Is Greed A Mental Disorder?
The recent intense verbal exchanges during Senate hearings on the government’s purchase of overpriced medical and health supplies have prompted many questions and accusations of unbridled greed from those who facilitated this massive corruption. Just to think that this is happening when a large part of our population is suffering from a lack of proper medical care in the midst of the pandemic makes this act even more disgusting. One would think that if these supplies were provided free of charge to the most vulnerable and poorest groups of the population for their protection, then it would have become a sort of saving grace for those accused of facilitating questionable transactions.
However, this is not the first time that we have heard of transactions using government money (i.e. our money) to buy questionable equipment, at equally absurd prices.
In the past and present, the relentless greed of government officials has resulted in the purchase of expensive equipment, services, infrastructure construction and other government acquisitions. The list goes on and on, and just knowing how much money has been wasted is simply mind boggling.
Almost everyone is ready to conclude that all government officials commit acts of corruption during their period of service. It can range from petty acts of using government facilities for personal gain to massive acts like the recent purchase of health supplies at outrageous prices.
All of this makes me realize that maybe there is something about being in power that can make people dig a bottomless well to make them do something and do it over and over. If left unchecked, it will become a habit, or worse, an addiction of another kind. The thirst for power seems insatiable, leading people to commit more acts of unbridled corruption.
As a cultural anthropologist, I have studied the spectrum of human behavior in different cultural contexts and I am often confronted with the great diversity of motivations and other psychological explanations of human behavior. I was trained to examine the core values that define what we call “national character” – that central set of traits that distinguish how a member of an ethnic or national group tends to behave, in certain circumstances. We hypothesize the reaction of a typical Japanese government official to a bribe, unlike his Chinese or Filipino counterpart. But these are mostly guesses, since the national character trend is just that, and not an absolute indicator of human behavior.
In my reading about greed and the causes of such behavior, I came across this article, “Creed: Crises, Causes, and Solutions” published in International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol. 5, n ° 7 (July 2015). In this article, author Dr Jeevan D’Souza argues that the “elementary genesis of global suffering is the exercise of human greed, greed and self-indulgence in current social conditions …” For D’Souza, “… greed is a human problem that can be scientifically understood and mitigated through evidence-based, biological, psychological and sociological interventions.
The author has listed and described various studies which lead to the conclusion that “… greed and greed have biological, psychological and sociological motivations. The characteristics of greed are closely associated with biological and psychological disorders such as substance abuse, behavioral dependence, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)… and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)… ”
Some popular Filipino examples of unbridled greed like the greed of former first lady Imelda Marcos (with her legendary 3,000 pairs of imported shoes) come to mind. Her desire to acquire was linked to how she was deprived of these luxuries as a child.
Can we say then that those accused of massive bribery of billions of pesos in overpriced medical supplies are suffering from some kind of mental disorder? Should we then subject them to psychiatric treatment rather than imprisonment? Will they use such a reason to plead the innocence of their act of corruption? Should we allow this to happen, after they have wasted so much of our hard-earned tax money?
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