One of the most overlooked addictions is the addiction to greed. A destructive disease of the mind. In order to think about addiction as a disease process, I will use the term disease as not just a pathology but one that gets worse over time.
Greed enacts the cultural myth of “when I____, then I ______.” It’s intensely future focused and becomes the proverbial carrot on a stick. Consequently, you become the jackass that keeps striving, pursuing and grasping.
Each win releases adrenaline and dopamine into the system and the chase for the high is ever fueled. I mean, what is the difference between 20 million dollars and 40 million dollars? It has no real impact on someone’s life or lifestyle but that doesn’t stop people for grabbing for more.
Society offers us some convenient examples of this. Many of our world’s leaders and billionaire families offer us a very close up look at the sickness of the addiction to greed. Our president is not the only one. While greed destroys the soul, it is also destructive to all that is around. It is not just the chase for more, it is a callous and often criminal disregard for all that is around them except their own little tribe.
Greed says it’s OK to destroy the planet.
Greed says it’s OK that water is poisoned.
Greed says that it’s OK that people die because they can’t get medications.
Greed says it’s OK to put children in cages.
Greed says it’s OK to use taxpayer money to fund vacations.
Greed says it’s OK to pay someone to take a child’s SAT.
Greed says it’s OK for people to have automatic weapons.
Greed says MY religion is the right one and everyone else should follow it.
Greed says it’s OK to twist religion so it aligns with my greed.
Greed says it’s not OK to be different.
Greed says it’s OK to go to war as long as I do not have to go.
Greed says it’s OK for me to have but not you.
Greed says it’s OK for you to have as long as I have MORE.
Greed says it’s OK to not pay your fair share of taxes if you are big business.
Greed says it’s OK to lie.
Greed says you DESERVE it.
Greed says it's OK to lie to yourself about why you do what you do.
Greed says to focus on competing.
Greed says it’s OK to racially profile.
Greed says health care is not a right.
Greed says do NOT love they neighbor.
Greed says it’s OK for you to police my body.
Greed says it’s OK for you to use my body any way that you want.
Greed says MORE IS BETTER.
GREED fortifies your ego while depleting your soul.
Now we can easily see greed in others but it is far more challenging to see our own greed in our own everyday lives.
Years ago, there was a coaching worksheet. It was called the do/be/have worksheet. On that worksheet, you were asked to write down all the things that you would like to do/be/ and have.
An opportunity to stir up and live in desire. An act to fan the flames of desire, to whet the appetite and get the juices flowing so that we, the coached, would be fueled into action.
But greed is an empty pursuit. It is helped along the way with what Berlant (2008) refers to as “cruel optimism.” She writes, “When we talk about an object of desire, we are really talking about a cluster of promises we want someone or something to make to us and make possible for us. This cluster of promises could be embedded in a person, a thing, an institution, a text, a norm, a bunch of cells, smells, a good idea - whatever” (p. 33).
In other words, GREED makes promises that it will never keep but will hold you hostage. The pursuit of the object or objects of desire are only the vehicle, that we believe is the means by which those embedded promises will be fulfilled.
But it’s all a lie. Any positive feeling about what is achieved, attained or acquired is short lived and drives us to begin the cycle again. This is what Buddhism calls Saṃsāra.
Greed is a disease, a disease that is destroying all that really matters.
Pay attention to your own desires and ask yourself, suppose I did have that job, that much money, that apartment, that vacation, that car, that experience, what difference would it actually make?
You will see, all you will really be able to offer is a positive prediction about the future. Most will say, “I will be happy, or I will feel secure.” But that will only be true for a moment and once that passes, some other desire will emerge and another promise will accompany it. Don’t be fooled by the promises your mind makes.
Now I am NOT suggesting that you stop doing any of those things. Go do, be and have. All I am suggesting is that you stay present, grounded and appreciate this, live in this, stay in this, right here right now and watch the turnings of your mind and note them, just don’t grab them.
Eric G. Schneider (c) 2019