Friday, 23 May 2014

Anything but greed

With the exception of food, most people aren't willing to admit to greed. They'll produce any number of ingenious euphe-misms for their wild cravings, anything that avoids that embarrassing word, greedy.

There's always a good reason why someone has 32 pairs of shoes. Or such an enormous car. Or a TV in every room. Or three bathrooms. It's not greed. No no, it's just a question of comfort. Or practicality. Or convenience. Or enjoyment. What's the harm in that?

The idea of greed is so repulsive that most people are quick to deny such tendencies. We don't want to be thought of as mindlessly grabbing everything we can, pushing others aside to justify our own voracious lust. We don't want to be seen as addictive, out of control, frenzied.

When did you last hear someone described as greedy (well, apart from millionaires)? When did you last use the word yourself? We tend to give people the benefit of the doubt rather than risk such an insult.

I mean, I'm not greedy. Good heavens, no. I may live in a very large house, but that's because I like plenty of space. I may have been to Australia a few times, but that's because it's exciting and beautiful, and because I have friends there. I may have a state-of-the-art computer, but only because the old one was obsolete. Me greedy? How very dare you.

What greed also implies is not just an untamed appetite but taking more than your fair share of something. Which is another good reason for glossing and tweaking what you're doing to avoid scorn. No no, I'm not depriving anyone else, there's plenty for everyone. Or if there isn't, then somebody should be providing more. It's not greed, it's just getting my slice of the cake.

Oh yes, there are plenty of people out there who're greedy. But don't ever say so. They won't thank you for it.

28 comments:

Grannymar said...

No. You cannot have my last Rolo. It might be stale by the time I see you, so I will eat it myself, it would be a shame to waste it!

Nick said...

Grannymar: If I had a quid for every time someone said "It would be a shame to waste it" I would be seriously wealthy. Anyway, I've got more Rolos than you've got.

Rummuser said...

I will confess to being greedy about books and other reading matter particularly those that contain crossword puzzles. Other than that, I don't need to be greedy. If I were to expand that statement, I will open a can of worms.

Nick said...

Ramana: We have about a thousand books between us, but I wouldn't say I'm greedy about them. I only buy two or three books at a time, enough for me to read in the next few weeks. I don't have piles of unread books gathering dust.

susie said...

I'm a little weird about my hundreds of lip products . . . well not a hundred, but a lot.

My nail polishes are starting to accumulate as well.

Hmmm. That's about it.

Nick said...

Susie: I think most women would admit to a large collection of cosmetics of one type or another! And they would insist they're all entirely necessary. Like all those different shades of nail polish, depending on the occasion....

Wisewebwoman said...

The disease of "more" is rampant, it explains a lot about the present state of our fragile planet when the vast majority go to bed hungry every night and own only what's on their backs while the rest flaunt their stuff.

I'm as guilty as the rest of us. And no I don't know any women who roll in excessive consumption of cosmetics, including myself ????

XO
WWW

Bijoux said...

I think there may be a psychology behind some forms of greed. I have noticed that those who had to do without at some point in their lives (poverty, the Great Depression, or simply coming from a big family) will act 'greedy' because in their minds, they need to squirrel material goods away for a rainy day.

Nick said...

www: As I said in a post once, the idea of "success" nowadays seems to boil down to getting more of everything. Yes, many people have so little they make the monstrous consumption of the so-called "advanced" countries look like unbelievable self-indulgence.

As for cosmetics, I only meant a few dozen bottles and jars - which seems more than enough to me!

Nick said...

Bijoux: I think there's something in that explanation. My own mother, who went through WW2 and rationing, is a compulsive hoarder and her one-bed flat is jammed with a mountain of stuff she doesn't need. It seems to give her a sense of security.

CheerfulMonk said...

I don't use cosmetics, and I gave away my collection of books (about 800 in our small apartment) years ago. I still buy books, but when I'm done with them I pass them on to Friends of the Library. The books find new homes and the library gets a bit more money. Am I greedy? Yes, definitely. Lately it's been for oil pastels. It's so much fun comparing the various brands and making all sorts of vibrant marks on paper. It's fun to buy things, and to pass them on to good homes when the time is right.

Nick said...

Jean: You admit to being greedy? Ooh, how very honest! But I don't think a modest collection of oil pastels really counts as greed....

We also recycle our surplus books to the local War on Want bookshop.

kylie said...

greed is a shaming word so it's a good thing we dont use it too much because shame is not a positive force in any way and the shame doesnt take away the deeper issues that people are trying to address with their habits.
i think that a lot of our negative consumerist habits would disappear if we were forced to pay for things in a way that reflected their true cost. for example: what would be the real price of a piece of cheap, disposable fashion being worn for a season or two and then dumped to landfill for many lifetimes?

Nick said...

Kylie: I totally agree with both your points. Yes, it's a shaming word and as you say shame doesn't do anything to tackle the underlying issues. In any case, many people don't feel any shame at all and see their acquisitiveness as totally normal.

And yes, if the price of products was based on their true cost, we'd be shocked to the roots by the price tag. Even more so, if the people making the products were paid a living wage and not peanuts.

Helen Devries said...

My grandmother had a disapproving phrase...'No, she's not greedy; she just likes a lot...'

Greed does seem to equate to status in the world the media hold up to us to admire.....though we have the finger pointed at us on the subject of houses.
We have three, and one in the building stage - but no one else covets them!

susie said...

Issues but here. More later.

susie

Sol said...

I'm with Rummuser. Books. I look at them and the words "My Precious", come to mind. That and my kindle. Oh my goodness. Books... lovely. A man followed me around one of the little independent book shops in London, as I was stroking them (leather bindings) and kept opening them to sniff. Weird but true.

I am greedy. I don't mind admitting it. I want a bigger garden and to live in a village, but I want it for the price of my now house. But I also want to be able to walk to work... lmao. Impossible.

I sat in the street in Cambodia, a little boy came out of a shop, sat on the seat next to me. He started chatting in an American accent.

I offered him some of my sweets. He refused. He snapped off half his chocolate bar and offered a trade. 5 sweets for half the bar. Why 5 sweets? Because lined up he thought they were about the same size as the chocolate. When you don't have much, you don't dream so big eh? he scampered off down the street and 2 other kids came out from behind a skip/dumpster where they were poking a Komodo Dragon. He shared those sweets with them.

I am in purge mode at the moment. Nothing else it to come into the house. Not even books...

susie said...

Hacked, I think

Nick said...

Helen: As I said earlier, to be a success nowadays seems to mean having more of everything, and if you don't actually need the extra, then what is that but greed?

Of course I'm sure you have very good reasons for your extensive housing portfolio!

Susie: I hope you work out what's happened to your blog and are back in business very soon!

Nick said...

Sol: A bigger garden and a house in a village sounds quite modest to me, not at all greedy. Walking to work is tricky, I've hardly ever managed that.

Some books just demand to be sniffed, don't they? Such a unique and enticing smell.

A wonderful story about the little boy, so committed to the idea of fairness. And then promptly sharing the spoils with his pals.

Have you ever been to Watkins Bookshop near Leicester Square? I used to work there many years ago, and I see it's still in business.

Secret Agent Woman said...

What may be most interesting about greed is that people generally only identify others as greedy about things they themselves don't particularly want. So using you as an example, you can point to someone's cosmetics or shoes as examples of greed but feel fine about having tons of books. But having lots of absolutely anything is a form of greed isn't it? Coming up with justifications for it don't change that. And I'm not exempting myself, of course.

Nick said...

Agent: No, I didn't quite say that. I was only talking about an excessive collection of cosmetics or shoes, though we could argue about the exact definition of "excessive"! And although we have around 1000 books, which looks like blatant greed, they're mostly ones we've read. We didn't just buy them because we fancied some more books. And books we don't plan to re-read go straight to the charity shop for someone else to read.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Ah, but that's exactly what I mean. It only seems excessive if you don't want it yourself. You have reasons for all your books, someone else has reasons for all their cosmetics, and so on. I will tell you without batting an eye that all the flower bulbs I just ordered isn't excessive. But that's a justification for my own want. We all do it.

Nick said...

Agent: Of course, all the flower bulbs are exactly the right amount for your needs lol.

Liz Hinds said...

Isn't there a difference between being greedy and being comfortable? Or is that just another euphemism?

Nick said...

Liz: Good question. I think a lot of people define comfort as having more of something (bathrooms, clothes, booze, heating, whatever), so yes, "comfortable" sounds distinctly euphemistic.

Liz Hinds said...

I've been pondering this topic of greed a lot, Nick. Husband and I even had a long discussion about it in the car on the way to Surrey at the weekend. Not come to any conclusions you understand but thought you'd like to know that your post caused such brain activity!

Nick said...

Liz: I'm very flattered that my post was so thought-provoking! It's a tricky issue - one person's everyday need is another's greed. What's the difference?

I thought Kylie made a good point about it being a shaming word.