepotism, superficialness, and rigged opportunities. With these three texts in mind, this essay will manifest the reality that we are all intrinsically facing in a circadian rhythm.
A good portion of what dictates our behaviour is directly a consequence from the system of wealth. This system has caused not only a split in regards to a socio-economic manner but also a divergence in ways that people behave. To elaborate, many people today are working 9-5 jobs to support a family, pay for rent, pay off debt (college loans, credit card bills, etc) whilst the elite are working to ultimately collect rent from the working population. This slight difference in worries, is the root of how people will choose to behave. In Rent Seeking and The Making of An Unequal Society, Stiglitz articulates, “As we have noted, competition naturally works against the accumulation of market power. When there are large monopoly profits, competitors work to get a share.
That is where the third factor has increased monopoly power in the United States…” (Stiglitz 405). The competitors in this case, are the working class. This bulk of the population is struggling to fight for some crumbs or AKA a “market share”. We have this societal belief that “hard works pays off” but if this is really true, why are mechanics, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, etc, not millionaires? These individuals are up in the morning on the crack of dawn to accommodate as many clients as possible and the faster they work, the more clients they can attend to. Meanwhile, these working individuals are on the ground, getting their hands dirty to make life a little bit more easy but why are people in cubicles (who only physically move during a lunch break) make exponentially more than a labor-demanding job.
There is reason to believe that this is modern day slavery. The elite in any generation of any timeline, only do tasks that require thinking and the labor is always forcefully done by slaves (slaves picked the cotton in America, slaves built the pyramids in Egypt, and slaves are the reason why billionaires are billionaires). Wealth has driven certain individuals to explicitly misuse others for the sake of getting another dollar. This insatiable greed is relatable to many individuals but however, our appetite is what separates the elite from the norm. A regular person could easily say, “I wish I had a million dollars”. A person from the elite, “I wish I had a better yacht.” These differences in what we want/need also draws the fine line in how money affects our choices, statements, ideology, and behavior.
In psychology and in sociology, a fundamental theory that both sciences can actually agree on, is the fact that environment is a substantial stimulus in our brains. Malcolm Gladwell, in his work states, “They say the criminal — far from being someone who acts for fundamental, intrinsic reasons and who lives in his own world — is actually someone acutely sensitive to his environment, who is alert to all kinds of cues, and who is prompted to commit crimes based on his perception of the world around him… behaviour is a function of social context.” (Gladwell 156) Ultimately, Gladwell suggested that criminals commit crime because of the circumstances, events, and experiences that sculpt their personality/behavior which eventually translates into criminal activity.
This truth about criminals is the reality of everyone. You do not need to be a criminal to muster a series of experiences. It is completely organic to experience anything; this is life. It is what we do and learn from the experience that separates a criminal from a law-abiding citizen. The environment for the criminal must have been very tough and as a result the criminal believes that crime is the only way to live their best life. This is not an excuse but an intricate predicament that has been engraved within their brains. In an elite standpoint, the environment is everything too. Wall Street selects from only certain types of environments (Princeton and Harvard), and this is because bankers and brokers are from Princeton and Harvard. This is a vicious cycle of nepotism and illustrates a certain greed that a human can potentially possess. Because of greed, “[t]hese norms are enacted for and demonstrated to [Ivy League] students… they pick up on the importance of performing ‘smartness’, not to mention how Wall Street business success is premised on pedigree, competitive consumption, and heteronormativity.” (Ho 177) Superficial behaviour to bombastically display intelligence is the element that determines success in this bloody industry.
In regards to environment, there are also another humans within it. In our society, the humans that have the most money control the flow of the economy. In Rent Seeking and The Making of An Unequal Society, Stiglitz simply states, “It’s one thing to win in a ‘fair’ game. It’s quite another to be able to write the rules of the game — and to write them in ways that can enhance one’s prospects of winning. And it’s even worse if you can choose your own referees.” (Stiglitz 406) In translation, look at how the United States is ran. Lobbyists (which are direct representatives of a company/conglomerate) lobby to politicians for a certain, specific agenda that exponentially benefit’s the company or market industry’s cash flow. The term “lobbying” is quite frankly a nice way of saying “rigging the referees”. The refs are the politicians and the actual rule-makers are the ones who can pay off the politicians.
This sentiment of greed, alludes companies and the elite to sneakily manipulate the market, the government, and consequently society as a whole. The implications of such greed shows that politicians are ready to disband their political morals for an easy obtainable income from a clandestine bribe. Presidents, politicians, investment bankers, stock brokers, all have a similarity. It is there alma mater. Their college environment has encouraged this belief that in order to prove the world that they are “smarter” than everyone else, they only select within their college names. Karen Ho, in her excerpt states, “Certainly, the principle of meritocracy is necessarily precarious: it is shot through with class, race, and gender hierarchies; with the constant and anxious performance of smartness; and with a prestigious branding so dependent on the singularity of the apex that it cannot help but degrade.” (Ho 182) This superiority complex is the normative rhetoric within Wall Street, Politics, and in Ivy League Schools. This behavior leads people to think since they are better than others, certain rules do not apply to them.