greed \Greed\, n. [Akin to Goth. gr?dus hunger, Icel. gr[=a][eth]r. [root]34. ] An eager desire or longing; greediness; as, a greed of gain; vehemently desirous; eager to obtain; avaricious.

Before I begin, a disclaimer seems to be in order: I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist party. Please keep that in mind. In fact, I tend to vote Republican. Nevertheless, it seems that greed is, in ways too numerous and ugly to count, America’s favorite deadly sin.

I know it’s mine. Like a Chris Carter television series (“I made that!”), greed is slippery and oh-so-justifiable slope we climb and descend all our days as our fortunes change. There’s no use trying to deny it. Perhaps it’s only human to want to improve ones condition, to want more. Where would we be if people hadn’t striven for such things? But it’s always material, and something about America makes us prone to excess in a way that embarrasses me, especially for those who don’t recognize it. And I guess that’s really what bugs: so many people don’t seem to realize it.

The stucco-infested land in which I live goes by the name Orange County, California; it is literally the most prosperous county in the world’s most prosperous nation. So it can be hard to maintain a level perspective when you live in a community like Irvine or Newport Beach. Count the Mercedes, Beemers, or face lifts, and you realize pretty quickly that we’re the ones who should have the 90210 zip code. But in a way it’s great–whenever you go any where else, it becomes instantly obvious that we live in a bubble. Like the intravenous pyelogram dye doctors have often injected into my bloodstream before taking x-rays, the contrast is unmistakable. You don’t even have to leave Orange County. Just travel to Santa Ana (highly Hispanic) or Westminster, home to Little Saigon (the world’s largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam). Wonderful and highly cultured communities just down the road, yet a world apart from where I live.

If greed is “an eager desire or longing”, it’s not always a bad thing. Greediness for civil rights or equal justice under the law would probably make for a good lawyer. But that’s not how it manifests itself here. We want stuff. Bigger homes, better cars, more exotic vacations. Hell, I’m as greedy as the next guy. More so, probably. I’m twenty-seven years old, and I just bought an airplane. No, not a model–a real airplane. I charge clients up to $80.00 an hour for my consulting, design, and programming services. I mean, c’mon. Is there anything I could do short of prostituting myself that really justifies $80.00 an hour? But it’s the going rate in the field, I say to myself.

I sometimes wonder if the likes of Michael Eisner, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or Queen Elizabeth are kept awake at night by such things.

As for me… in that half-asleep/half-awake moment before nodding off at night, strange thoughts dance across the plateau of my mind. I find they’re usually laced with truth, with reality. They flit in and out of my mental vision just as I pass equilibrium between commercial reality and dream world fantasy. A certain damning question has recurred to me regularly over the past several years. It’s usually a variation on wondering how many people starved to death or died of disease in Africa today while I was trying to find a spare half-hour to get my car waxed.

Now where the hell did I put those rose colored glasses?

[This was written as part of an Illumine collaborative web project on the seven deadly sins.]


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