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The world we live in has a disease. It is not a physical sickness. It is not a virus or bacteria, there is no vaccine to prevent it, nor a pill to treat it. It is so dreadful that it is even one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Every man, woman, and child will contract this sickness at one point in their life. It is engraved in their DNA, passed down from generation to generation. This sickness is greed. Greed is present in every stage of life, children who shout “MINE” when given a toy or cutthroat businessmen like Bernie Madoff who swindled billions of dollars from the wealthy and poor alike. The article “Madoff Scandal’s Deep Impact on Funding for Health, Science”, by Elizabeth Bernstein (2009), shows the drastic effect of Madoff’s embezzlement on medical and scientific research. According to the article “How can Africa’s Water and Sanitation Shortfall be Solved?” by Mark Dearn (2014), the estimate of how much it would cost to solve Africa’s clean water dilemma is brought to light, a small figure, as small as how much it cost Facebook to acquire popular messaging application WhatsApp.The autobiographical novel “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich, she examines the struggle that people in minimum wage jobs face trying to make ends meet. This shows the stark contrast between the few and powerful CEO’s and the many poor employees who support them. However, there is hope. People have been taking notice of this problem, such as music group Bad Meets Evil in their song “Above the Law”. “Reversing the Culture of Greed”, by Jung-kyu Kim (2013), defines what we can do to solve this problem.
In the outside world, greed is responsible for the endangerment of many lives, and the halting of progress in the medical field, leading to the deaths of millions of innocent people. Money that could solve troubles around the world, such as diseases, or unclean water, is instead kept, swindled, or invested for personal gains. In 2008, news broke out that a financier by the name of Bernie Madoff had been keeping money that he was supposed to be investing, and instead keeping the money for himself. To make matters worse, the organizations that had hired him for his services were “…generous donors to health-care causes who funded buildings at hospitals, long-term programs at charities and high-risk research.” (Bernstein, 2009). Progress towards cures for a large sum of diseases was halted, and the lives of those suffering from those diseases were sinisterly replaced by a monetary figure. “We could be inches away from that breakthrough that could change the lives of millions of people, and Madoff pulled the rug out from underneath us,” says Jim Surmeier (Bernstein 2009). Greed also affects people internationally, in places such as Libya. According to estimates “Future annual spending on water supply and sanitation is estimated at $21.9 billion, compared with current spending levels of $7.6 billion.” (Dearn, 2014). In February of 2014, social media giant Facebook acquired popular messaging application WhatsApp for a sum of $20 billion, which nearly amounts to the $21.9 billion that is required to maintain clean water in the country of Libya. By spending large sums of cash for personal gain, and disregarding the needs of the rest of the world.
As our society currently stands, it is greatly in favor of the rich and few and creates obstacles for the vast, poor majority. Laws and subsidies support rich CEOs while disadvantaging the middle and lower class. Minimum wage is barely a liveable wage and corporations that employ such workers like it that way. They keep wages low to make employees easily replaceable and keep profits high. These profiteering business tactics support the extravagant lifestyles of the rich and prevent lower workers from gaining ground. In “Nickel and Dimed”, the author attempts to live in Key West, Florida by only working minimum or low wage jobs. She finds this very difficult and it exemplifies the effect of greed on people in poverty. Because corporations refuse to raise wages, people in Barbara’s position can barely afford food. “You might discover that, nationwide, America’s food banks are experiencing ‘a torrent of need which [they] cannot meet’ and that, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 67 percent of the adults requesting emergency food aid are people with jobs.” (Ehrenreich, 2009, page 219) This statistic shows how hard life is for low wage workers. One might assume that most people applying for food aid are unemployed but the reality is, most of them do have jobs and still cannot get by. This problem is not unknown by most, it is just continued by the rich who do not want to lost profits. The song “Above the Law” by Bad Meets Evil shows how aware we are of this problem. “The poor stay poor, the rich get richer, it’s just so disproportionate”. People are not blind to this issue. As the poor live squandering lives, the rich get richer at their expense. If we want to fix this issue, the mindset of the rich must be to help the poor and not to further their own extravagant wealth and power.
Modern day United States, and most of the world, is a capitalist society, where one can, if he works hard enough, join the elite upper class of millionaires and billionaires. However, is it possible for a man to achieve that status if that upper class is preventing him from joining, by giving him low wages, and greedily swindling every hard earned penny that they painstakingly work for? “A culture of greed and selfishness has somehow pervaded all levels of American society.” (Kim, 2013).
If a leader makes profit-making his chief business, he will end up employing the services of greedy men. His intentions may be good, but when such small men control the affairs, calamities from Heaven and injuries from men will befall the state… This is why a true leader must not consider profit-making his profit, but regard enacting righteousness as his profit. (Kim, 2013).
This saying of Confucius still holds true today. Executives everywhere are making profits their main priority, while not taking into account those who are affected by their business tactics.
Reversing a distinct and heavily ingrained human trait will not be a simple task. The solution to this dilemma of greed and selfishness will ultimately have to be a full reworking of the mindset of society. Our society values wealth and power and looks down upon the less fortunate. If we want to get rid of greed and all of the issues it causes, we need to stop putting our entire life focus on getting a job and making a higher salary and instead focus on bettering ourselves and helping others. “…the underlying cause is primarily philosophical. For this to happen, though, we must recognize that selfishness (even of the enlightened sort) is ultimately a poor basis for morality and introduce a new philosophy based on the values of compassion, aesthetic sensibility and humaneness (ren) instead.” (jungkyu-kim, 2013) If mankind can truly follow this path, greed will begin to disappear and the world will be bettered because of it.
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