Oglala Lakota Sioux
In Purgatory Ridge by William Kent Krueger one of the main characters is John LePere, son of a white father and a mother of the Anishinaabe-Ojibwe tribe. His response to a Caucasian, inveterate gambler’s thirst for money: “You’re thinking the way white people think. More, always more. Never happy with what they have.”
That could be interpreted pejoratively as a racist comment. The historical record also reveals that there is truth in the attitudes toward acquisition of wealth being substantially different between the indigenous tribes of North America and the largely-white invaders who appropriated their lands at gunpoint. Illustrative is past AFL-CIO president George Meany’s response to a congressional committee when asked what he wanted: “More!”
Contrast the words of Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota Sioux: “I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches, but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.”
Of course, greed is not limited to any particular race or culture. Certainly individuals of every stripe become captive to the desire for ever-increasing wealth. It is an illness that infects the heart and sickens the soul.
We all need to ask ourselves questions such as: how much is enough? . . . how much more do I need? . . . what is an appropriate balance between my wants and the needs of others? It would be nice if there were text book chapter-and-verse answers. But since there are not doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility to wrestle with the issue individually and as a society.
“Never happy with what they have,” LePere muses. Would that we could be.