title. Yellow Fever - A Short History of Greed
name. Virgilio Da Molo
right now. working as a management consultant at Impact Strategy Consulting
Yellow Fever – A Short History of Greed
Greed is an inordinate or insatiable longing, especially for wealth, status, power, or food. - Wikipedia
My picture of greed is an ingot of gold, dark yellow, dangerous yellow.
When and where did the first ever “act of greed” happen?
I must advise here that my short history is based on accepted theories on the evolution of human beings but, if you are seriously religious and believe in the sacred texts, you could clearly point at Eve eating the apple as the first act of greed of universal life. Should it be Adam and Eve? Of course not. Only Eve, who then passed the apple to Adam. And then you wonder why women are still fighting for their rights.
But well before Eve (according to religious science, Adam and Eve were alive approx 6,000 years ago, while my friend Wikipedia says that Homo sapiens evolved to anatomically modern humans ... between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago), I believe that the first act of greed must have been driven by an inordinate or insatiable longing for something that still drives greed, as much as ever, FOOD. That’s it; you went out with the lads to kill a couple of elephants and all you get at the end of the day is a rabbit. And YOU caught the rabbit. So you start weighing your options and, while you think that it is true that unwritten social rules have resulted up to now in all catch being equally divided among the community, your stomach thinks that the rabbit is barely enough for your family (although I doubt you could have been able to think the first part of the sentence, especially with such an empty stomach).
Nowadays, greed for food is represented in three main ways: (i) the rise and rise of celebrity chefs opening chains of overpriced restaurants; (ii) the unconceivable quotations achieved by rare wines and liquors, and the ever increasing appetite by rich people to splash real money on it; and (iii) the continuing total misbehaviour of the large agribusinesses, which is much more destructive for human beings and would require an entire essay on its own.
And then came POWER. And the scuffles and fights and battles and wars that are needed to acquire more power. The first real fights for power must have happened long time ago, even before Eve ate the apple. Different tribes were probably clubbing each other once a while just like soccer fans now do. But things got uglier and uglier. So, how many people have died in wars in human history?
The best estimates put the total death toll due to all wars at 341.7 million people. The 20th century is described as the “bloodiest”, with an estimated 187 million deaths due to the various wars combined. Almost unbelievably, this number is nearly as high as the total number of deaths due to the entirety of war throughout all history before that point – Guru Magazine.
Now we are living in a period of relative peace, where wars or battles or fights or scuffles are geographically constrained and fought more like a pub brawl than what you would expect from a proper 21st century war. Look at war scenes from the world over, which are more and more available thanks to smart phones, social media and the likes, and the typical image is a few bakkies with a dozen of bearded guys sitting in the back and holding some old AK47s. At times you think that the best way to stop wars is to stop the sale of the Toyota Hilux and all her sister cars in some countries, like a proper arms embargo.
But what about the real scourge? Terrorism. Besides the fact that the chances of dying of a terrorist attack are very very slim and you need to be very very unlucky to die, look at the most dangerous terrorist weapon of lately: the truck. We keep hearing that the secret services of our countries are chasing these sophisticated terrorists who can rely on the latest technologies and have been extensively trained in terrorist camps in some naughty country, and are now capable of doing such outstanding things like driving a truck or running in the street with an AK47 and shooting around.
The icons of 20th century wars were probably the aircraft carrier, the jet fighter and, sorringly enough, the atomic bomb. If you look for three icons of 21st century wars, you can line up the bakkie, the truck and the AK47. So you might wonder why, with all evidence indicating that wars are becoming scuffles, some countries still have plenty of atomicballisticcazzuti missiles and bombs that threaten to destroy all human beings in a single shot. No need to wonder, the answer is clear. I believe that every deal in the modern arms industry has been accompanied by widespread corruption, resulting in the enrichment of a few individuals or an entire regime or, in more noble situations, a political party like the ANC in the post-apartheid South African arms deal. The main culprits in this are probably the large companies manufacturing weapons, providing logistic support, security services, etc. etc. which would also require pages and pages.
Next came STATUS, which can be defined as relative social or professional position, and that, because of the relative nuance, is typically associated with the neighbour’s syndrome of the greener grass. The first act of greed for status? I honestly don’t have much to say about this. I can only give you a good piece of advice about relativity for when you are part of a team: always make sure you are not the weakest, slowest, dumbest, etc. member of the team. If it is necessary to rope somebody in, then do it. But never be the last. Remember the two guys in the woods who bump into a bear and one guy start running and the other follows him and tells him from the back “Why are you running? You are not going to outrun the bear”. “I am not trying to outrun the bear, I am trying to outrun you”.
And finally came greed for WEALTH, the most dreaded of all greeds. Certainly not the first, but the most evident act of greed for wealth in history must be the legend of the golden touch of King Midas, which is certainly not a true story but the guy (who apparently lived in 8th century BC) must have done something quite greedy to get such a bad review. But forget Midas, and answer the big question of our times: how much wealth is too much?
Let’s imagine that you inherited the entire fortune of the 10th wealthiest man in the world. That’s about 50 billion dollars. What would you do with the money? No, actually let’s imagine that I inherited that money. So, one morning I go to the ATM to withdraw 50 dollars and I see that the balance is 50 billion. That’s a good way to start the day. I walk into the bank and I ask for an ultra secure investment that pays 3% interest net per year. That’s 1.5 billion dollars per year that I can safely spend without eating into my capital. I think I can splash out some bucks and decide to set aside the paltry amount of 50 thousand dollars per day for subsistence expenses, like groceries, tobacco, servants and the likes. That’s a bit more than 18 million dollars per year, which leaves me only 1.482 billion dollars to spend for the year.
Ok, let’s spend it.
First thing I would buy houses in places I like. A beach house in Mozambique, a loft in the Greenwich Village in Manhattan, a villa on the coast near Genoa, a cosy flat near St Germain des Pres in Paris, an estate in Tuscany, another beach place in the Carribean...let’s say it’s 5 million dollars each, so 30 million in total. I still have 1.452 billion to spend.
So I make up my style with 30 suits from Caraceni, 30 shoes from Fratelli Rossetti, 60 shirts from Inglese and 365 ties from Marinella. Then I buy some more sportish stuff and I splash 200 thousand dollars in total. When I go to the ATM, I do not notice the difference. What should I buy next?
A sailing boat, a 25 meters Swan for 2 million dollars. The ATM now shows only 1,450 billion.
Let’s buy some cars. Let’s say 2 Rolls Royce or similar, 3 Ferrari or similar, 2 SUVs, 3 Mercs/BMW, 3 Minivans for a total of 5 million dollars. Down to 1,445.
Airplanes? Let’s have a G6 for a nice 65 million dollars. Down to 1,380.
I need watches. Only have an old Rolex. I’ll get some thirty nice watches at 50 thousand each, so 1.5 million in total. Down to 1,378.5.
I need women too. So I buy jewellery for them, and I pay for their lavish lifestyle. Diamonds and pearls at 10 thousand dollars per lady per month, plus 40 thousand dollar per lady for subsistence expenses. I can only cope with 5 ladies per month, so that’s 50 thousand times 5 ladies times 12 months equals 3 million. Down to 1,375.5.
Now I need to spend some serious money, so I’ll buy the 10 most expensive cars in the world, cars that you did not ever know they existed such as number 10 the Koenigsegg Regera at 1.9 million dollars, number 6 Pagani Huarya BC for 2.8 million, number 2 the Lykan HyperSport for 3.4 million and the top McLaren P1 LM for 3.7 million. The final bill is 27.5 million dollars, so I still have 1.347 billion to spend.
I could buy an Airbus A380 for a bit less of 500 million dollars and a 180 meters superyacht for 600 million dollars and still have about 250 million dollars to spend. But I rather make some long term investment. I see that the GDP of Guinea Bissau is 1.218 billion dollars, so I buy the country. Things are getting right but still, please help me, what should I do with the remaining 130 million dollars?
And this is just the first year...
Peace and love
P.S. CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT
Just a word to all guys changing their habits or travel plans because of fear of terrorism. You are four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist. Watch out for storms then but...odds of dying in a bathtub are six times greater than dying in a storm.