By Aare Kola Oyefeso
“We continue to imagine how people could be amassing wealth indiscriminately, as if they are going to live forever.
1.The subject, GREED could be very sensitive to the few riding roughshod over the masses, but truth must be told irrespective of whose ox is gored. It is impossible to discuss greed without x-raying the lives of our public employees, in view of their position, as the mirror of the society. I will be doing so while maintaining the apolitical stance of this column.
2. Expectedly, we all know what greed is, but the fundamentals behind its propensity seem not too clear hence; We continue to imagine how people could be amassing wealth indiscriminately, as if they are going to live forever.
3. This may have to do with man’s perpetual failure to learn from history as a result of which, we have all been witnesses to history repeating itself times too often. One of the famous greedy individuals in recorded history was the Great Alexander Pope who tried to conquer and inherit the world. When his life was expiring, he pleaded with the best doctors around that he would relinquish all his wealth, if they could extend his life even by one day.
4. All the doctors he assembled expressed the impossibility of such request as they reminded him, Doctors only treat, God Himself does the healing. By the same token, they told him Life belongs to the Giver, Who gives and takes as He likes. When the impossibility of his request dawned on him, he wrote in his will that the bier carrying his dead body should be configured to make both hands of his to dangle out on the way to the cemetery, for the purpose of showing the world that in spite of his enormous wealth and power, he is departing empty handed, the same way he arrived unto the world.
5. Despite the lesson that was evident at the last moment of Alexander Pope, have the worldly people taken a cue from it? A narrative was once given about a very wealthy man that suddenly died. The man had fleet of cars, mansions across the universe, farmlands, horses and countless slaves. With a view to sharing immediately among themselves all the wealthy man had acquired while alive, the children and family members decided to bury his cadaver the same day.
6. With that resolve, the digging of the man’s grave in no time commenced in earnest. While the digging was on, a madman passed by. He looked at the diggers derisively and left. Of course the mourners took no significant notice of the madman, with their forlorn looks, they continued with the digging. After some time the digging ended, and they were preparing to lower the dead body into the grave.
7. As it happened, the madman suddenly appeared again and this time he burst into a jeering laughter. He then stopped and started staring at the grave. The mourners got enraged and were to chase him away. In their midst was an old man who thought the insane man wanted food or something, he ordered the mourners to hear the madman out.
8. Curiously, the madman quipped; Are you all so daft? What a shallow grave you have dug for the wealthy man. How would this grave be enough to accommodate all the inheritances of the diseased being several mansions, fleet of cars, farmlands, diamond, gold, Rolex watches, horses and several valuable and invaluable items? Without waiting for an answer, the madman left the scene.
9. The mourners were all dumbstruck. The person reminding them of the vanity of all our acquisitions in this world might be deemed crazy but he uttered eternal truth. And this calls to question as to how many shirts could we wear in any particular day. How much morsels can we swallow? At night, how many rooms are we going to sleep, in a world where the rich under their artificial comfort could hardly sleep soundly yet, the downtrodden snore away without electricity in the midst of flying mosquitoes, even loudspeakers of nearby mosques, churches and noise from neighbours’ generators.
10. Worse still, the Wealthy are afraid to eat to their hearts’ content because of constipation, but those without the affordability and basic necessity of life are blessed with ravenous appetite. When we imagine the basic needs of life, we come to the conclusion that our needs are not as many as we imagine them to be. Basically, they are about clothing, shelter and food. All other things come under the nonessentials. The Corona Virus has come as another candid reminder of the futility of our rat race. All the things we had hitherto deemed as essentials of life, for six solid months running and still counting, we have lived without the fantasies and fancies of life, yet life continues.
11. With all these experiences of life whoever still remains greedy suffers a kind of metal aberration. It couldn’t be otherwise because greed is the third member of the five unholy subdivisions of the mind. It is one of the most poisonous of the perverts and its function is to bind us to material things, while clouding our mind to morality and higher values. Thus; No greedy person could be credited with any modicum of integrity.
12. We may say greed like other perversions of the mind could be condoned in its mildest form, which is simply making provision for the morrow. Perhaps, we could also argue that without a subtle form of greed, we will all live by the day. We wouldn’t make provision for the rainy days. This may be permissible in our environment where nothing is in place even for retirees and the old people.
13. The problem we are confronted with is that while making provision for tomorrow, we confuse needs with wants. Worse still, we tend to make provision not only for ourselves, we make for our immediate offsprings, and also for our unborn generations. In the course of doing this, we inevitably compromise on moral principles.
14. It is arguable that the proclivity to dip hands into the filthy-lucre in the developing countries is far higher than those of the countries that have in place social welfare programs for their citizens. Virtually, in the developing countries particularly in Nigeria it seems tasking to be above board. The reason is not far fetched because we are in a sort of survival of the fittest conundrum. Perhaps two instances wouldn’t be out place.
15. Before the coup of 1976, employment was guaranteed in the civil service, as long as one doesn’t get involved in fraudulent practices. Gen Murtala came and without bothering about the consequences, he embarked on mass sack of the top hierarchy in the civil service. With that singular brash and impulsive act, of throwing away the baby with the bathwater, civil service in this country has not been the same again.
16. During the Military rule, 9pm news was a must listen to by the civil servants daily. Not few heard about their retirements in the news. The consequence of this is that all through the military period, (perhaps till date) all top civil servants lived in fear of being relieved of their employments. In parri pasu, they were busy making provision for any eventually of military or government arbitrariness.
17. That is stop short of saying they were compromising their positions to put them in good stead in life after office. The truth of the matter is that because our economy largely revolves around Government, once the civil service is compromised as it has since been, the negative effects cascade across the board.
18. We could then attribute FEAR to the cause of greed on the part of the civil employees. To compound matters for this nation of ours, Babangida came and towards enlongating his tenure, he made life very cosy for top civil servants. Some have as many as four vehicles allocated to them with their houses lavishly furnished. The end result of this is that having been exposed to such luxury, those top civil workers for bringing up their children in such opulence, were (or are still) inclined to doing everything to replicate that standard well ahead for life after service. Of course to be able to achieve this, they must abuse their positions.
19. There may be very few exceptions here and there and which scanty group would today be regretting their “dog in the manger” attitude with a resolve that if given the opportunity again, they would behave differently. A handy case is that of a former Head of State turned President. I need not give his name, for he is compared with the proverbial ostrich that buries its head in the soil and foolishly thinks no one sees it.
20. One thing we have to get straight is that despite any reason we may come up with under the influence of another aspect of the mind, that is known in psychology as cognitive consonance, NOTHING justifies or excuses Greed for us before our Creator. The law of retribution is inviolable,we shall reap exactly what we have sown. If one person pockets money or proceeds meant for the masses, and doltishly thinks he can get away with such infraction, by bribing God through the Priests with 10% tithe or investment in religious movements, or charity, such person deceives himself not God.
21. The truth is, there is no justification for our iniquities before God. It is for this reason God gave us a discriminating mind to be able to think before taking action, cognizant of the corresponding effect of every action of ours. The story of the Biblical Adam is a classical example. Adam tried to justify eating the forbidden fruit on the temptation of Eve and Eve equally placed the blame on Satan.
22. Despite the alibi which was already known by the omniscient God ahead of the occurrence, both Adam and Eve were sent packing, while Satan the tempter was also banished from that unsullied Kingdom. Satan has seen followed man to the earthly field to continue with the temptation. We will make a meal of the nature of Satan-the Negative Power in future series.
23. This inference from this is that the law of karma works with exactitude. It is true what we have in Galatians 6 vs 7 to wit; “Be not be deceived God is not mocked whatever a man soweth he reapeth” We shall be discussing at length Retribution and Reincarnation when we conclude discourse on the five perversions, as we still have Attachment and Ego to take up on this series having discussed, Lust, Anger and currently we are on Greed.
24. It goes without saying that proclivity for greed is not limited to the public officers. We have greedy men and women in every sphere of life. The people of commerce scarcely fare better. A good number of them think of nothing else beside money in the course of which, they have become hard of heart. Pitiless slave drivers, they drive men and women even children in their factories, grinding wealth out of them. This group sees nothing else beside profit. As anger degrades and consumers, greed hardens.
25. Happily, the picture painted doesn’t apply to all the people engaged in commerce but it applies to some no doubt. But does wealth really give enduring happiness? John D. Rockefeller said before his death that one who has nothing but money is the poorest in the world. This tells us money is not an end all alone by itself, but one of the several means to an end.
26. If the time comes when people give thought only to what they actually need, the passion of greed will die of attrition. Civilization will take a giant leap forward. It would then dawn on us that we really have enough to go round and make everybody happy, instead of the very few hoarding the wealth meant for the masses.
27. It is noteworthy that the masses are very easy to please. With two or three square meals a day, subsidized housing, children education and medicare,which were possible, even when we didn’t have oil, the masses would fare better and the nation will be happier for it. Would the greed of the people in power ever allow this to happen? Your guess is as good as mine.
28. In summation, if you and I could start thinking more of giving than receiving and sharing than accumulating, human race will stand close to the ideal nobility. We will take up ATTACHMENT next week.
To be continued…
*Aare Kola Oyefeso*