I wonder if humanity, humans, progress through stages of greed and charity depending on certain external and internal conditions that arise. Here, let me elaborate…
Imagine you’re starving and about to die. You happen upon a morsel of food that you realize will save you. But there’s another human who has come across this gift at the same time. What will you do? What would most humans do? I’m guessing that, due to the savage influence hunger has on a human’s (or any mammal’s mind), you’ll dart forward, snatch up the life giving morsel and gobble it down. Greed in its most innate manifestation.
Imagine you’re traveling with enough food to last you for some time. You happen upon another human who is starving. What will you do? What would most humans do? I propose that, even though sharing your food will likely reduce your possible future viability, you bestow some of your store of food upon this individual thereby saving their life. Charity at its kindest.
Imagine you’re the CEO of a mega-food company. A competitor has fallen on hard times and you realize that you can perform a hostile takeover and swallow them up. Your resulting company will have near total control over this one critical foodstuff that the world needs to survive — you’ll be in charge of a near monopoly. Your company will be able to raise prices which will boost your dividends, your stock price and your personal fortune. What will you do? What would most humans do? I’m thinking you will buy your competitor and raise prices. Greed — again.
Imagine you are this CEO of this corporate monopoly and you’ve grown enormously rich over the decades. But as you approach your death you realize your incredible wealth was achieved at the expense of your soul. That you’ve probably been indirectly responsible for the deaths of thousands of humans who have starved due to your oppressive price controls and general avaricious behavior. What will you do? What would most humans do? I posit that you will repent; you will seek to remedy the pain and suffering you’ve caused over the years and vow to donate the balance of your fortune to the Red Cross and the World Food Bank. Your philanthropy is cheered. Charity has returned.
Is it possible that humans, depending on the circumstances, cycle through periods of charity and greed? Humans are unique in that we do have some sort of sharing gene. That we have altruistic tendencies and that these tendencies have given rise to our domination over the natural world. We cooperate, coordinate, contribute and are stronger as a group.
Yet we retain the greed gene. At times, throughout our evolution, both personal and as a species, our selfishness surpasses our predilections of sharing and we covet and hoard. But what determines these behaviors? Which will you choose under what circumstances? And is there a way to influence humanity such that they, we, choose charity over greed?