IS Greed Good?

“Greed is good.” That line from the 1987 film Wall Street shocked the country with its blatant articulation of the 1980s-era Reagan philosophy of greed. Twenty years ago it was still a shock to civilized people to hear such a vulgar statement promoting self-interest over community. From the movie,

The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that: Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right; greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words – will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

Greed used to be considered one of the “seven deadly sins.” Religions warn against its harmful effects on people and the greater community. Buddhism warns that greed is one of the three poisons. W.Jay Wood wrote in Christianity Today,

Greed is an inappropriate attitude toward things of value, built on the mistaken judgment that my well-being is tied to the sum of my possessions….Greed alienates us from God, from our neighbor, and from our true self.

But twenty years after being shocked by the promotion of a “Greed is good” philosophy much of the public instead buys into the consumer culture of greed and self-interest over public-interest. How has this change come about?

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What ever happened to the right to dissent?

The American people are getting to be more and more like the frog in the pot of water. You know the analogy—if you put a frog in water and slowly up the heat, the frog doesn’t know when he’s getting cooked until the water is just about boiling and his fate is sealed because he can’t jump out. Ive been feeling that this is what is happening to the American people recently and we’re not yet aware that the first amendment, like the frog, is being destroyed by a slow, but sure attack on dissent.
Today I awoke to a plea from the folks at MoveOn.org asking that I call my U.S. Senators and urge them to reject an attempt by Senate Republicans to condemn Move On for its ad last week regarding the testimony of General Patreus. If you recall, they referred to him as “General Betrayus” for what they claimed was a dishonest and slanted analysis on the progress of the so-called “surge” strategy that Bush and his cronies imposed upon Congress, the American people, and most importantly our soldiers and the Iraqi people.
This shameless ploy reminds me of one of the most fundamental strategies recommended when you’re being attacked and can’t respond effectively because the facts are simply against you. Don’t try to respond, just attack the messenger. By deflecting attention from the substance of what is being said, the focus moves from the issue to the character of who is sending the message. It is a strategy that the Bush administration has employed since its beginning. Every time the Emperor is observed walking without clothes, and that pesky child yells that the Emperor is naked, the Bush media machine (Fox News and others) steps in and attacks the child as being blind, or crazy, or both, or in the case of the Bush years, of being disloyal and unpatriotic.
It is not new that dissent is characterized as disloyalty. During times of war (that is REAL war, like World War 2) there was an effort to keep Americans focused on the battle, and dissent, as limited as it may be, was kept in check while our soldiers fought off the Nazi’s and Imperial Japan. Think more dramatically about after that war, when Joseph McCarthy established his drunken and reckless reign of terror on the American people, using Communism as the “War” we were fighting and using anyone who ever read a book by Karl Marx as a scapegoat.
Fast forward to today, where the “War on Terror” has replaced the War on Communism as the war de jour. While the threat of terrorism is real, the threat of losing our democratic way of life appears to be even more real and immediate in our country today. It was one of our great sages who observed that democracy will never be defeated from without, it will only be defeated from within.
Are we at that stage where the cancer of extremism within our country, the lack of an open, free and independent press has extinguished an honest and open debate on the issues, where our President believes he is king and not subject to the checks and balances of the co-equal branch of government we call Congress? Is democracy being threatened from within?

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