Can we talk? About greed?

GREED. That’s a strong word, I know. It’s not one we mention or even see mentioned very often. I think we are making a mistake, however, by avoiding it.

Sculpture: Deadly Sins (Snowglobes): Greed, Pure Products USA, by Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese, Eyebeam Open Studios Fall 2009 / 20091023.10D.55558.P1.L1.SQ / SML
Creative Commons License See-ming Lee via Compfight

Do you notice when the feelings of greed get a hold of you? I have been trying to pay attention to when I feel greedy. When I place my needs ahead of the needs of others (it’s easiest when they are faceless and nameless). When I feel like I “need” something or even “want” something so badly that I am willing to grab it before someone else does. Or when I decide I want whatever it is and the heck with the consequences.

You deserve a break today.

I’m worth it.

Sometimes I justify my desire by telling myself I “deserve” it. I worked so hard last week, that I “deserve” to drive miles across town to see a movie. I have noticed all these advertising campaigns telling me over and over how I “earned” x (fill in the blank for yourself) or how I “deserve” to “reward” myself. Well since it’s the advertising industry telling me that, and not my best friend, I have to wonder: why are they telling me that. Oh right, it’s because it’s their job to sell me stuff.

Treat yourself this Mother’s Day.

Treat yourself to the best.


Greed operates most freely when I have been tricked into believing the myth of scarcity—that there isn’t enough for me and for you. To the winner go the spoils. Winner takes all. It’s a competition, a race to the top. And of course, there isn’t room for all of us at “the top,” wherever that is.

This is a dangerous path to tread. Not only dangerous to those around me (and those far away as I externalize the price of meeting my needs) but dangerous to me. To who I am inside, to my humanity. As soon as I let greed take over, I am stepping all over not just the other human beings around me, but also the human being inside of me.

We are fooled into believing that greed can get us ahead, that it makes our lives better, easier, more successful. We can look to Wall Street*, and sometimes even Main Street, for examples of the champions of such material and financial “success.” But the reality is that greed leads us away from a human (or humane) path. When we act on greed, we are  controlled by it, and we are collaborating with an oppressive system that makes some of us winners and many many others losers. We are selling out the human inside of us, in order to feed our inner consumer. The one, incidentally, that is never satiated.

stop greed

What do we do about it? We can begin by recognizing the damage it causes us all. The way our greed affects others—many of whom we will never, ever know. And the way it eats at our insides. We get to face the fears that this profit-oriented society uses to keep us in line rather than running from those fears in belief. Is it true that there is not enough for us all? Is it true that in order for you to win, I must lose?

That’s why I say: open our hearts to greed. Open our hearts to it so we may see it and know it. Introduce yourself. Get acquainted with it. Let our greed know that we aren’t going to let it call the shots. Not if you we help it.

*Nearly 40 percent of financial services employees working on Wall Street for 10 years or less said they would engage in insider trading to make $10 million — if they knew they could get away with it, according to the survey conducted by the law firm Labaton Sucharow.

When do you feel greedy? Like you want whatever-it-is at any price? What are you prepared (or not prepared) to give up? Can you tell the toll greed takes on you? Let’s get the conversation going, and if you have already started this conversation in your community, well done. It’s time. Share your thoughts. Please click on the title of the post above, to go to its page and post your comment.

Talking About Oppression

First, a nod to Tracy Chapman for her powerful and moving song “Talkin Bout a Revolution,” which came immediately to mind as I thought about writing this post.

I have been so very fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know and talk with a small group of young activists in this community in Central Mexico. We’ve been talking about oppression–about how oppression has developed over the course of human history, how it hit us when we were born into this society, how it continues to affect us today, and how to work to end oppression.


The young people in this village—like young people everywhere—are hit heavily by oppressive forces in the society. Messages that tell them who they should be, what they should do, how they should behave, and what their rewards will be if they conform.

We talked (in English and in Spanish) about how as babies we arrive here expecting to land in the world of our dreams.


Babies arrive fully human, and fully formed. Sure, we don’t have much experience with the world, but we know our own minds and we know what we want and what we need. It’s confusing when those around us don’t realize that and treat us as if we don’t have our own mind and free will.

babcia & lea

We expect to be welcomed, treated with respect, loved and held close. We expect our parents and the other adults (and young people) around us to be free of distress and to delight in our presence. We don’t realize that they already carry the scars of growing up and living in a oppressive society, filled with adultism, sexism, classism, racism and so on. If they hadn’t already been slammed by those isms, they would be much better able to “be there” for us, and to treat us as we deserve to be treated.


It was so fulfilling to me to get to speak to these young activists because I do respect the work they do and their success at conserving this community. There is a very committed group of activists in this community who continue a long legacy of maintaining community customs & traditions, as well as working to protect the villagers’ autonomy and right to self-determination.


Most recently, the local youth group, Frente Juvenile en Defensa de Tepoztlán helped organize brigades of volunteers to put out the forest fires in the mountains surrounding the town. Members of the group fought fires, built firebreaks, and solicited support for their activities by collecting food, water and tools for the volunteer firefighters.


I told these young adults that one of the first steps in fighting oppression is becoming aware of it and talking about it. Doing so is talking bout a revolution and it sounds like a whisper–but en voz alta. Out loud.


Photo credits: Jewish Federations of North America, Fonte Silvia Meo via Compfight


When have you stood up for a young person against oppressive pressures from school, society, or other adults? Do you remember an adult standing up for you when you were young? If you could return to your younger self today as an adult ally, what conversation would you have with her? How do you model human liberation for the people around you—especially but not only the younger generation?

If you are a young adult, when have you stood up for yourself? And what support would you like from your adult allies?

Chime in with your thoughts by clicking the blog post title above. This will bring you to the post page which offers the opportunity for your comments.