A coin has two sides: heads and tails; but that is how life is generally. There are always two forces at war in every spare of human existence. We have good and bad, up and down, hot and cold etc. This is a reality that many believe can only be seen through the eyes of the blind. Life is about choices and consequences. For every action, there is a reaction. When push comes to shove, what we find is that all human choices are driven by two critical elements – fear and greed.
All over the world, nobody, institution or organization, does anything for anybody solely for altruistic reasons even though they might pretend to. This is not an opinion peculiar to me as Adam Smith the great economist once said ‘it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard for their own selfish interest’.
Nothing makes us more distressed than fear and nothing makes us take action like greed. Fear is our primordial instinct and greed is the reason why we are not frozen in the glaziers of time. Take a look at most of societies’ challenges throughout history and how they were solved. The aero plane, medical advancement, weather and meteorology, and engineering to mention but a few. At the core of these advancements layed a huge coin with the sides of greed and fear. The options were and are still not sugarcoated; it is either you act or be overwhelmed, create value and be richer or do nothing and have posterity forget that you ever existed. These forces have constantly taken turns in our subconscious, in our decision making process and in some cases, they operate as a tag team. A ready example is the fear of disease that makes people engage in protected sex or avoid extra-curricular sexual activities. Another is seen in the frenzy during the buildup to the 2015 Presidential elections. We witnessed a lot of impulse buying of food, fuel, drugs, withdrawal of unwanted cash because a lot of people were apprehensive of the outcome.
Now back to the business arena. Why is the world frantically looking for a cure for HIV/AIDS? Love? Nah!!! Fear of extinction and the possible trillions of dollars to be made. When Apple introduced iTunes to help combat the menace of piracy, was it prompted by her sympathy for the intellectual property of artists that were constantly infringed upon? I believe you know the answer.
The components of fear are non-exhaustive ranging from fear of pain, criticism, poverty to the most dangerous of all – the unknown. Funny enough, greed as a major propellant of most of the actions feeds off a major type of fear: fear of poverty. In present day Nigeria, most of the unacceptable “corrupt” acts are prompted by fear of poverty. A man has a job or thriving business but is afraid of the future and so engages in shady deals to make some quick buck. Why? We live in a concrete jungle. Why don’t we just take only that which we need? The answer is simple, we want more! No matter what we have in life, we find ourselves wanting more. I must confess that this is the attitude that has prompted advancement in a lot of quarters; after all greed is contentment.
Moving onto the platform of this publication, you will find that there are quite a lot of opinions and arguments on the internet, especially the social media. I guess it’s because they really want to solve societies’ problems. Are you going to have that? Most of them just want to be heard or seen on T.V, for others, the fame and possibly nominations for awards or appointment.
With due respect to the contributions of people like Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jnr and Mother Theresa of Calcutta to mention but a few who made mind blowing sacrifices for humanity, we are all afraid and/or selfish. These people were actually spurred into action by the fear of what they saw on the horizon if they failed to take the steps they did. As a matter of fact, by giving what they did to humanity, they secured both their future and that of their immediate societies. Truthfully, all humans in every human endeavor are working towards protecting their interests or assuaging their fears. These two elements are critical to happenings in the business and political arena which is akin to the life of the gladiators in the ludus of Batiatus. Even among thieves, there is honour; there must therefore be moderation in the way we protect ourselves and promote our interests. Society must assuage her fears, especially that of tomorrow by effectively encouraging and rewarding hard work and creativity.
3 Comments Add yours
Thanks for another thought-provoking piece. You spur dialogues that bring our focus back to nation building, something that is crucial for us especially at this point in time. I would like to contribute and add to what you have written.
The coin diagram rightly shows fear and greed on the same side of the coin. The other side is love. You wrote about the side of the coin containing fear and greed. I would like us to remember about the other side containing love. So I have written below few things about it.
You wrote in the piece “These people were actually spurred into action by the fear of what they saw on the horizon if they failed to take the steps they did. As a matter of fact, by giving what they did to humanity, they secured both their future and that of their immediate societies”. Yes, it is true; this is selfish. But it is also love. Love is real. Though fear and greed truly spur development, they don’t monopolize this capability; love does, too, in fantastic ways and without the repercussions, like corruption, resulting from fear and greed. Ergo, the most effective and efficient instrument is love. It is much more potent than we realize. The fact is, to be selfish in the real sense of it is to be selfless.
Greed seems to me to be worse than fear; I don’t know what scholars think. We must control our fears and eschew greed. One way of achieving this is the last statement in your piece “Society must assuage her fears, especially that of tomorrow by effectively encouraging and rewarding hard work and creativity”.
I believe that we need to consciously move away from greed band fear and try love, for according to Albert Einstein “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it”.
I state below what great minds have said about fear, greed and love.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
—- FDR – First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933
“Fear is a tyrant and a despot, more terrible than the rack, more potent than the snake.”
—- Edgar Wallace – The Clue of the Twisted Candle (1916)
“Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”
—- German Proverb
“In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly.”
Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it.”
—- Lt. John B. Putnam Jr. (1921-1944)
The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be
– Marcel Pagnol
Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction. Erich Fromm
“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others.
Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?”
― Brian Tracy
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed.
“There is a very fine line between loving life and being greedy for it.”
― Maya Angelou
“Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see -egoism, arrogance, conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, intolerance, anger, lying, cheating, gossiping and slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then you will be read to fight the enemy you can see.”
― أبو حامد الغزالي
“Most of the mess that is called history comes about because kings and presidents cannot be satisfied with a nice chicken and a good loaf of bread.”
― Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution
“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
— James Baldwin
“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.”
— Khalil Gibran
“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.”
— Vincent Van Gogh
Where there is love there is life.
Love your neighbor as yourself
– Deutoronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18
You are not yet a good Muslim until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself
– The Prophet’s Hadith
Love is the Ultimate
– Yoruba Proverb
I must say that it is an intetesting piece. The truth is that like a mad man, no man will agree that his actions are driven by greed. It is probably easier to accept that our actions are driven by fear and that will most likely be as a justification.
While we spend time gathering so much for ourselves, we fail to equip our children with the weapons to fight fear and greed. But i must ask- do we have knowledge of the weapons needed to fight fear and greed? What are the weapons? When do we begin to teach our children?
Shelley, We have a common concern and I have done this to provoke more discussion and find solution for our common good.