The Nature of Greed
The obsessive emphasis on economic prosperity and development reflects how rooted consumerism became in modern societies, whose chief purpose is reduced to ensuring financial growth even at the cost of well-being of its members. When growth in a country stalls, a daunting apprehension takes over public, newspapers compete to list what went wrong, and government leaders start to give defiant and inspiring speeches to uplift the morale of people as if in war times. In order to stir growth and attract investors from foreign countries, human life is often disregarded by governments, success of which is mostly determined according to their performance in economy. Increasing production and creating a perpetual need to promote consumerism became the only way for countries to have a powerful and healthy economy; therefore, a halt in consumption causes great many problems for the governments around the globe. While the constant deterioration of nature and exploitation of labour stand as a horrible and solid reality before our eyes, it should not be difficult to discern at what expense the much-desired growth is ensured.
The culture of consumption is embedded in the daily life to the extent that more people started to define their self-esteem according to the items they possess. Feeling valuable through the objects we purchase and finding a meaning to our lives in products prove much simpler than honing our human capacities to the fullest and enhancing our character with the light of knowledge. In this regard, we are never short of items to content ourselves with. Capitalist system never fails to flood us with a large variety of products; it depends on the ever-growing appetite of consumers to continue on a large-scale production. The vital aim of capitalism, however, poses itself as a great contradiction, as it targets to augment hunger by overfeeding it. The modern consumer is like the Gargantua in Rabelais’ fiction, he is before a rich table of succulent foods, but his hunger just gets greater with every bite he takes. The act of eating has long lost its purpose to feed, and gargantuan needs and desires destroy every bit of meaning that is left in life. Consuming what is produced became the mere objective of many who think themselves more respectable when they have the best item available.
The exponential growth of consumption brings the eternal damnation of life, since the frenzy of consumption deprives life from meaning and vitality. Many cling to define themselves with products and feel worthwhile according to their financial power to purchase, for the materiality of items thought to be utile for filling the great gap in spirituality that grows immense day by day. It reflects a serious degeneration, a substantial destruction of intelligibility, a step into a gruesome future in which people will have price tags on their foreheads. Nowadays, as gruesome as it sounds, it is not impossible to find a youngster who is ready to sell his kidney to get a new tablet. To illustrate, the case of an adolescent, from a rural province of China, who sold his kidney to buy a cellphone and a tablet was a puzzling revelation to many, as it showed, along many things, how human beings could be deteriorating into a level where dignity and honour do not exist and money can just buy anything. The youngster’s desire to have the brand-new products of technology was abused by some abject opportunists who, in every single situation, think of their profit without heeding the destruction their actions bring. Human dignity plays no role in their worlds, they are after satisfying their self-perpetuating savage greed that blights nature and ruins the lives of many.
The glazing desires of contemptible opportunists do not know any borders, the destruction they create befalls on each of us, and their richness comes with the suffering of masses. It is difficult not to lose faith in humanity when encountering wars, murders, and conflict of interests, which result in atrocity and sheer devastation. Every piece of earth is an arena of grim dispute; and many do not hesitate to commit themselves thoroughly to turn each part of nature into money, for nature to their eyes is nothing more than a resource which ought exhaustively to be exploited. It is not a living body, it is not a home for them, it is not a habitat that animals and human beings inhabit; it is a mere tool to be used for making money.
Torturing and extinguishing animal species by ruining their habitats, since the beginning of our century, have started to receive a pervasive and fierce criticism not only by environmentalists but also by everybody with conscience. The misfortunes of environmental destruction has not only stricken animals, with the affects of global warming, it caused oceans to rise and thereby dislocated many, it contaminated waters, and polluted the air we breathe. Those who are vicious towards nature would not spare human life for appeasing their greed. In the Amazon rainforest, loggers, after illegally cutting trees and hunting, killed many Indians, burnt their entire villages, and tortured children. The deforestation of the rainforest is one of the great problems the earth faces, but knowing that those who cut the trees there did not spare Indians living harmoniously with nature signifies more than what words can describe. In Peru, one entire Indian village was reduced to ashes, people were killed; in Brazil, Indian girls were found burnt. The problem persists to this day, as some loggers, for silencing Indians and breaking their opposition to deforestation, do not hesitate to slay entire villages. If political conditions were conducive, those native people, instead of being burnt to death, would be put for sale in slave markets. The methods of subversion change over time, but agony remains the same in essence. Because the Amazon is a vast jungle where policing is difficult, the little is known about the plight of Indians. That little information is, however, enough for comprehending the gravity of problem, as deforestation and ruination of nature reflect the gargantuan greed of some, which makes the earth hell for innocent many.
Marring nature in order to maintain the endless circle of constant supply and unceasing demand is an appalling phenomenon faced all over the globe. The difference in societal relations and financial development do not change the fact that, in different forms, in each country, nature is devastated due to the fathomless greed of humankind. In this case, the pervasive economic system of capitalism is nothing more than the embodiment of this bottomless greed, in which might makes right and profit determines every type of interaction. From the developed Canada to the underdeveloped Nigeria, nature has been blighted for the sake of overproduction that generates a colossal consumption. The case of Canada, however, is very curious, as it has long been regarded as a natural heaven, whose pristine forests and tranquil lakes drew a plenty of visitors from all over the world. Climbing to the Rocky’s and being entranced by the allure of nature, observing the grizzly bears in British Columbia; going north to cottages and thriving spiritually by the lakes, the surface of which mirrors the greenness of nearby forests, have never broken their spell on nature lovers. Nowadays, nevertheless, Canada is making headlines for quite a different reason. The country of natural wonders, when mentioned, does not arise a sublime feeling of nature anymore; in contrast, it brings to mind the destruction of environment, which could only be associated with sheer shame.
Portraying the scale of natural destruction in Canada could accentuate the importance of forming a new understanding of nature, as today’s system, guided by mere greed and endless profit pursuits, left us only a contaminated world whose peoples invariably suffer from inequality and injustice. The oil sand mining in Canada, in this case, has pernicious impacts on environment, and encouraged by the government, mining companies are relentlessly befouling nature. Releasing large volumes of contaminants into the air, the extraction of oil sands is considered as a very polluting process, since it entails the clearance of forests and the waste of water. In 2011, for mining oil sands, 170 million cubic meters of water was used, which equals to the same year’s total residential water use of 1.7 million Canadians. Because of the critical amount of toxins within, the discharge water is not recycled back into the rivers but stored in tailing lakes, and risk of toxins leaking into the underground waters is high. It is also known that wastewater, sometimes, is injected deep underground. The ecosystem of the Athabasca River, which flows into one of the world’s largest fresh water deltas, is at risk due to the constant water withdrawals. Also mining of oil sands emits three to four times more greenhouse gas than conventional crude oil production in Canada and the United States. Besides greenhouse gases, the extraction of oil sands also releases large amounts of different contaminants into the air. The oil sand mining has already caused the clearance of 715 square kilometres of forests, and it is estimated that by 2022, 18,6 hectares of forests will be disturbed daily.
The oil sands of Alberta did not only surface as a richness from the Arabian Nights, whose clandestine existence went unnoticed by the Canadian society, it also emerged as a testimony to the corrupting greed of humankind that spoils natural habitats. In a world where prospering financially became the sole purpose of existence, it rather looks out of place to offer that Canadians who deciphered the password to the cave of Ali Baba should just forget it in order to respire clean air. In the cave richness of centuries awaits them, there is huge amount of easy money to be extracted. They will know no boundaries to loot the fortune of nature; they will contaminate the air, trouble the waters, and destroy the habitats. Destruction is, in the end, what they are trained to achieve. They will look for the richness meters beneath earth while it stands just in front of them.
The heavy weight of overproduction and constant consumption falls on nature, and producers look meticulously for new resources to make use of. While the adverse affects of global warming deteriorate the life quality of billions of people, insisting on the growth based production model seems to be an insolent assault on the earth with a malicious target to extinguish the life within. Growth is the instantaneous appeasement of the gargantuan appetite, it is the direct aim of capitalism to ensure; without growth both in production and consumption, crises occur in economy, because remaining stable and calm in the capitalist system, even for a moment, means a financial suicide. There should not be a pause, not a moment of tranquility; with the great industrial means, economy has to extend itself, even at the cost of destroying the world. Not a piece of earth will remain unspoiled in the end, not a spoonful of water unpolluted, and not a breath of air uncontaminated. System has to grow, and every latent capacity of nature should be sacrificed.
The unceasing financial growth is promoted worldwide under the disguise of development, which brings to mind the realization of humane possibilities that lay dormant in humankind. Development, in the personal sense, means the realization of one’s true self; it involves the amelioration of problems that prevent one’s abilities to surface. Nonetheless, hiding behind these positive connotations, development, in the modern use, is nothing more than the dismantling of personality and life; it is nothing else than the destruction of nature and the promotion of consumption. Development, in the capitalist lexicon, is the gradual increase of wealth; the realization of human possibilities does not concern this concept in the capitalist use, as the gradual increase of wealth has always been deliberately distributed amongst a few. By hijacking the concept of development and using it as a justification for the growth based economy, capitalist ideology creates an illusion of well-being that is directly linked to consumption. In this system, the only role of human being is to consume as much as possible, and well-being is just a result of consumption, since the owned products and the ability to afford new ones are the sole criterions for development. At the root of obsessive consumption frenzy, which degenerates people into a level of no dignity and honour, lays the deceitful ideals of capitalism that creates illusions as a warranty for its existence.
The idea of development, merely linked to economic prosperity, created consumerist societies, whose value-free consciousness does not have the competence to grieve the demolition of the life-world. The consumption-oriented system, in this regard, alienated many of us from nature, as we no longer consider ourselves a part of it; nature is only a source of production in the modern era, the destruction of which is a necessity for the much-esteemed capitalism to perpetuate. Spoiling environment and creating an illusion of development, the capitalist system achieves to build a structure that draws boundaries to every concept in use. Its super-structure is considered as powerful as to assign an essence to humankind, and its achievement in envisioning and manipulating human behaviour is palpable.
In the capitalist world, human being is not recognized as an agent whose free will has the power to negate any type of causality. For our actions are believed to be predicted and directed through some manipulations that the capitalist system depends on, the mechanical process of causality is considered our intrinsic part which we could not overcome. Now, in the modern era, for the first time, human action is defined in the solidness of some projections; since human being, in the neo-liberalist philosophy, is no different than animals that are after feeding their hunger and securing their lives. The intellectual part of humanity is overlooked in a sense that every spiritual and intellectual strivings are disparaged, and remaining intellectual activities are emptied out. Even culture, which denotes the humanness of our species, is turned into an industry that pushes forward new products to eternalize the illusions of capitalism. These illusions achieve to divert reality to the degree that the suppressing capitalism, which positions humankind in the same level as animals and subjects them to the causality of market rules, is deemed a liberating system indispensible to freedoms. In fact, freedom, in the raging capitalist world, is confined to the borders of a shopping mall. Even though we are free to choose from one of the options presented, most of the times, we could not create our own. Thinking that we are often driven to purchase some products that we do not consider useful betrays the freedom in our era as a sad state of affairs. The limits of malls became the limits of our liberty. It is vital for capitalism to supply those malls at any expense, for what is at stake is our modern freedom. No forest, no lake, and no mountain will be spared in this process.
Under the great expansionist policies and growth numbers are the destruction of our life-world and the suffering of masses. We are in the age of construction; there is a purpose for our incessant attempts to bring the world into order, as we try relentlessly to exploit nature to construct the new. New buildings, new items, and new roads are always in the horizon, there is a rush to build and change. Although construction carries positive overtones, it always entails destruction. Every new building rises on the rubbles of something else, every item we have and see was created as a result of destruction. Fresh and glittering appearance of the new blinds us to discern the demolishment, which is the foundation of novelty. Virtue of the new is in proportion to what has been destroyed for its production. The coffee that many delight in drinking entails the deforestation of rainforests, exploitation of labour, and depletion of rivers. A t-shirt I buy mostly causes rivers to flow with chemicals, children sent into cotton fields, and workers to suffer in inexplicable conditions. A new cellphone, the release of which allures some ambitious consumers to spend a night in queue in front of stores, is made in low-wage countries, with the grim abuse of workers, that some in the production plants preferred suicide than work under dire conditions without any benefits. The restless construction of the new brings the destruction that many could not fathom. Life, in its all manifestations, is negated, and a sheer devastation of the world is constructed through the means of ruthless capitalism.
The exploitation of labour is a direct result of capitalism, the chief objective of which is nothing different than ensuring growth and increasing consumption without regarding the consequences of its inhumane policies. Garment workers who die due to negligence are the causalities of a greedy system that does not recognize any value in humanity. Although very saddening, the case of garment workers would clarify the destruction that our life-world is undergoing. In Bangladesh, where garment industry generates eighty percent of the total export revenue, 3.5 million workers produce goods for principally European and North American markets. Even though the industry is very profitable for the factory owners and resellers, the majority of garment workers earn approximately twenty-five euros a month. The working conditions are appalling, as many are forced to work sixteen hours a day without any breaks. Some workers finish their shift at 3 a.m. to start again the same morning at 7.30 a.m. The hazardous conditions in factories also leads to injuries and fires. Since 1990, more than four hundred workers have died and several thousand have been wounded in fifty major factory fires. Sexual harassment and discrimination are also widespread in the sector, and formation of syndicates is prevented. Profiting from suffering and blood, filling their pockets with dirty money, and thinking only for their own sake, it seems like the beast within some people have emerged and taken control of all the faculties we hold humane.
Many should be sacrificed for the comfort of the few. Inequality, in this sense, seems to stem from the fact that the existence of a lower class ensures the continuity of the low cost mass production; for the exploitation of labour could hardly be distinguished from the present day economic system. Inequality stands alongside with capitalism, it is not only a by-product of the free-market, but also a target to be constantly reached. Today, the greatest problems we face, including terrorism and wars, are the consequences of inequality, as the growing gap between the rich and the poor imply an immense cleavage which is not likely to be filled near future. By childishly closing our eyes to reality, we do not resolve anything. The scale of inequality is terrifying, and unless some action is taken for tackling the great wealth gap, future is to be a bleak one, prone to bloody revolutions. According to a report released by the Oxfam Foundation, the richest one percent owns the forty eight percent of the global wealth, leaving only fifty two percent for the rest. Statistics show that, by 2016, wealth of the top one percent will be exceeding the remaining ninety nine percent. Outrageously, wealth of the super rich eighty individuals is equal to the wealth owned by the bottom fifty percent; in this sense, what 3.5 billion people have to share is owned by these extremely rich eighty people. How long could this system of subversion and torture go on?
The links between capitalism and the destruction of nature are often overlooked, and challenges that our life-world faces are minimalized into their single being. The interconnectedness of problems requires to be approached through an all-encompassing philosophical critique of capitalism; for the destruction of nature and exploitation of labour have all emanated from the same abyss of greedy politics and economics. The formidable enemy of the life-world is the incarnation of our greed in the shape of capitalism, and our gargantuan appetite has granted on this system fatal weapons to ensure the destruction it strives to construct. It tarnishes the human dignity and honour, subverts the meaning of liberty and development, and generates colossal illusions to guarantee the continuation of its abuse. Because the enemy is nothing different than our own greed, rescuing the life-world from a sheer devastation is only possible through a spiritual and intellectual renewal that negates the illusions of capitalism. The world that is utterly wrecked by the brutal human greed can only be healed through the nobility of our actions, as human being has righteous qualities to foster. Instead of forgetting our humanness and defining our worth according to the items we posses, we should discern and counter the destructive problems that made us forget our virtues. In a world where many find refuge in the materiality of products and content with their power to purchase, a re-humanization should be pursued and realized. We all hope to reach bright days, in which meaninglessness of our lives will end, and all our problems will be resolved. Dreams of bright days will not be realized as a result of the demolition that capitalism implements in every sphere of life and nature. As the corrupting greed of humankind devastates the earth in its entirety and paves the way for a natural apocalypse, comprehending the scale and gravity of problems is indispensible for resolving them. No brightness awaits those who lack the courage to open their eyes.
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