We have long been told, and lead to believe, that the driving and most dangerous emotion afflicting America has been greed. As best I can determine the word, as generally used by many Americans, means wanting more than you currently have. The connotation is given, however, that “greed” can only be realized at another’s expense. This suggests a “zero-sum” game is being played. That is, if person A gains 10 of something then person B must have lost 10 of something. This is, of course, a childlike view of economic reality. Most great fortunes have been built around expanding outward the total wealth of a nation. That is, great fortunes have been built on “new wealth.” While literal “greed” does exist as a provocation to a varying degree in every culture it is not what generates the problems in America. The difficulties in our rapidly weakening culture are created by the emotions of envy, resentment and jealousy.
There are two fundamentally different foundations on which systems of social morality have been based. One is the pride of achievement; the other is the resentment, envy or jealousy, felt against those who achieve by those who do not. These two foundations are totally incompatible and antithetical. When the morality of achievement predominates, civilizations flourish. When the morality of resentment gains the upper hand, civilizations decline and eventually perish. Herein lies the problems of America and the all too frequent success of Leftist politicians.
As a civilization rises, it is inevitable that its progress and growth will be non-uniform. Societies that have insisted on equality at all costs are not so troubled by this problem, since they never experience significant economic growth. The defunct Soviet Union is the best example. When a civilization experiences growth over a period of decades or centuries, those who have contributed the least develop powerful resentments as they find themselves significantly behind those who have worked, saved, risked, and prospered. The higher a civilization rises, the more powerful is the envy it inspires. If this irrationally inverted moral incentive continues, the civilization will ultimately collapse.
Achievers do not act out of a sense of guilt or obligation. They create not merely because they desire to enjoy the fruits of their labor…which they do…but because of an inner “fire” urging them forward. In contemporary society, the achiever in their most manifest form, might typically be identified as an entrepreneur or a successful professional. However, every carpenter, every teacher is an achiever, as long as that person pursues his or her work with enthusiasm and diligence. There are countless examples of achievers who, having made more than enough money to retire to a life of luxury, continue to work as hard as ever simply because they enjoy the challenge. Every achiever makes a contribution, large or small, to the continuation and advance of civilization.
In the young, resentment often takes the form of petty vandalism. In later life, resentment may escalate into far greater violence as we’ve seen so frequently around America. None of these negative acts benefits the resentful in any meaningful way except by making them feel “uplifted” in the only way they know, by attacking accomplishment. Equalization can be achieved in one of two ways that are mutually exclusive. One is by tearing down what exists till it reaches your level. The other is to build yourself up till you reach the higher level. All too much of what we see in the inner city is a result of choosing the former phenomenon.
If left untreated resentment, envy and jealousy are a serious cultural disease. If cultivated for partisan purpose by the political Left that disease becomes terminal.