I’ve been struggling lately with the greed and selfishness that I see out there in the world. Frequently I have a hard time seeing the good in certain people and situations.
Ultimately, I can turn my thinking around and bless human behavior and circumstances that are less than what I believe is best for humanity. Generally with some effort, I can see the gift in the challenging human experience.
In the last article, I suggested that one of the obstacles to all humans living fully on purpose was the misguided greed and selfishness that some people exhibit. In other words, individuals who are so emotionally and mentally locked into a sense of separation from other humans, seeing others as something they are in competition with for scarce resources can frequently act in such selfish ways that it limits the others’ ability to express their life.
There is an evolutionary purpose for such selfish behavior. In a physical world of “survival of the fittest”, those who are able to compete best with others – whether in the competition for material property or sexual partners – increased their chances of living longer lives in producing more offspring. In spite of what some people believe though, we really don’t live in a world anymore where such competition is in our highest interest. We are actually moving into a world where cooperation is more important for our future evolutionary success. However, there are many people still locked into the old mindset.
To see this, let us consider psychologist Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs for a moment. According to his theory of motivation, as we meet lower needs, it frees us to focus on higher needs. Therefore, once we meet our base physical survival needs, we focus upon safety and security needs. Meet those, then we can focus upon love and belongingness needs. Next comes self-esteem needs. Maslow described these four “lower” needs as coming from a sense of lack or deficiency. In other words, when we are motivated out of a sense that we don’t have enough, then we compete with others for those limited resources.
Maslow then described a set of “higher” needs which motivated us once we had met all of our lower needs. These were a desire to “self-actualize” – to live so as to become all we could be as a human – and a desire to “self transcend” – to move to a place where we realized we were connected to something beyond us. Maslow called these needs “being needs” because they focused upon the higher realms of what it means to “be human”.
If we lived in a world where we cooperated with one another, where we looked after each other, where we help each other to meet our basic needs so that we could all be focused upon these higher needs, then there would be no need for competition, no need for survival of the fittest. I am optimistic that we will one day move into that world. That’s what my website title “Conscious Bridge” means – that we cross a bridge in our conscious awareness to the point where we realize that we’re all here to support and care for each other.
In such a world, we would all be living on purpose expressing our life’s unique abilities – and we would be helping each other to do the same. This is the human right and responsibility I referenced in my last article. This is the same description Stephen Covey gives for his “eighth habit” – human greatness. He said our greatest gift was to live our calling and to help others find theirs.
But back to that greed and selfishness – here’s just a few things that have challenged me lately:
- Corporations so focused on maximizing profits that they lose track of basic human values.
- Lawmakers and our government being influenced by the money of corporations to the point that they no longer represent “we the people”. This has led to laws that favor big business over the needs of individuals. This has led to decisions not to prosecute law breakers who happen to be rich and influential.
- Banks and corporations that buyout their competition and then become “too big to fail”. They then act in selfish ways insulated from the consequences of poor business decisions knowing they will be “bailed out”.
- Media corporations becoming so big and influential that they no longer serve as our “watchdogs” for the bad behavior of government and corporations. They won’t allow their news system to report on their own corporate misbehavior (or on each other in their small media corporate world) leaving us less chance that we will find out of poor behavior and abuses of power.
- CEOs and other officials who make decisions in their own personal self-interest. These include CEOs paying themselves extravagant salaries and politicians who rake in corporate money.
Let’s be honest with ourselves—-corporations are not people. Corporations exist to maximize profits – pure and simple. Their actions and decisions will consistently be in alignment only with that purpose. Corporations live in a world of survival of the fittest. Corporations are stuck in Maslow’s deficiency needs. They don’t have that inner sense of awareness that humans do that allows them to evolve to higher needs. They can never internally realize that they have “enough” which allows them to then answer that inner calling to do and be something greater.
As long as corporations and people focus on competition and a fight for limited resources, then they will be taking resources away from others and preventing them from meeting their base needs. People who can’t meet their base needs frequently have a hard time living on purpose and expressing their gifts. People who are in survival mode have a hard time living in service to others. The greed and selfishness of people and corporations mired in a world of dog eat dog competition use up resources that preclude many humans from moving into Maslow’s being needs. This greed and selfishness is a form of violence against humanity.
Yet there is hope—people own and control corporations. People can evolve to higher needs and through their actions assist corporations in serving higher needs. Some corporations have done this. Their leaders have seen that there is a human bottom line far more important than the financial bottom line. Their leaders know that their company needs to meet basic financial survival needs, but that at a certain point increasing their company’s profits at the expense of others is harming humanity. Their leaders know that at this point, where the company has reached a state of being financially secure, the company needs to focus on “higher needs”.
At this stage in the corporation’s evolution, it sees its role differently. It no longer is simply focused on maximizing profits at all cost. Instead, the company recognizes its social role in uplifting humanity to its highest potential. It pays a fair wage to its employees. It pays a fair return to its leaders but does not overpay them. It becomes socially conscious in its business decisions. It recognizes that the company doesn’t live in a vacuum, but rather it is connected to the earth, its people and its social systems. Such an awareness allows the corporation to recognize its place in relationship to the environment, the government, other companies and to all people everywhere. People who lead such corporations to an advanced evolutionary state recognize that the role of the corporation becomes one through which all humans can reach their full potential – expressing their unique gifts, living fully, and helping each other to express theirs.
Corporations can become a tool for human evolution. But this can only occur when corporations transcend the lower human needs of competition and survival.
I envision a world where we will all transcend greed and selfishness and assist one another in living the highest possibility for our lives. It starts with each one of us, everyday in every decision.
Where in your life do you have the personal power to effect the evolution of corporations? Are you a stockholder? Are you an employee? Are you a customer? You have the power to effectuate change. It’s time to use it.
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!