Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Greed can’t be the organizing principle of society


Human greed was, is and will remain one of Homo sapiens innate characteristics, just like its often hid altruistic qualities. Throughout the ages, collective human behavior has been swinging from one generalized disposition to another, depending (mostly) on the intensity of the struggle for survival. When this struggle is somewhat pacified, the tendency is for a more tempered existence that allows virtuousness to assume a prominent position and when it is not, the generalized disposition reverts back to relative viciousness. It is this pendulum-like swing that traces history with flesh and blood. We will explain, albeit heuristically.
We can break down the structure of organized societies into three basic components. At the grass root level, we have the individual or more appropriately the family. After that comes the market. Thereafter, at the highest level of social organization we find the state. The market is where ‘greed’ thrives and flourishes but that doesn’t mean greed is completely absent at the other two levels. The main difference between the market and the other two is; in the market space and place, greed is the organizing principle, while in the other two, it is not! At the level of the family altruistic attributes such as; sharing, caring, cooperating, etc form the basic organizing principle. In fact it is because of the disruptive forces/elements of the market that were always bent on doing away with the above values, the state was consciously and purposefully established; at times democratically, but mostly despotically! In earlier times, whatever form the state took, it was always called the anti-market. Naturally, the organizing principle for the state was therefore primarily derived from the organizing principles of the family. The two upheld the ‘logic of humanity’, while the market preferred the ‘logic of capital.’
As the market started to dominate all life, the state became, instead of the anti-market, mere custodian of the market and its unethical logic. The family values that emanated from the basic ‘logic of humanity’ were sufficiently watered down so as to make room for the ‘logic of the market.’ This in a nutshell is what obtains in the market economies of the West today. The overarching principle of these societies, rhetoric aside, is that of the organizing principle of the market! See Korten’s article next column and page 50. Traditional societies have literally vanished as they were systematically pushed aside by the logic of the market and its attendant material achievements/technical gizmos. What we find today, all over the world, are hybrid societies that are neither here nor there! For the sake of brevity, we categorize those that unashamedly encourage the notion of greed at all the three levels of society (family, market and state) under the rubric ‘empire.’ Within the remaining global societies, however, the battle between the ‘logic of capital’ and the ‘logic of humanity’ still rages on!  
When humanity is faced with an impending catastrophe due to phenomenon such as ‘climate change’ and proposes remedies, the market counters by rejecting each and every initiative that can potentially impact its usual operations. It mobilizes all kinds of institutions for the general defense. Besides the profit motivated private sector, institutions of global political/economic governance, (WB, IMF, WTO, UN, NATO, etc) higher learning, entertainment, etc will all be called upon to sing the market song. When the market pushes activities that produce toxins/carcinogens/radiation, etc because there is a whole lot of money to be made, despite the obvious long term detrimental effects on life, not only human’s, even the anti-market (state) prefers to look the other way. Such occurrences have now become commonplace/mainstream, as the state abrogates its prerogatives and the logic of humanity gives way to the ‘logic of capital.’ But times are-a-changing!
Global humanity resides as a conscience entity only at the scale and level of the primordial, i.e. at the level of the individual/family. This is the space where it can comfortably articulate the good and the bad, virtues and the vices, etc. Today this space is bustling with activity! The ‘Arab Spring’, the ‘Occupy Movement’, etc, all emanate from here. At the other two levels, on the other hand, a market construed manifesto (Neo-liberalism) purports to bring nirvana to us all! Contrary to the claim however, it is an increasingly anti-life agenda that has taken hold of human’s destiny! In this schema of perverse alienation, the state and the market seem to be in cahoots! But we think sooner than later the situation will lead to a globalized human revolution of massive proportion! The beast (human mass) has already started to roam the streets trying to reclaim the states. The prevailing states, on the other hand, are fighting tooth and nail to preserve the status-quo, i.e. the preeminence of the market logic at the expense of all and sundry!
Recently a lifelong social activist and feminist said; ‘…the secret to the future is a combination of philosophy and activism.’ She continued: “We need to grow our souls. We need to find that balance of life that respects each other, that thinks that the most important thing at this time on the clock of the world is not our accumulation of things, is not economic growth which threatens and imperils all life on this planet including ourselves, that the time has come to grow our souls, to grow our relationships with one another, to create families that are loving and communities that are loving, to bring the neighbor back into the hood… There are so many ways in which we can grow our souls and the souls of those around us.” Grace Lee Boggs. Good Day!