Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Selfishness and Greed


“How does this help me?” “Wait what do I get out of this?” “Of course I deserve it” “I want it” “I NEED it” “Just give it to me!”

Dictionary Definition:
Selfishness: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.

Money Greedy. N.d. Photograph. The Unbounded Spirit. Web. 22 May 2013.

This has become the attitude of our modern world, especially in Western civilizations. People concentrate on themselves—having an inward focus. This is because people think in the short term, how this will help them now, not how it will impact others later.  Slowly, over time, people have become more selfish and greedy and there are major repercussions. When someone takes more than what they need someone else will always miss out. Whether  the poorest in the world, suffering from huge in equity, or something much smaller, there is not an unlimited amount of space, an unlimited amount of resources or an unlimited amount of time.

There are countless problems in today’s world: ignorance, sickness, disease, unemployment, poverty, wars, and environmental destruction, the list going on and on. Are these problems caused by the lack of something? Our world is seemingly very productive, in an average year farmers produce about $ 143 billion worth of crops and about $153 billion worth of livestock, just in the U.S ("Major Crops Grown in the United States."). The problem is not in how much we have of something – it is in the distribution. Why does this distribution become unfair? Because people put themselves first and take more than is necessary, being selfish and greedy. Wars are started to obtain what the other country has, habitats destroyed to gain resources, industries and corporations don’t always do what’s best for people because they want to make money. Because they want to make money.

How Does it Happen?

This is a very complex question. Why are people selfish? Why do they take more than they need? Are people born this way? Are we wired to first and foremost think about our self?

A story by Amy Choate-Nielsen and Sara Israelsen-Hartley was recently published by Deseret News:

“Jo Greer's treasure box isn't quite what it used to be.
It still looks like it once belonged to a pirate — still has the wooden lid and metal hinges — and it still has a sticker or a piece of gum inside, depending on the day.
But what was once a coveted birthday honor in Greer's preschool classroom is now somewhat of a dud. These days, when the birthday boy or girl gets to open the box and claim the treasure inside, the response is increasingly indignant: "I don't want any of that," the 4-year-olds say. "Is that all you have?"
"The gratitude is vanishing," Greer says.

Greed. N.d. Photograph. Societies Document Watch. Web. 22 May 2013.

This type of behavior is shocking to scientists and psychologists who see this new attitude and are trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. In this day and age, “more than ever, entitlement — the idea that ‘I should get everything I want when I want it, even if I haven't worked for it’ — is rearing its ugly head” ("The Age of Entitlement: Selfishness Is Rampant, but Can Be Corrected, Experts Say.").

This problem has an even larger impact than what it appears. What do children grow up to become? Adults.  These narcissistic adults are in relationships, in schools, company’s and most importantly and perhaps most often- government. It impacts the way “children treat their parents and siblings, interferes with education and can contribute to a lifetime of unhappiness, financial instability and disdain for work” "The Age of Entitlement: Selfishness Is Rampant, but Can Be Corrected, Experts Say.").

Many experts say that this sense of entitlement stems from the way parents raise their children. By the 1960’s parenting style was beginning to change. In order to be successful, children should be told that they are. Being told that you are “number one” and that you are so special and the most important person could definitely encourage you if you were child.  Our modern society promotes individuality (never a bad thing) but encourages the step-on-others-to-get-to-the-top mentality. Is it too far? Yes kids are being “individuals” but before the 60’s kids were supposed to be “seen not heard”. This means that kids were supposed to treat people, especially adults with a higher level of respect. Kids these days refuse to help mom with the dishes, clean their room, demand help on homework. If made to do it they are pouty and grumbling all the while. These traits can follow into adulthood. They are not grateful, they just want it “RIGHT NOW” without earning it because they are so special.

Spoiled Selfish Brat. N.d. Photograph. Christian School Journal. Web. 22 May 2013. <>.

"We want to encourage effort, especially among young kids," says Jean M. Twenge, author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement” (Sigman). If kids are simply given things, their egos are inflated they become self-absorbed. They become selfish.

It is not solely a parents training that causes selfish habits to develop in children and teens, there are many other contributing factors.
Advertisements every day bombards us with all these things we need in order to be happy. The guy with the fast car or cool sunglasses gets the girls, putting on this perfume will get you the job, buying this alcohol will make your life a party. Says who? We see this and become consumed believing that indeed we would be so much better off if we had these things.  Media makes heroes out of people that have a lot of money. Paris Hilton and the Kardashions  are famous, constantly idolized.  We are supposed to want their lives. Why? Because they are rich. It becomes our goal to be just like them, along with the fancy car and expensive sunglasses. Though no one would openly admit it they are truly our role models. Recently I looked back at my fourth grade class video. One of the moms went around and asked everyone what they wanted to be. “Famous” “A Billionaire” were very common responses. Is this just kids being kids? Or is it kids being influenced by our media? That’s what people want in life. To be like them. While the rich are admired those who are poorer are often looked down upon.

In fact according to the author of “Social Class as Culture: The Convergence of Resources and Rank in the Social Realm,” a new paper written by University of California psychologists and social scientists, that when tests where used to measure empathy, people who consider themselves in a lower class demonstrate “heightened vigilance of the social context and an other-focused social orientation.” ("Study: The Rich Really Are More Selfish"). This mean that, those who are “poorer, less well-educated individuals tend to notice, and care more about, the people around them.”( "Study: The Rich Really Are More Selfish").  And when measuring people who considered themselves in the upper-class, they “trigger a focus away from the context toward the self, prioritizing self-interest.” ("Study: The Rich Really Are More Selfish"). The rich are more selfish than the poor. How would that work? You would think that they had so much money they could give more. The opposite is true. The same study conducted test comparing what percent of someone’s income they believe should be given to charity. People in the lower class who are typically less educated, having much less to give said a higher percentage than the upper-class ("Study: The Rich Really Are More Selfish").

This has become Western civilizations culture—and we have accepted it, it is the norm. People want this, they want that, they want more and more.

But what happened to: "Greed is Good"

Greed and Selfishness are synonyms in the dictionary. And as Michael Douglas said in the 1980s movie Wall Street, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." Going on to say that greed is a clean drive that "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" (" Is Greed Good?").

N.d. Photograph. The Difference Between Greed and Selfishness. Psychology Today, 27 June 2012. Web. <>

He then compared the United States to a "malfunctioning corporation" that greed could still save. He made the popular point that "America has become a second-rate power. Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions." (" Is Greed Good?” ) Both of which are more true now than in the 1980s.

Many people say that without greed, our society can never progress. The only way to continue going forward is to have that drive for bigger and better things. As seen in Ayn Rand’s novel Anthem, a society without progress is nothing.
Is this to say that being selfish is indeed a good thing?

I believe the answer is no. People seem to confusing selfishness and greed with ordinary desire and ambition. Greed is uncontrollable desire something that makes one act upon what they want not what they need. Guatama Buddha called desire: an over-attachment to the material world and its pleasures which is at the root of all human suffering.

Desire is a drive and is beneficial as it does continue to advance our society producing advances in technology and change. But to fall into greed will corrupt and destroy.
“Greed is desire gone haywire; desire decoupled from satisfaction. In its current manifestation, it attempts to monetize things that should not be monetized, like dignity.”
—Guest Mike D (" Is Greed Good?"
America is the prime example of this greed and selfishness. You hear new stories every day about people lying, manipulating, and corrupting just for personal interest.  Don’t know what I’m talking about?

How about how 80% of the citizens in America want gun control, yet the congressmen and senators don’t vote for it because the NRA pays them off. They are so selfish that they take bribes and money over doing the right thing (Miller).

Or how not too long ago tobacco companies who knew how incredibly bad tobacco was for people yet they never had any warning on labels and when caught, lied in court about it. They were responsible for average of 1,200 deaths a day. ("Judge Orders Tobacco Companies to Say They Lied"). Why? Because they were selfish. Greedy. They wanted the money.

But, selfishness is a global problem. “From the diamond mines of Zimbabwe to the government coffers of Pakistan, diplomats run into corruption everywhere they go.” ("Foreign Policy Magazine”). This type of greed is especially common in governmental corruption around the world which has many different consequences and effects on people.

What Can we do About it?

Being selfish will not get you far in life. You get what you put out. But no one is perfect, we all have greed and selfishness inside of us and we can’t change the way we are raised. To eliminate selfishness and greed you would have to eliminate the human race. There is no magic potion to rid the world of greed. No law to pass or leader to take out of office, it is inside of every individual person. That means it starts with individuals. We need to focus on being the best version of ourselves, and that means taking initiative to dampen need to take more than we need. We can stop before we act and put our self in others shoes and think about the bigger picture. Life does exist outside of that grocery store, road, and classroom. There is always more to people than it sometimes appears. Realize that you may be talented and work hard but you are not more important than anyone else. You’re needs are not necessarily more important than others in your situation. Though it is difficult, we should also try not to become as “attached” to things or ideas—the reality of the moment changes with every observation, thought and movement and we all die. Who cares if you die with the most “toys”?

The biggest question is how do we want to channel our energy? Do we through selfishness and greed or through charity and love? What is the opposite of selfishness? Altruism.  I know that “selfishness is painful, really painful. If you want to be free of the pain in your heart, open it by developing universal concern for others, bringing all sentient beings into your heart as much as you possibly can” ("Living Life with a Good Heart"). By doing this we can then begin to change ourselves and when we do, it can change the world.

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” -Eric Fromm

World in Your Hands. N.d. Photograph. Conference Calls North America. Word Press, 2011. Web. 22 May 2013. <>.


  1. Well prosed essay with many fine points and a great conclusion to many of today's problem. I really enjoyed reading that...

  2. I've always understood that greed is and has been the root of the world's problems thus far. It inspires men everywhere to perform horrendous deeds against other people and then claim that it was all in pursuit of their ambitions. Well guess what? If their wasn't so much greed, corporations and governments wouldn't be so obliged to take advantage of the poor just to satisfy their overblown stomachs with more profits. It frustrates me how much no one actually seems to care. Personally, it disgusts me.

  3. the world is in danger.. stop lying, stop manipulating people for your own good, stop materilism, stop discrimination, stop and think for a moment why are you a human being, what makes you one of the apex of all being. You were born to serve not to rule, spread happiness not war, fight for not against, feel your presence , look inside not outside, see through your mind not your eyes.

  4. hard to know where to start. Try be a better person but so many people just dont care

  5. hard to know where to start. Try be a better person but so many people just dont care

  6. I think things changed way back after the 80's we started getting credit / free credit buy now pay later . We lost the ability to work and save and appreciate what we bought and make it last. Banks do not encourage saving anymore and we now live in economic problems. I am alright jack is now very common in the UK. We have very much also what can I get out of it and whats in it for me. Basically because of credit etc and of course greed.

  7. Also lack of self control, addictive natures and materialism because we go to work and change those hours into money which we buy things with. Like a junky looking for their next shot for some alas and we are all victims to this some worse than others. Money distribution as well is the problem.

  8. But alas we go back to the TV programs bury head in sand its all o.k (some of us don't) don't worry about tomorrow this party runs forever the world is finite of course and do not worry about our children's future or grand children's. No we had it hard they have to find out themselves is another selfish saying I hear. We have major problems coming as a race of people if we continue on this road of thinking.

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