Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” The neverending cycle of human greed is something that the majority of my peers can all agree was a tipping point for the Easter Islanders’ downfall. At the beginning of the Easter Island civilization, the island was rich with luscious forests, nutrient soil, and abundant animals. Things started to change when humans arrived on the island.
When I left the discussion this past Tuesday, I couldn’t help but think about the greed infesting America today. From a young age, America has rotted our minds and tricked us to never be content with what we have at the moment. The selfish and excess desire for more rots our minds day in and day out. Although it’s hard to admit, comparison, entitlement, and overspending are three examples of greed we all experience in our lives.
Greed in the form of comparison comes from a place of why can’t I have what he/she has, look like he/she does, have as many friends as he/she has, or fill in the blank for yourself. Social media has only worsened comparison culture. Sure, it is fun to mindlessly scroll through images of our friends having fun, but what if they post a picture from an event that you were not invited to? We instantly question what is wrong with me? Maybe you’ve been sitting at home during Spring Break while your classmates are living it up in Bora Bora and you start thinking, why do I not have what that they have? But admit it, we have all compared ourselves to someone else before and wondered why we don’t have what they have. Think about it for a second, why do you post on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook? Is it to show off how many friends you have, the possessions you’ve acquired, the places you’ve been to? I hope greed is not the main reason, but deep down, what is your intention?
Greed in the form of entitlement is similar to comparison, except for we believe we deserve special treatment or privileges over another person. I’m sure all of us who participated in sports at a young age received participation ribbons at some point in our athletic career because we didn’t get first, second, or third place. Why was this significant to our current mindset you might ask? A recent study shows 40% of millennials believe that every two years, despite their performance, they should be promoted. Crazy!
Greed in the form of overspending I personally think is the combination of comparison and entitlement. If we want something someone else has and we believe we deserve it, we are highly likely to overspend in order to not fall into the shadow of our peers’ success. Our society cares so much about the material world that we have created. Believe it or not, we’ve done it to ourselves! Overspending is the direct result of wanting more, more, and even more to make ourselves feel better. If we have that floral printed shirt Jennifer Aniston wore last Tuesday, ordinary people will spend a fortune just to say they have the same shirt as Jennifer. Retailers know people will spend money on this too, which doesn’t help alleviate our overspending addiction. On a more dramatic scale, the price of a car is already steep, however, let’s say you bought a new car two years ago. The two-year-old car has not been in a wreck and has kept you safe, however, your favorite car company came out with a new model of the one you bought two years ago. Your inner American-trained mind instantly weighs the options of selling your 2-year-old car to purchase the new, flashier car. Sure, it is new, but in another two years, there will be a new make and model, what will you do then?
The Easter Islanders didn’t have social media, participation ribbons, or the newest car, but they did suffer from comparison, entitlement, and overspending. The two separate Easter Island clans compared who had the most stone statues, the best houses, the best crops, etc. Each clan was entitled because they believed that they had the right to take resources away from the island when they were not the first ones living on the island. What made the islanders more important than the animals living on the island before they arrived? Lastly, the islanders overspent their resources. The island only had so many plants and animals, but the accumulation of wanting the best and stomping on the existing inhabitants resulted in overspending of limited resources. The Earth’s resources would have sustained its Easter Island inhabitants for much longer if the islanders were not constantly in pursuit of more.