Being overwhelmed by greed is a state of mind and being that most human beings have experienced at some time in our lives. Most children experience greed in relation to food—endless longing for sweets, longings that lead to hoarding, stealing, or some combination of these. Excessive indulgence in favorite foods, especially sweet ones, by children often leads to sickness. Consequently, many of us learn while quite young that greed has its dangers, that it causes suffering. Most children are taught that excessive desire is bad. Parents, even dysfunctional ones, do not wish to raise a child to be greedy.
These childhood imprints lose power in today’s hedonistic consumer culture where the good life has come to be seen as the life where one can have whatever one wants, where no desire is seen as excessive. Beyond childhood squabbles over toys or food where greedy desires to possess and hoard surfaced sometimes, for most folks, religious teachings were the only other place where greed was talked about, where it was deemed sinful and dangerous. The decline of substantive religious practice in contemporary everyday life engendered in part by the worship of technological advancement and our ongoing cultural obsession with progress has practically eliminated any concern with the ethics of greed.