The Theme Of “Greed Is Evil” In Scarface And Why Greed Is Not Bad

Scarface, a true American Classic is one of the most viewed and loved movies of the 20th Century. The movie bases itself on the success and downfall, including the poetic justice, of its protagonist, Tony Montana. It relies on the idea that greed eventually destroys a person. Greed, often viewed as a negative trait, is criticized because it is viewed as excessive hunger for achievement or success. However, this is something I do not agree with, isn’t greed an exaggerated form of ambition, if so, it is just an extreme version of aspiration. We deal with greed the same way we deal with socially undesirable elements, it is characterized as a sign of indiscipline or even viewed as immoral. When viewed along with the actions that a person undertakes, greed can have very different outcomes. It is important to recognize that greed as a characteristic is not negative, the end associated with a particular individual/collective’s greed may be negative.

The reason behind the way we treat the term ‘greed’ can be traced back to social conditioning by religion. Radix Omnium Malorum Avaritia, we have grown up believing that greed is the root of all evil and that it leads to destruction. Historically, with the dominance of church from the 14th Century to the Industrial revolution, the perception of greed was that itt would lead individuals away from spiritual enlightenment. Giving it up is the only true path to enlightenment, at least that is how we have been taught to view it.

My idea of greed, an extreme version of aspiration, allows one to fit individuals like Hitler and Stalin as examples because their aspirations reflect their greed. It should be noted, however, in the same context, Gandhi’s extreme aspiration for freedom without violence also fits my idea of greed, thereby reflecting how the characteristic can have either consequence. In the modern world, Greed has become the defining virtue for the so called 1%, they’ve been viewed as evil and oppressive for the society. An apt example of viewing greed of different people differently applies when we compare Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. Jobs has been idolized and viewed as an innovator despite of his questionable decisions which impacted his employees and own family negatively, whereas Bezos has been viewed as evil even though he has revolutionized the consumer experience and benefitted his stakeholders in the process. This is a result of perception of one’s greed by the society at large. It is not as though one was not greedy and the other is the root of evil, it is just that one managed to suppress their greed in public view and the other has not been able to do the same. The marginalization of the term makes it socially unacceptable and thereby forces individuals to pretend that greed is non-existent. Those who have been branded as greedy by the society often try to get rid of the label by contributing to the society in socially acceptable ways, thereby suppressing the opinion that they are exploitative. Most people around the world today are driven by greed, ask the wealthiest if they would give up their livelihoods and settle with what they have and almost all of them would digress.

“Greed, though an imperfect force, is the only consistent human motivation, and produces preferable economic and social outcomes most of the time and under most conditions.” (Burton) In its entirety, greed is a great term to describe humanity. Without greed, the motivation to progress, achievement is disturbed and may even leave us more vulnerable. It keeps us driven and motivated, which in turn is mostly beneficial to the society as a whole.

It can also be an accurate measure of our will power, “How much do you want it?” will often determine “How hard will you work towards it?” In the modern world, greed is often condemned but in truth it is one of the most prized possessions for humanity and arguably the most rewarding. It was the greed to be ahead in the Space Race that led humans to the moon, a giant leap for mankind. It is not just individuals who are greedy, even as a collective our greed is a priority, whether it is to maximize profits or convert the most people to our religion. It has played a massive role in shaping the society and will continue to contribute to our development. 

09 March 2021
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