- Standard of Business
- Producing Real Value
- The Harming of Others
- Directed Passion and Hard Work
- The Handshake
- Misdirection and Deception
- Partnerships of Trust
- Amorality of Money
- Money: A Means, Not an End
- The Great Liege Lord: Greed
- Human Relationships, Not Numbers
- Losing with Honor
- The Trap of Zero-Sum Thinking
- Align or Die!
- Creating Shared Stakeholder Value
- Capitalism: The Powers of Good and Evil
- Guarding Growth
In the Middle Ages, feudalistic monarchies controlled Europe, especially the lands held by England and France. In this oft romanticized time period, society was very hierarchical. The lands were divided up into massive estates controlled by a lord. Under him, vassals worked the land, often in a servitude that bordered on near-slavery, though not all lived in this condition.
In the case were formal relationships were established between the feudal lord and his vassals, they could be roughly categorized into two different categories, both enacted with an oath:
- homage – Often reciprocated with an investiture (a symbolic title and/or position with or without lands), this oath represented reverence and submission to the lord. As it signified who one would follow into battle, it could be pledged to only one lord, who was then known as one’s liege lord.
- fealty – A weaker oath similar to homage. However, this could be pledged to multiple lords.
If one were not currently a vassal, one could become so through this process. By pledging oneself in this manner, one entered into the service of the feudal lord.
Though there are some who might argue otherwise, the last remenants of European-based feudalism ended in 2008. However, while this mediaval practice has, for the most parts, died out of the world of governmental systems in most parts of the world, I see it still lives on in other respects.
It seems we as humans will go and seek out new masters, often unconsciously, to guide us in our actions. One of the great masters of the age of today is greed. Driven on by our own insecurities and the constant pressure from a society based on hyper-consumerism, many of us embark in the unending and unendable quest for more.
Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way. That was a true proverb of the wise man, rely upon it: “Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure, and trouble therewith.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
I believe there are many of us, knowing that paying homage to greed is an intrinsically bad thing, instead assuage our fears and misgivings by pledging fealty instead. They believe they can pledge loyalty and fealty to many masters.
However, in the end, it’s impossible to serve two masters, as there will come a time where a choice will be presented that precludes making both happy. One will be forced to choose their true liege lord.
Greed has the uncanny ability to take a fealty relationship, change it to a homage relationship, change that into a servitude and then take that and change it to slavery through small and subtle mean. For us, this could be through the accumulation of debt or engaging in destructive competition (Note: not all competition is bad, but we shouldn’t be out attempting to harm others in our pursuits).
To possess money is very well; it may be a most valuable servant; to be possessed by it, is to be possessed by a devil, and one of the meanest and worst kind of devils.
~ Tryon Edwards
So, what are we to do?
First and foremost, we must recognize our situation. We can then make changes and take a stand. For me, I have decided to not serve greed. Greed is neither my liege lord nor my master. I neither to it pledge fealty nor am its slave..
It also helps for us to take proactive steps to counter greed and its related ilk in our own lives.
There are many ways to do this, and I’m not going to try and provide an overview of all the approaches in this article. Instead, let me share a recent TED talk by Mattheiu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, author and photographer, wherein he discusses altruism—a great foil to greed.
As he said in his talk, “any tool can be used to build or destroy.” I believe this applies to our actions more than anything else.
Let us throw off the shackles of greed, and find ways to benefit society, as well as ourselves.
Let us be kind.
Let us be empathetic
Let us be altruistic.
Let us be great.