Friday, March 25, 2005

Greed is "Good"

Greed is "Good"

One of my all-time favourite movies is Wall Street, directed by Oliver Stone. I first saw it at the Cathay cinema in KL, during my university days. The most memorable scene in the movie is Michael Douglas' "greed is good" speech. That has become one of the most quoted lines of our time. The movie also won Michael Douglas an Oscar for best actor.

Is greed good? To quote Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas' character in the movie):

"Greed, in all of it's forms--greed for life, for money, knowledge--has marked the upward surge of mankind"

Is greed the force that drives men to achieve their dreams? Isn't civilization itself built on the foundation of greed?

If you are greedy, it means that you are always trying to accumulate more than what you actually need. You don't know when to stop. You want to life live to the fullest, to experience as much success as possible, to earn so much money that you can afford to do all the things you've always wanted to do in life, plus more.

Well, what's wrong with greed then if you don't harm anyone in the process?

The answer lies in the tagline of the movie: "Every dream has a price"

What's the price of greed?

A greedy person can become so self-centered that he forgets that wealth and joy bring manifold returns only when they are spread around. A greedy person succeeds in the short run because his energies are focussed on getting the things he desires. Focus and energy are obviously essential ingredients for material success.

But whatever success he gets will never feel entirely satisfactory; because a greedy person by definition is never contented. A greedy person is also the loneliest person in the world. The only friends that he has are equally greedy people like him.

When greedy people meet, they are constantly thinking how to manipulate each other for self-benefit. They could become temporary business partners based on their mutual lust for wealth but such partnerships usually end bitterly because greedy people do not know how to share.

Greed can drive a person to succeed, yes. But the price for it is emptiness, loneliness and ultimately unhappiness. If one is willing to accept that as a price, then go ahead.

My take is that the price of greed is too high. There are better ways to achieve success, and they are not necessarily harder too. The returns are better because they come in both material and spiritual forms.


Just replace the word "greed" with "passion".

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