August 22, 2002 Halifax Herald

Greed illness fatal for West?

WHEN THE greed disease drives a nation's or an individual's aspirations, it instils a blind desire to accumulate power and wealth that can never be satisfied. The possible fatal consequences bear no consideration, including destruction of our habitat, because it creates in society a bankruptcy of ethics and goodwill.

This human failing is no better illustrated than by the following quotes from the story behind this July 22, 2002, Halifax Herald headline: WorldCom files for biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history, by Matt Moore of The Associated Press:

"New York - In the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, telecommunications giant WorldCom Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection Sunday, about a month after disclosing it had falsely inflated profits by nearly $4 billion US ... The bankruptcy is the latest in a stunning series of corporate collapses stemming from deceptive accounting ...

The collapse of WorldCom follows costly scandals at other big-name companies, including Adelphia Communications, Global Crossing and Enron, all of which have filed for bankruptcy as they attempt to pay creditors and reorganize their businesses.

The bankruptcy would be twice as large as Enron's record-setting filing in December and four times as big as Global Crossing's in January. In its filing, WorldCom reported more than $107 billion in assets but said its liabilities total more than $65 billion ..."

These "creative accounting frauds" cannot be blamed on a need to survive, as extremely wealthy men and women, who have everything that a person could dream of, luxury homes, cars, servants, entertainments, etc., are behind them.

However, to be fair, the greed disease hasn't only infected business. It has spread, unencumbered by a sense of societal responsibility, to almost everyone and everything. Major league sports are badly hammered by it. Players are demanding and getting astronomical yearly salaries. Salaries are getting so big that the cost of admission to sports arenas and ballparks has become so costly that the continued existence of big game sports is being put into jeopardy. No matter, today is all that counts.

Before proceeding, I'll break down to understandable terms the estimated $58 million salary of a CEO that I read about. It's enough to pay 1,450 workers $40,000 each for a year, or support a village of approximately 4,000 for an entire year.

A reader sent me this poem about greed. It offers a fairly good description of the illness and its effects:

Something Really Nice

It's the finest house, and the finest car, what's happened to this nation,

If we don't have this and we don't have that, we meet such indignation,

Where have all our values gone, that were the fabric of our lives,

A loving home, respectful kids, a husband and a wife,

Now all we have are boats and cars, things that have no soul,

We measure our success in life, with things that are so cold,

It makes one sit and wonder, how it ever came to this,

I think we all know the answer, in a word called "Avarice"

Greed is what we're all about, it's nothing more or less,

And what could be our downfall, "A new expensive dress"

The time has come for all of us, to pay a hefty price,

For wanting all the things we see, "Something Really Nice."

The things we really, really need, are integrity and truth,

We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our youth,

They need the strength in family, to have their dreams come true,

Those who will be there for them, no matter what they choose to do,

When they feel so uncertain, about who they really are,

Talk to them and hold them, not give them a brand new car,

Our children have warped values, there is no one they can trust,

Mom and Dad are not around, they're to busy going bust,

Trying to accumulate more and more expensive things,

Showing all their neighbours, how they can live like kings,

We should pity those "Poor Children" what they have to sacrifice,

Just so mom and dad can buy them, "Something Really Nice."

Irene Bell 1998

What this world needs to do, if there is to be a prosperous tomorrow, is to focus on building "YOU Societies" and abandon the "ME Societies" course that it's on. To continue to gamble that the ongoing destruction of our environment to make more money will not in the long run prove fatal to humanity is foolhardy in the extreme. Money and power can't buy forgiveness from Mother Nature - already she's firing warning shots across our bow with weird weather caused by global warming. Do we really want to bet that we can indiscriminately heat up the environment by 10 degrees to try to satisfy greed and survive?

Daniel N. Paul


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