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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Greed

Greed (978-0-385-61328-6, Doubleday, 2008), with the subtitle “Why we can’t help ourselves” was just too provocative for me to leave on the Bookazine shelves as I scoured for something interesting to review for this week.
The author Richard Girling is an awarded journalist in the UK, with two previous books. In his Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, he writes, “My aim was not to excoriate ‘greedy’ people but rather to explore the ways in which greed and its progeny – selfishness, jealousy, ambition – are essential not just to our well-being and enjoyment of life but also to our success as a species.
Gourmet tastes, according to Girling is purely greed with a collar and tie on, as he outlines the difference between the supposed hunger of the affluent looking through a menu, and those genuinely hungry and without food. Bangkok gets its vainglorious mention as having the world’s most expensive dinner at 1 million baht, which he writes is “accepted as amusing follies and not offences against decency.”
Our proclivity for sex gets its own chapter, but he does say that sexual statistics are about as reliable as paper condoms. “We promise fidelity but practice deceit.” Mother worship and sexual repression came with the advent of the so called civilizations, but has resulted in good old fashioned sexual greed says Girling, and he is probably right!
Santa Claus comes in for his fair share of discussion, and just how we have manipulated holidays to suit the ruling religions of the day. He also touches on the banning of Christmas by what he calls “the boot-faced magi of political correctness who fear causing offence to other religions.”
Spurred on, if it were, the organized religions also get their comeuppance where he counters the churches protestations of how much good they have done for the world with, “We may or may not agree that this is a fair return for holy wars, religious persecutions, obstruction of science and intolerance of dissent.”
In a later chapter he states “As homo sapiens, as far as we know, is the only species with the intelligence to foresee its own death, the promise of an afterlife provides powerful motivation for our earthly endeavors.” And, “The whole of society is a rubble of colliding faiths and factions: it is our base motives, implanted by our genes, that make it so.”
Globalization, the World Bank, the IMF and how such monies pander to the greed in dictators, the ‘greed’ that is within us, a built-in non-delete option of the human being itself. We are greedy because it is our nature to be so. It always has been that way. We should not be surprised.
At B. 595, this is a totally engrossing book, even if only for the wonderful use of the English language. This eloquent work has not been written for 12 year olds, but for mature ‘thinking’ adults. If you are of the former group, don’t even bother opening the book, many of the words have more than five letters. If you are of the latter ilk, buy this book. You will be delighted.