Wednesday, March 10, 2010


A New Jersey “Midnight Knitter”
Is covering tree branches and
lampposts with miniature sweaters.

It must be just plain greed. I have no other explanation for much of human behavior, especially the kinds of behavior we are seeing at the moment here in the U.S. and in Israel. How can so many Americans not want their fellow citizens to have health care? Some say we can’t afford it, but that is not true as we can afford to pay for two completely unnecessary “wars,” military bases all around the world, a defense budget so bloated it is completely absurd. Apparently some people regard all this killing and war as far more important that allowing our fellow citizens to have adequate health care, a ridiculous argument if ever there was one. It is true we have had to borrow money to pay for our aggressive behavior, but we could just as easily borrow money to pay for health care. Those who do not want their fellows to have health care are those who already have it for themselves and do not wish to pay anything to help others. In short, they are greedy and selfish.

In fact greed seems to be the primary motivating factor in our economy in general. Why do our corporations outsource jobs to Asia and other places? Obviously because labor is cheaper there and by outsourcing they can make greater profits, and as greater profits are better than lesser ones, greed can know no bounds. Think, too, of the obscene salaries our CEO’s are making. No one needs a salary of several million dollars a year, far more than they can even spend on anything other than making even more money. This has to be a system based basically on naked greed. I can see no other explanation. Here in the U.S. the more money you can make the better. We pay our coaches far more than any of our Professors or even University Presidents. Professional athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods make so much money there is no way they can possibly need it or spend it. And once they make their first few millions they just keep on making more and more and more. Is there any other explanation than greed? I can’t think of one. Prestige maybe, but prestige comes with the money.

Look also at the case of Israel. Vice-President Biden has flown to the Middle East to try to arrange peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So what does Israel do? They announce they will build an additional 1600 illegal homes in Jerusalem, making it clear they are not in the least interested in peace. They are also building illegal homes elsewhere in the West Bank, thumbing their nose at both the U.S. and the Palestinians who will not consider peace talks until the illegal settlements stop. Why do the Israelis not want peace? Greed, that’s why. They have systematically stolen Palestinian land and water and want to continue to do so as long as possible, indeed, forever if they can, and if they can rid themselves entirely of Palestinians by whatever means possible they will do so. Obama suggested early on that Israel should stop the settlements. They have simply ignored him with a monumental slap in the face. And what is worse, he has turned the other cheek. The U.S. is the only country that could make the Israelis stop their greedy march to apartheid but does nothing, thus just fueling further Israeli greed.

I would be happy to consider some other basic motive than greed for most of human behavior, but a look at the historical record offers little in the way of a viable substitute. Every European country, without exception, that at one time had a colony or colonies, committed acts so vile and atrocious it makes you ill reading about them. England, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, even Belgium, along with the U.S. were all guilty of atrocities almost beyond imagination. Why did they behave in this way? Greed has to be the most basic motive. Of course at first the motive was claimed to be spreading the gospel to the heathens. Then a bit later it was said to be to bring “civilization” to the “savages.” Then for some it was to help them to help themselves, to better their lot, so to speak (or conversely to save them from themselves). Nowadays it is to spread democracy (or save them from themselves). Imperialism was always excused under the guise of some noble motive, but you notice they didn’t leave behind any gold, or rubber, or diamonds, or ivory, and they always captured slaves and took over foreign lands and whatever else they wished. And they killed and tortured at will, from the beginning to the end, in Asia, Africa, Australia, Tasmania, the U.S., even Siberia, wherever they went. During the Colonial Period no one was safe from marauding Western-Europeans. The historical record is clear and most unpleasant, and where some noble motive was claimed, the real motive was greed (perhaps with a bit of sadism mixed in). This is not to say that other people in Africa, Asia, the Middle and Far East were not equally as rapacious, murderous and destructive, but theirs is a history I know too little about, but I suspect that their motive involved the same greed but without so many noble excuses. If you want a single explanation for all of human history, stick with greed, it works.

It is partly to avoid consciousness of greed that we prefer to associate with those who are at least as greedy as we ourselves. Those who consume much less are a reproach.
Charles Horton Cooley

Mae West was born Mary Jane West.

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