It's hard to characterize others as 'greedy' though, because determining what one needs or deserves is always subjective. While 'need' might be a bit easier, determining what one 'deserves' is much harder.
So, who gets to be the ultimate judge of whether or not a person is greedy? Why, each of us, of course. And our judgment is the only thing that matters, isn't it?
Isn't that why a bunch of people were touring the homes of AIG executives yesterday? To emphasize that since the executives have more than the protesters, those executives must - by personal definition - be greedy?
It is very likely that the AIG executives 'possess more than what one needs.' But how do any of the protesters know about the executives' 'desire to acquire' much less whether or not such desire is 'excessive'?
And if an employer believes you are of such a value to a company as to command a high salary - or if your customers value your offerings so much that you are able to sell things and earn high commissions, how can others determine whether or not such possessions are 'deserved?' Especially if such others have no idea about your job or the market in which you work?
Sidebar: Don't get me wrong - I'm not defending the use of taxpayer dollars to pay out large bonuses, but then, I opposed the use of taxpayer dollars in the first place and we wouldn't even be having this discussion if the government hadn't spent our money unwisely - kind of what politicians are accusing AIG of doing. (pot meet kettle) Additionally, Congress approved the bailout (porkulus) bill without reading it and knowing that they were specifically voting in favor of a provision that would allow such payouts - so shame on them for their grandstanding now and for not knowing what they were voting on in the first place.
An article in the Mercury News tells us just what the protesters thought:
""We think $165 million could be used in a more appropriate way to keep people in their homes, create more jobs and health care," said Emeline Bravo-Blackport, a gardener.
She marveled at AIG executive James Haas' colonial house, which has stunning views of a golf course and the Long Island Sound. The Fairfield house is "another part of the world" from her life in nearby Bridgeport, which flirted with bankruptcy in the 1990s and still struggles with foreclosures and unemployment."
"Lord, I wonder what it's like to live in a house that size," she said."
Well, I wonder that too, but that doesn't mean I begrudge the owners their accomplishments and acquisitions. Besides - if your main source of income is as a gardener, it's pretty likely you'll not attain such a home, unless you turn your skills into a thriving business generating lots of earnings.
"Another protester, Claire Jeffery, of Bloomfield, said she's on the verge of foreclosure. She works as a housekeeper; her husband, a truck driver, can't find work.
"I love my home," she said. "I really want people to help us.""
hmmm...a housekeeper? If I were her, I'd be leaving my business card and a flyer offering my services. Maybe with the bonuses the executives got, they could hire a housekeeper and then I'd have more income and be benefiting by working to earn some of that money.
And the comment about 'loving my home' made me think that I love my home as well - but that doesn't mean I expect others to help me maintain it.
And then there was this:
"Mary Huguley, of Hartford, said AIG executives should share their wealth with people like her sister, who is facing foreclosure.
"You ought to share it, and God will bless you for doing it," she said."
I wonder, Mary, how much the executives who live in the homes you viewed have given to charity and other non-profit programs and services within your community? Do they support the arts? Do they give to churches? Do they attend fundraisers for organizations that help people in various ways? How do you know whether and how much they 'share the wealth'?
This little tour was hosted by the Connecticut Working Families Party, not that you'll find that mentioned in the article. This is an organization that believes in a living wage for everyone - not 'earned' but mandated by government - and is pushing for higher minimum wages; government-mandated paid sick days; and shifting more of the tax burden to the very wealthy and corporations (the ones who actually provide the jobs in America).
They - and others - are practicing the politics of envy, attempting - and succeeding - in generating a "feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another."
It's used all the time in an attempt to divide people, especially in voting situations, along class lines. The message is that you should have what others have - not by working hard as they did, but through the force of government. If others have something you don't, they should share it - not through their own generosity, but through the force of government taking it and then dispensing it.
The sad part is that so many people are buying into this philosophy and politicians are willingly catering to it - and promoting it - in an attempt to earn voters/supporters for their next election.
I have to wonder about the ultimate goal of such promoters. Do they think that no one should have anything and that the 'collective' should equally divide all assets, earnings, items? Do they want the elimination of private property? And who gets to decide who gets what in such an environment?
That's where we're going - despite the fact that we've seen how disastrous such an approach is.
Envy is part of our human nature, though most religious faiths teach us it is something to be avoided - not embraced and used for political purposes. I was raised with the idea that if I wanted something, I needed to work to attain it - not expect that government was going to ensure I had it at the expense of others. If I wanted a lifestyle that allowed me the luxury of a home in Connecticut with views of a golf course and the Long Island Sound, then I needed to attain the skills, education and experience that would allow to me to get a job that paid enough to support such a home (or marry into money, but that really didn't seem like a viable option).
I was also taught that the people who did have such things had done exactly that, for the most part, and that they sacrificed many things along the way to get to that point. I needed to remember that the grass is not always greener and that some of those sacrifices I might not be willing to make - like giving up time with family, friends or hobbies to work 70-80 hours per week in order to get to such a level.
But the message people today seem to be embracing is one of greed and envy: 'I want what you have, but I don't want to do what you've done to get it, so let's have the government take from you and give to me.'
Fairness is often used as an excuse: 'It's not fair that you have more than you need while I suffer without.'
But it's a warped sense of fairness in that the other side of the equation is conveniently forgotten or purposefully denied to exist: 'It's not fair that I worked hard and sacrificed to get to this point and you want to take from me and give to others who don't want to make the same sacrifices or work as hard or for as long as I have to be able to attain the same things.'
This trend of believing that everyone somehow deserves the fruits of others' labors is what scares me the most - primarily because the non-producing or under-producing members of society are a growing segment and may actually be the majority who can rule through the tyranny of the voting booth.
"History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people.
The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy.
An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy...
These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favored and the people oppressed; whence a total separation of affections, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connections, by which the whole state is weakened." ~ Benjamin Franklin, Emblematical Representations