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Podcast 085 - Greed  RSS feed

 
Destiny Hagest
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Summary

Credit: Destiny Hagest

In this podcast, Paul and Jocelyn explore the concept of greed, and where it has its place in permaculture, in response to this thread. Is someone who uses the third ethic of permaculture to their advantage (sharing the surplus) greedy, or just reaping the rewards of a job well done? They go on to give a few examples, and talk about how instead of vilifying millionaires, we should all just be working towards living within the principles of permaculture - who are we to decide how much is too much for someone else?

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Lina Joana
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Cool podcast.  It looks like discussion on the original thread is closed though.  Should discussion be here, or is the original thread going to be reopened? Or is discussion not actually wanted?
 
paul wheaton
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Yup, that thread was locked by burra because it turned into cider press bait.    There is a good chance that the same will happen with this thread.

I would say go ahead and say what you like here and then it is possible that this thread will also end up locked, in time.  But it might be wise to start a discussion in the cider press so it won't be locked.
 
r ranson
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This podcast gives deep insight as to why we have a 'meaningless drivel' forum.  
Deliciously devious. 

The rest of the podcast is good too.  It's given me lots to think about.
 
Lina Joana
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Well, I don't have enough apples, so I'll add my thoughts here, just for fun.
Really interesting stuff to think about - here here to the call to action at the end.
    I'm wondering if we can try out a slightly different definition of greed and see where it takes us - or find another word for it if greed in inappropriate.  One of the things in the podcast is a rejection of the idea that "anyone who has lots of money stepped on others to get it".  That is certainly too extreme a statement.  One that I think is more easily defensible is this:  Anyone who has surplus (resources beyond what they need for basic subsistence) has it thanks IN PART to the society they live in. 
   Let's take the Duke of Permaculture as an example, simply because he has shared a fair amount about his situation in life.  As I understand it, he made good money as a software engineer.  He was able to do this because he was born into a technologically advanced society.  His success is partially due to the environmental destruction of "sacrifice zones" that provided the coal and oil to power the computers he worked on, partially due to the workers who mined that coal and built computers, and the people who taught him the skills he needed for coding.  He also owed part of his ability to live well and save money to the low cost of food, clothing, and other essential goods in our society.  I strongly suspect that he made more money than the people who produced the food and clothing that he needed to live. To this well loaded deck, he added lots of hard work and made a good life for himself, one in which he had resources in excess of what he needed to avoid dying of starvation or exposure.  His success, and the success of everyone else in this world, is a combination of his own hard work and the circumstances society set up for him. 
   Now, adding hard work to the good things life had handed you does not make you greedy - it makes you smart.  The greed (as I am defining it) comes when a person refuses to acknowledge that their success in life owes something to their society, and does not give anything back to that society.  If you always take more than you give, while denying that you take anything, that is what I am proposing to call greed.
    By this definition, both the woman who saved a million dollars and her twin brother might be greedy.  They both were in circumstances that allowed them to add work and get surplus. One used those circumstances to build up a substantial surplus, which is smart. The other wasted his surplus on selfish pursuits and saved nothing for the future, which is dumb.  But if neither of them gives back to their society in any way - if they just take, and don't give anything back, they both are greedy. Paul did not specify in his scenario, so we don't know. Scrooge as Dickens wrote him certainly would be - he gives nothing back, not even a smile.
    Is Paul greedy by this definition?  Well, I don't know if he explicitly acknowledges the contributions society has made to his success, but actions speak louder than words.  He has contributed his surplus energy to building this forum and another forum for coding. I don't know how much money he makes selling stuff through the site ads, but I doubt it comes close to paying for his time, given what a site like this entails.  He has sunk his surplus into experimenting with ways of living that would reduce the amount each of us would need to take from the earth and our fellows, and shares his results in videos, podcasts, and articles.  He is giving people the information they need to build a world in which there is more surplus, which means that everyone would take less yet have more to give. Under the definition I've set up, there is no way Paul could be considered greedy.
     I'm not going to even try to quantify how much each person would have to give back of their surplus to equal what they have taken. I don't think there is any way to do it.  But even the basic idea - that you should give something to society because society has given something to you -  would contribute a lot to a better world.  There are so many ways to do this.  It might be donating excess money to charities that help those who weren't dealt such a good deck.  It might be getting involved in politics and working against corruption.  It might be growing a huge vegetable garden and giving produce to your friends and neighbors.  It might be choosing to be a teacher, or maybe a permaculture farmer, even though you could make more money elsewhere because you believe teaching children or selling healthy food contributes to society.  The possibilities are endless. Many, many people already do this - imagine if everyone did!

Would love to hear other people's thoughts on this.
 
paul wheaton
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I think it is an interesting idea, but I think you need a word other than "greed."

I think it is fair concept to propose what society has invested in each person and then propose that each person might try to, at the very least, square up. 

But I also think that this concept would need to be free of the word "owe".  Once I saw it proposed that I "have to" pay back, then my instinct was "fuck you, no i don't"  and I was prepared to NOT do stuff.

Supposing that we could call this "Squaring up with your global footprint" and it is, of course, entirely optional for each human to do.  I think it is wise to work in stuff like this:

 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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In my language (Dutch) the word for 'greed' is 'hebzucht'. This word implies:
being selfish (or even wicked) and wanting to have (be a 'wannahave') in a way that is like a disease or an addiction.
I don't know if the word 'greed' is thát clear to those who have English as their mother-tongue.
 
Lina Joana
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The video is brilliant. 
    Here is a thought though.  If we take the actual dictionary definition of greed - wanting something so bad that you are willing to cross ethical lines to get it - wouldn't the kind of stuff he is talking about count?  If I were to kidnap someone and lock them in my house and force them to make me stuff, that would be crossing the line bigtime.  If slavery is happening out of sight and across the ocean to supply me with stuff, isn't that still crossing the line?  By this definition, wouldn't our entire society be greedy? This might even be why the "Jedi mind trick" works on people - because they know deep down that there is something off kilter and related to greed about their lives. 
    If that is the case, "squaring your global footprint" would never be enough - you can't say that the suffering of one person is justified by the good things you are doing with the result of that person's suffering.  The imperative is to stop the exploitation in the first place.
    Finally - I'm going to respectfully disagree about the entirely optional part.  I'm not suggesting that there should be laws about it, but I think there is a bit more of a moral imperative to doing it than, say, choosing the option of eating pickles with your burger.  Maybe a bit like bringing nothing to the potluck - you don't HAVE to bring something, there will probably be enough food anyhow, but if you always come empty handed and eat all the deviled eggs, people will think less of you in the long run.

Also - off the main point, but the video's mention of the pyramids got me reading this: http://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids-html
 
The only taste of success some people get is to take a bite out of you. Or this tiny ad:
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