2009 – National 5th Place Award Winner:
Daniella Almeda, Bronx, New York.
Greed or Giving: Which has a Greater Impact on Society ?
In the present state of world affairs, from the economic crisis to political corruption, it would seem that the influence of greed at the very least overshadows that of giving. In fact, the giving that does occur often appears to be done out of self-interest and mutual obligation, rather than virtue. However, those who contend that greed’s impact on society is more significant than giving greatly underestimate the efficacy of generosity in the world. While one would argue that America’s economic recession is a result of the avarice of Wall Street, one can also argue that without any sense of giving there would be no Wall Street or economy because society would not exist. However, before one can understand the impact giving has on society we must comprehend the very nature of giving itself, and its relationship to greed.
Giving can be divided into two types, giving for the self and virtuous giving. Giving for the self occurs when an individual does something for someone else but still benefits from the act. For example, a person gives up certain rights and powers to the government but in return receives security. People pay taxes, but receive public services such as buses, trains and sanitation. While many would argue that this is acting out of self-interest, I argue that self-satisfaction is necessary for humans. It is through understanding the self that people are able to understand others, and it is through satisfying the self that one is then able to satisfy others. Human beings are linked within society, therefore by helping oneself they also are able to help others. The person that buys the new car puts more money into the economy therefore allowing companies to expand, creating new jobs. However, virtuous giving can only occur once one’s Self is fulfilled. In fact, the nature of greed is dissatisfaction, the desire for more, often times to fill the void created by neglecting the Self, to some degree. Therefore, giving is the very cement of societal stability and is what facilitates social interaction.
While the presumption held by most people is that greed is the polar opposite of giving, the reality is that greed is in fact a corrupt form of giving, more specifically excess self-giving, just as St. Augustine once offered that evil is merely the corruption of good and cannot exist as a separate entity. If we use the metaphor of society as a building, giving is the cement that holds the structure together, and greed would be an uneven distribution of that cement, therefore greed jeopardizes the integrity of societal structure. Still, while greed merely jeopardizes the structure, giving is the structure. Although avarice can have a large impact on society, it is only bastardization of giving. Therefore, the overall impact of giving is much greater than greed, because it is necessary for universal survival of the human race.
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