It is thought that a greedy nature is one of pure self-interested avariciousness based on nothing of any substantial value to anyone other than the greedy person.
Since no drastic change in the way business gets done in this country without a major upheaval, I have a suggestion to make.
Why not co-opt their use of those greedy genes inside us all and use them, not as they do, but as we would have wished them to do? Why not become the greedy bankers who take over the entire neighborhood but not for our own personal gain but for the neighborhood's gain? If our self-centered ego-driven goals are subsumed into the collective identity and that identity becomes greedy, i.e., driven to succeed and to make the communities in which we live the best they can be, there can surely be no moral or legal reasons not to.
The question becomes how do we proceed?
At this juncture I can only respond from personal experience. I am a writer and a publisher and a worrier. The worrier part of me has been concerned for decades with the ways in which the corporate media have been dumbing down the reading materials available to us all. From the pursuit of nonsensical blockbusters and the mega-million advances to writers of these books, we have watched and done little to end this corrosion of our literary heritage.
I am not just talking about the wonderful past this country can pridefully point to: from the pamphleteers to business advocates, from letter writers and and essayists and those whose full lives spawned excellent autobiographies and then to the more contemporary trove of poetry, drama and fiction, we have a rich library of writers. For such a young country, we have experienced an extraordinary output from our literary citizens.
Now, however, in publishing, just as in many other industries, we are witnessing a relinquishing of responsibility for the tradition we inherited. Today, too many people do not read because the schools are not able to give children the time to learn why reading is important nor do they have the necessary tools to help each child learn to read critically. As someone who could not learn to read in school when everyone else did, I know what it is like to be illiterate. I flunked first grade because I could not read. I remember the humiliation and the fear of having to go to school, knowing that I would be called on to read aloud and could not. Not one word. But sometimes one learns because there are no options and luck intercedes and for me that became the magic combination. Not everyone is as lucky as I was.
Yet, we must not rely on luck to change things.
Let's return to the discussion of greed and how to make it work for the community we have defined as our own--the book reading public. A gigantic community that has been robbed of real choice and decision making when it comes to books--both those that get published and those we see on the bookshelves or that can be ordered online because bookstores too have disappeared from our communities.
Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com have made fortunes banking on our willingness to be fed whatever they and the rest of the publishing industry deem we should read. Yet an enormous technological change has occurred and that, my friends, is the real way we can become the greedy masters of our own literary fates. This can be accomplished in ways that are both inexpensive and easy, so that becoming a writer/publisher/marketer can be a job for many people especially when we bond together to further each of our missions as publishers.
Before I go into wild ecstatic prose about the wonders of the new technical gifts we have right here at our fingertips, let me also say this--the new technology has also given us access to each other as readers and writers sharing ideas, concepts, activism, reporting as never before. We have now at our command a way to really be together even when we never meet on the physical plane. The sharing of an enthusiasm for a new author or the sharing of ideas about how to sell one's own books or the opportunity to describe the process of creating the cover of a book, all of this is becoming not a corporate decision made, stamped with the approval of a number of well paid executives, but a truly democratic process. We can meet anywhere at anytime and discuss the ways in which book production has changed if that is of interest to us, or the ways in which to work with our children to get them interested in reading or we can just gossip about the lives and work habits of other writers.
The genius of this new world order is that we can shape it as a community to meet the real needs of those who understand that without a widely read, curious population willing to explore new ideas and old ideas, good ideas and bad ones, we can never fashion a democracy that will hold together and withstand the vicissitudes such as we are facing now.
This is our greedy mission. We at Sullivan Street Press are committed to making this community of book readers feel that their needs can be met. We greedily pursue this every day. We travel to small towns, to neighborhoods we do not know and we talk about all of this with people who are curious or interested or just want to be entertained for free by someone who believes in the power of the written word.
Telling a good story well and knowing why the story is important and why it has been given to us to tell is an important part of becoming a writer. The other side of the coin is being the reader. The reader is the one who has to make the countless decisions about what to read. With so much to choose from, there is a giddiness in having that kind of responsibility thrust upon us. I remember going to the library after I had learned to read and seeing the shelves of books. There were to my young and small person's perspective just enough to read if I read every day. Then I could maybe finish what the library had there on the shelves, by the time I died. A prospect that meant nothing to me at all. It took a few years of reading to realize that I would never read all there was to read.
Choice therefore is important. I do not want some accountant in New York to tell me that something I might like to read cannot be published because there are not enough readers as far as he is concerned to warrant the publication of the book.
Today, that accountant can retire. We do not need his or her services any longer. We can all make those choices on our own and work together to read the books we need to read and the ones we may not want to read and the ones that some would not like us to read . . . but the choice can and will be greedily ours.