Facebook page of a science club we are trying to put together is kept un-moderated on assumption that, with few takers for science, it would not really attract typical advertisement-posting spammers; but appearance of a self-righteous netiquette violator on it has got me thinking. As there is very little real commercial gain in such discourteous behavior, the only reason of its proliferation could be emerging social acceptance of greed.
Greed has now become fashionable, and right to pursue self interest is the new universally accepted fundamental right. Movie stars are selling photos of their newborn, friends are converting friend-groups into markets to force-sell multi-level marketing products using social pressure, and nobody seems to find it inappropriate. Everything is fair in this new age of business.
This appears to be a watershed moment for our social evolution, as glorification of pursuit of personal gain is a completely novel social phenomenon. In any ancient civilization that has lasted for a reasonably long period, pursuit of personal gain is never put on a pedestal or turned into a virtue.
So, why are we suddenly moving away from social wisdom synthesized by various cultures over thousands of years?
A possible reason for this massive shift is birth of America, an infant of a nation that is now leading the world and spreading the value-system that it has formed in its short but successful existence.
America is a nation built by migrants that landed on its shores with no social connectedness. It is a unique situation in human history where unrelated strangers have come together to form a society. As having a society is a primal human need, America had to form one for itself, but what it has come out with is unlike any that humanity has ever seen.
America is actually a proto-society with peerless structure that exerts minimum amount of social pressure. There is no traditional cultural ethos that reigns in unbridled pursuit of personal gain. In the free-for-all American dream, there are no holds barred when it comes to doing business. America has accepted the right of a businessman to sell anything and any which way, and has glorified it by linking it with freedom.
For most of us living in ancient cultures with all kind of social pressures, American freedom is like a breath of fresh air that we hope to see blowing our way. But, while we are rushing to embrace the American dream, we are not realizing that it is a way of life that has not passed the test of time, yet. By getting awed by its short term success, we are becoming blind to the evolutionary wisdom that humanity has synthesized over thousands of year.
As pursuit of personal gain is natural and innate to all human beings, it requires no path-breaking discovery for a culture to be like what America is today. So, if it was such a great idea, cultural evolution would have surely headed that way. But, the fact that we don’t see any existing culture to be similar to America suggests that evolution could be weeding out the American way in long run.
As American dream has started spreading in India, social disapproval of greed is fading away. Greed is now looked at as a positive force of motivation that drives one towards success. This cultural acceptance of greed is a very dangerous phenomenon as we are removing a traditional regulator critical for keeping it at a level where it won’t harm the interest of the society.
Social disapproval of greed must be reinstated or we will quickly turn our humane world into business world where everything will be evaluated only in terms of personal gain.