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If we could isolate the greed gene…

Diane Hall


Pile of euro coins on a dinner plate to imply greed

I’ve written a few articles on the subject of poverty, as it’s a topic I’m passionate about. With energy prices shooting through the roof and every other cost heading skywards as well, it makes you wonder where the situation will lead. At what point will prices level out/stop increasing?

When the pandemic hit and the NHS was straining to keep on top of the Covid situation, due to years of underfunding, the thought that our national insurance contributions would increase to mop up the aftermath and ensure medical personnel were fairly compensated for the amazing work they do was one the nation could stomach. Because, when the chips were down, those doctors and nurses stepped up. Problems from perpetual budget cuts were highlighted in the crisis; it was clear to everyone that we have to put our money where our mouth is if we want to keep the NHS under national ownership and not see it become a privately-funded organisation.

A rise in our NI contributions sounded fair. People could see why it was needed and what the extra funds would do.

However, compare that situation with the recent energy price rises. All the general public sees from their escalating bills is more and more profit going into the pockets of shareholders. The companies claim that some of the additional profit generated will go towards improving the service/network, but what’s the rest going towards? Upgrading a shareholder’s yacht? An extension to a shareholder’s duck house that sits atop their private moat? Resting nicely in a shareholder’s offshore bank account, the balance of which will have already benefitted from various tax avoidance schemes?

I know it’s a sweeping statement, but this is an opinion piece, and this is truly what I think: the rich are only getting richer from the plight of the poor.

I went to a talk recently that explained how psychopaths think and feel, and how the decisions they make differ to those of the rest of us. It’s clear that many of the richest people in our country could be classified as psychopaths. They may not be violent people, but they will still lack empathy and care little about the feelings of others. Because, if they did care, how could they feel comfortable buying yet another sports car for their burgeoning collection when some people are skipping meals to ensure their children are fed?

Image of female with vampire teeth eating money

Image of female with vampire teeth eating money

I don’t buy the ‘they’ve worked hard for their money’ argument. Someone working three manual jobs to just keep their heads above water works as hard as they do. A cleaner’s job may not see them making decision involving millions of pounds, but how hard someone works could just as easily be attributed to physical exertion and output than the amount of money they make. It’s only society’s construct that places more value on the latter. You could argue that the millionaire wouldn’t experience as much stress as someone poor, nor would they have to make as many life-or-death decisions. In that respect, the rich actually have it much easier.

Some people, me included, aren’t academically inclined. I’ve never wanted to go to university, and I don’t hold further education as the only marker of someone’s value or intelligence. Again, that’s society’s construct.

I value people’s kindness and integrity. I value their passion. If I were rich, I would spend my time making the lives of others better. Owning a yacht doesn’t interest me. I wouldn’t want a sprawling mansion either (the responsibility, numerous security concerns and its cleaning regime would put me right off). In my eyes, a £5,000 car will take you to the same places as a £500,000 car. I get bored after five minutes in the sun, so perpetual holidays wouldn’t do much for me either.

In my day-to-day, I work for numerous charities. Seeing someone’s face light up because you’ve helped them…that’s worth more than any diamond necklace. The gratitude displayed, in appreciation of the kindness they’ve received, gives me a buzz. I guess I’m not a psychopath.

Also, during the talk on psychopaths, they mentioned that the development of these individuals’ frontal lobes differs from that of the average person. I’d love to fund research into identifying the greed gene, the element in some people’s minds and/or personalities that makes them want to hoard resources (usually money) to such a point that it causes other people to have a worse time on this earth as a result. Maybe removing this gene wouldn’t see those that don’t care, care. Maybe this would require more genetic modification.

No one’s perfect, but most of the time, we don’t realise our flaws or the negative impact we have. However, once our slights are pointed out to us, most people are horrified or ashamed and try to make amends. I don’t see the rich taking this analogy to their banks. They know they’ve got more money than they could ever hope to spend. They know that some people are struggling to even exist, yet they choose to ignore this. I know that they don’t have to give their money away nor care about their fellow man, I just don’t get why this isn’t something they consider. I’m all for making your life easier, but there’s a tipping point in my eyes…when you’ve got enough space to knock around in, a decent standard of living and no money worries, any more than that is spiritually and morally wrong.

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