Greed or Giving: Which has a Greater Impact on Society ?
“There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed.” -Buddha
Greed is a tsunami that engulfs all but those with the purest of souls and the noblest of resolve. In a society plagued by avarice, is there any wonder that the most notable people in history are often those who stole selfishly from the world? Greed is that insatiable hunger that devours all but leaves little. No matter how much one may give to this ravenous leviathan, the desire for more will never disappear, ultimately consuming any acts of selflessness and leaving behind great scars upon the world.
In almost all historical cases, greed has made a greater impression on the people than giving, in part due to its worldwide implications, in part due to the shock of finding out the ugly side of life. Take the 2007–2008 housing crisis, for example. Reflect upon the catastrophe that would eventually manifest itself, when many years ago, a little seed of greed implanted itself in the minds of a few loan brokers. This little seed grew unchecked, becoming so widespread, so embedded in workings of the system, that all it took was one little boost in taxes, one little push, one little tap on the dominoes of disaster to mark the beginning of the end. Wall Street’s greed caused a global crisis and perniciously affected the lives of millions upon millions of people. From one little selfish act, events conspired to cruelly shatter the illusions of security and opened the eyes of the people to the harsh truth of reality. The devastating effects of greed are almost unimaginable and yet this is but one of many cases in history.
Giving, on the other hand, affects a much smaller group. The daily, almost mundane, act of holding a door for the elderly, or helping a friend, affects few. Giving may provide temporary relief; however, the benevolent deed will most likely be forgotten soon after. Even in the rare cases where giving has made a worldwide impact, greed has inevitably warped its effect and used its “good” to wreak havoc upon the world.
Just how does greed distort the actions of giving?
Take the story of Jesus, for example. In perhaps the most influential act of altruism, Jesus sacrificed himself to spread his ideas to the people. While his gift did spread to all corners of the world, one must not forget what greed has done to it; greed twisted his sacrifice to its own ends, and used his ideals to promote violence, ensure segregation, and maintain a wall of sexism for hundreds of years. Ironically, in encouraging peace and love, Jesus has inadvertently promoted the evils of the world by providing a façade for the greedy to cower behind.
The charity of humanity is almost expected, and thus, giving will inevitably be forgotten. Greed, on the other hand, will lead to death, violence, and hatred, all of which shock and frighten us, causing an everlasting impression. In a world filled with naïve notions of mankind’s “inherent good,” greed will forever eclipse the fragile light of altruism
Written by Bert Geng, age 16, from Bethpage High School in Bethpage New York at the time of original publication.
This piece won the 9th annual National Kids Philosophy Slam by successfully arguing that greed has a greater impact on society than giving, and earned the title of “The Most Philosophical Student in America”