Contemporary Issues Psychology Spirituality

Stampede Greed and Desperate Need

(Or, What the Sackler family and the Haitian refugees have in common)

What do the Sackler family and the Haitian refugees have in common? They are both using every resource they have to survive. The Sackler family has armies of highly-paid lawyers and tax specialists, unenlightened elitist judges, ubiquitous myth-manufacturing media, money-oriented medical professionals, and lobbied subservient politicians to protect their “interests.” The Haitian refugees have their feet. The Sacklers are desperately fighting to preserve their wealth, privilege, and power; the Haitian refugees are desperately fighting to save the lives of their children. 

As we all know, there are two kinds of people in the world: (1) those who suffer and (2) those who cause suffering. The Haitian refugees suffer terror, hunger, lack of shelter, helplessness. The Sackler family causes suffering by aggressively marketing opioids in order to profit financially from other people’s pain.

Seems like an easy spiritual choice for people to decide whom to help, doesn’t it? 

The Quadrune Mind Perspective

The quadrune mind model of consciousness states that the human brain is capable of supporting four different kinds of mentalities, or minds. Three of these minds are associated with the older evolutionary parts of our brain and correspond to our reptilian, old mammalian, and new mammalian (primate) ancestors. The distinctly Human mind is associated with the newest “brain type,” the prefrontal cortex, which supports a uniquely human spiritual mind. From the quadrune mind perspective, most of us operate from a pre-Human mentality most of our lives. The consequence of this reality is the “breaking” news of our world.

The Psychology of Greed

In your sense of the word ambition has/Been socialized—the first propensity/To be attempted. Greed may well come next. 
–“Build Soil,” by Robert Frost (lines 98-100).

The material in this section is taken from the Dutch “greed” researcher Terri G. Seuntjens’ dissertation, “The Psychology of Greed.”1 Seuntjens found the core elements of greed are the desire to acquire more and the dissatisfaction of never having enough

The following general observations are taken from Chapter 7: Conclusions and Discussion.

Besides greed for money, other objects of greed include power, food (gluttony), and sex (lust). Greed drives unethical behavior in material matters, but also is associated with cheating on a relationship partner. Greedy people tend to have low self-control and, consequently, give in to temptation more readily than less greedy people do. 

Greed is associated with envy, but envy involves a social comparison with another person’s possessions. Greed, on the other hand, is individualistic: to acquire more for oneself with little awareness or concern for the consequences to others.

Other researchers have found that people working in extractive industries, real estate, and banking scored highest on greed, whereas people with occupations in education, research, and healthcare scored lowest. People identifying themselves as more right-wing in the political spectrum were greedier than people who identify as left-wing. 

Greedy people seem to maximize wealth, but not necessarily well-being. Greedy people are more productivity oriented. However, they do not seem to be happier. In fact, greedy people have lower self-esteem and lower satisfaction with life. Greedy people are more focused on the pursuit of wealth even if they cannot use their acquired resources. Seuntjens concludes that the key to a happy life seems to be a good balance between wanting more and knowing when it is enough.

Greed has been proposed to be good for the economy and the betterment of everyone’s quality of life through the benefits of the “invisible hand” of the free market. However, greed appears to obstruct the hypothetical positive results of unregulated commerce. The invisible hand of the free market economy may have a thumb on the scale.2

The Psychology of Need

In the case of displaced refugees, their needs are extreme. They have lost the resources of home and their social community. In addition they have experienced such trauma as “witnessing the killing of loved ones, family separation, abandonment of children and the elderly, and being subjected to torture, rape, and other forms of violence…. Unlike physical wounds and losses, conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorders, depression and anxiety, and traumatic brain injuries, which affect mood, thoughts, and behavior, are often ‘invisible’ to the eye or simply persist unrecognized, unacknowledged, or ignored in humanitarian and development assistance programs, undermining efforts to help rebuild and sustain the lives of displaced populations….

“[What refugees need is help to] overcome their vulnerabilities, build mental resilience, and take full advantage of poverty reduction programs, economic opportunities, and legal protection, particularly to deal with widespread stigma and discrimination.”3 Unfortunately, the responses most desperate refugees receive are emotional or physical clubbing by “border” guards and having their children put into cages. 


Widespread desperate human need would not exist in the world without the pre-Human mindedness of the unenlightened power elites’ personal stampede out-of-control greed. Widespread desperate human need would not exist in the world without the pre-Human mindedness of the masses’ herd-survival mentality, continually primed to be stampeded by the incitement of the elites for their own personal gain. The elites may appeal to the masses’ over attachment to habituated cultural traditions. For example, despite claims to the contrary, the American Civil War was not fought over states’ rights, or the noble cause of the South’s cultural tradition of honor and chivalry. The belief that has had the most tragic long-term consequences is that the war was fought over “race”-based slavery.4 It was fought more fundamentally over the “right” of some individuals to enslave other human beings for personal economic gain. The Civil War was fought over greed. But, unlike slavery, which had weakened as a cultural tradition in the North by that time, greed was a shared trait between North and South.5 Consequently, the Northern leaders would have had more difficulty inciting mass self-righteous indignation for a war against greed. I believe that is why that to this day, America’s “original sin” is mislabeled as slavery. In fact America’s original and ongoing sin is greed.

What the Sackler family and the Haitian refugees have more in common than trying to survive is that they are, respectively, the living, direct, and continuing co-inheritors of the stampede greed of the elite ownership class trampling the lives of their exploited, oppressed fellow human beings.6   

A Deeper Conclusion and a New Spiritual Choice

At the beginning of this post, I observed that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who suffer and those who cause suffering. Of course, this is an oversimplification. There are actually three kinds of people in the world: those who suffer, those who cause suffering, and those who heal suffering. We might call them the SufferersAfflicters, and Healers. It’s easy for me to forget the Healers because they seem so vastly outnumbered by the Sufferers and Afflicters. The existence of Healers complicates the answer to my question, “Isn’t it easy to know whom we should help, the Sackler family or the Haitian refugees?”


Sufferers experience pain and trauma from the known and unknown harmful actions taken by other people. Ancestors of the Haitian refugees were born, lived, and died under slavery for generations. They suffered because of the greed of Europeans who exploited slave labor to harvest profitable crops in the Americas. But that same greed for wealth that victimized Haitians still afflicts all of us, sometimes in insidious ways.

The Sacklers are only the current poster family of greed that is driven to amass vast fortunes, even at the cost of the lives and well-being of millions of other people. Widespread suffering among the public results from systemic policies of greed, corruption, and/or bigotry in innumerable ways. A few examples are: illness and death from poor water quality, detrimental impacts on the public, workers, animals, and the environment by the fast food industrylaws that do more harm than good, and the negative effects on economics, politics, women’s sexual safety, and civil liberties caused by elite deviance. Sometimes suffering is caused by people unaware of how they are doing harm to others, but not always.


Afflicters always believe that the suffering they cause other people is justified. For example, Southern enslaved people deserved lashings for running away from slavery—and legal scorched earth responses by corporate executives against legitimate liability lawsuits are reasonable reactions to protect the image and profitability of the company.

Afflicters are attracted to professions that sanction afflicting people in the name of some higher authority (good). For example, priests and preachers afflict “sinners” in the name of God or Jesus. Police as law enforcers afflict “suspicious-looking” people in the name of the law. Judges as part of the judicial system afflict “criminals” in the name of justice.

From the quadrune mind perspective there is no spiritually valid reason to intentionally inflict suffering upon another person. When we do it is almost always because we believe that our interests and values are more important than their lives.


Healers believe that all life is equally valuable, and they work to reduce suffering and increase healing for all beings and the earth. In a previous post we cited the late congressman John Lewis as an example of a spiritually conscious Human being. He had suffered life-threatening physical assaults by Afflicters as a legacy target of centuries-old enslavement-minded bigotry. Yet he had no desire to act harmfully in return. He was neither a Sufferer nor an Afflicter. He was a Healer. We mentioned in the post that Lewis was a member of two groups which the quadrune mind model suggests do not generally encourage high spiritual consciousness: the political and religious realms. A Healer here and there may be found almost anywhere. 

Lewis modeled a superior way to resolve what are called “moral” dilemmas. His way was bold, courageous, and physical. There was no guarantee of success. 

As a spiritually mature adult, Lewis was radically inclusive with his love for others. He did not dehumanize or demonize anyone. He was as concerned for the well-being of the people beating him as he was for the people marching with him to receive the beatings. 

Spirituality Instead of Morality. When there are only two choices, it’s easy to think in a black-and-white way. If you identify with one group, then you must be against the other group. There is no connecting ground between them. After all, morality is usually defined as a forced choice between “right” and “wrong” behavior.

From the quadrune mind model of spirituality, the answer to the question, “Whom should we help, Sacklers or refugees?” is both! What the Sacklers and the refugees have most in common is that people of both groups are living at dehumanized levels of existence. One group is dehumanized through the physical, emotional, and economic suffering inflicted upon them, while the other group experiences the dehumanizing effects of an unencumbered sense of power, privilege, and exceptionalism. Healers know how to skillfully comfort the Sufferers and confront the Afflicters. 

This is where easy black-and-white morality must be abandoned and a spiritual approach is required. Instead of two completely separate groups of “good” and “bad” people, “human” and “subhuman,” all of us lie on a continuum that measures our lifetime progression from infantile instincts toward Human mindfulness. Most of us spend our lives somewhere in the mix of “goodness” and “badness.” Each group of Sacklers and refugees is composed of people in need of healing. Neither task of healing is easily accomplished. But if we can recognize the spiritual legitimacy of the goal, perhaps we will invest in the effort to learn the skills needed to become Healers. A lot is at stake.

Related Posts

Dinosaurs, Billionaires, and Mass Extinctions

QM, Unenlightened Power Elites & Mindless Oppressed Masses

Additional Resources

Bell, R. (2020). America’s long struggle against slaveryChantilly, VA: The Teaching Company. [From this 30-lecture course, one can identify the privileged enslavers’ mentality to dehumanize human labor for the personal financial gain of the privileged “ownership” class, which has continued uninterrupted to the very wealthy capitalists of today. For this post, in particular, see the lecture, “The Haitian Revolution,” and its significant international consequences, including for the United States].

Cockrell, C. I’m a therapist to the super-rich: They are as miserable as Succession makes out: “Many billionaires I work with have trust issues, lack a sense of purpose and struggle with shame, guilt and fear.” The GuardianPostscript, November 24, 2021: Empathy for billionaires? Still, billionaire distress, as described by Cockrell, supports Terri Seuntjens’ findings. And, universal empathy is what a Healer would have.

Guardian investigations team. (2021, October 3). Pandora papers: biggest ever leak of offshore data exposes financial secrets of rich and powerful: Millions of documents reveal offshore deals and assets of more than 100 billionaires, 30 world leaders and 300 public officials. The Guardian. “At least $11.3tn in wealth is held offshore, according to a 2020 study by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). ‘This is money that is being lost to treasuries around the world…’ [Gerard Ryle, the director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said].” 

Labrador, R. C., & Roy, D. (Last updated, 2021, September 17). Haiti’s troubled path to development: Hobbled by foreign interventions, political instability, and natural disasters, the former French colony has long suffered from underdevelopment. Council on Foreign Relations. “Few countries have struggled with development like Haiti. Since breaking free from French colonial rule over two centuries ago, the Caribbean state has weathered multiple foreign interventions, chronic political instability, and devastating natural disasters. The confluence of these forces has transformed what was once the wealthiest colony [for the imperial powers–TFS] in the Americas into the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.”

Postscript, April 30, 2024: Lustig, R. H. (2017). The hacking of the American mind: The science behind the corporate takeover of our bodies and brains. New York: Avery. “These past forty years have witnessed the twin epidemics of the negative extremes of both of these emotions: addiction (from too much pleasure) and depression (from not enough happiness)…. What, or who, has ushered modern society into this new normal? What if all of Western society has been hacked, to profit a few at the expense of the many? And what if you didn’t even know you’d been hacked?” [Pages 2-3]. Robert Lustig provides a deep and comprehensive answer as to how the neurochemistry of our brains has been hijacked for the pecuniary profits of the greedy. He also describes how to change our brain chemistry to achieve real happiness in life by practicing the “four Cs of contentment”: Connect (Religion, Social Support, Conversation), Contribute (Self-Worth, Altruism, Volunteerism, Philanthropy), Cope (Sleep, Mindfulness, Exercise), and Cook (for Yourself, Your Friends, Your Family). “None of these modalities is passive: you have to perform them for any to work.” [Quote is from page 222. Emphasis in the original. Lustig’s prescription for a life of greater happiness/contentment seems to correspond with the priorities of a Healer, which also involves working actively in the real world of daily life].

  1. Seuntjens, T.G. (2016). The psychology of greed. Tilburg University Research Portal. “[W]e encounter instances of greed on a daily basis. The media covers stories about big frauds and scandals that are supposedly caused by greed. An example is Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme…. Madoff defrauded thousands of investors and his Ponzi scheme cost billions of dollars. Also the Enron Scandal is often linked to the greed of its top executives. Enron was one of the most renowned American companies, until it went bankrupt in 2001, after the uncovering of a variety of illegal activities. A more recent example, [sic] is the tax evasion of hundreds of people, including (former) world leaders, business people, criminals, and football players brought to light by the Panama Papers…. It seems that greed is an integral part of our capitalistic society and in particular in the financial markets. 

    “But, also in our immediate surroundings we see greedy behavior. For example, that colleague that always complains about his salary, the kid that wants the biggest present possible, or the friend who always takes the first snack at a party (and typically also the last one). Greedy behavior is also witnessed at the end of the season sales, when people sometimes seem to lose their mind while shopping and purchase much more than needed. More than once, Black Friday has led to crazy fights between people who wanted to purchase the same product. Finally, the eagerness with which consumers use coupons and respond to temporary discounts can also be seen as a manifestation of greed (pp. 8-9)” [This last observation presumably applies only to consumers who have no dire financial need to fervently pursue the most favorable purchase. Seuntjens has continued to publish empirical research in the area of greed beyond the dissertation described above].

  2. Cooney, S. (2015, March 23). The Invisible hand (never picks up the check)Inspired Economist. “The Invisible Hand theory only works if all the companies in the world are playing on the same playing field by the same rules. Allow one company to employ sweatshop labor conditions or use the cheapest/most toxic ingredients, and they all must follow suit, or risk being the high price option that only a few can afford or will voluntarily buy.” [The thinking that survival of a business (that is, one’s worldly successful greed) is a greater good than the welfare of the consumer has brought global warming to our neighborhood today.  See page 9 of the Quadrune Mind Study Guide regarding survival motivations of the pre-Human mentalities].
  3. Marquez, P. V. (2016, October 11). Invisible wounds: Mental health among displaced people and refugees. World Bank Blogs. “[T]he forcibly displaced, both refugees and asylum-seekers… and internally displaced persons… are fleeing conflict and violence. And let’s not forget that host communities are also affected by economic and social disruptions caused by inflows of displaced people.” [Emphasis added. See discussion in the Healers section above for the Human-minded perspective of conflicting groups].
  4. The Southern enslavers adopted the fallacious concept of “race” to justify the barbaric system of slavery. By determining that the conflict between North and South was over slavery, “race” became a legitimate subject to debate. Were Africans and African-Americans (“black race”) “racially” inferior to Europeans and European-Americans (“white race”)? Southern enslavers were able to argue that God had determined that Ham’s descendants, determined to be African descendants (as we all are) and Southerners were aligned with God’s will to subjugate them. “Anti-racists” debated to prove blacks were not an inferior “race,” thereby affirming to the slavers that they had a respectable counterargument.

    Because it’s almost certain that more people are greedy than they are “racists,” it’s much more comfortable for everyone to fight over “race” rather than greed. Southerners, as well as anyone else, can feel much more ennobled as “racists” than as greedy bigots. See footnote #5 below, our post QM, the Strategic Error Made by “Anti-Racists,” and the Mind of a Bigot, and Lehman, P. R. (2016). The system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris.

  5. Adams, D. N., Dana, M., & Mazo, A. (2021, November 15). New England once hunted and killed humans for money. We’re descendants of the survivors. The Guardian. “The settlers whom many Americans mythologize at Thanksgiving as peace-loving Pilgrims issued government orders offering cash for dead Native American children…. 

    “For more than 10,000 years, the Wabanaki peoples have been living in a region called the Dawnland. Captain John Smith rebranded the area “New England” in a map he made in 1614. He and the other colonial settlers renamed rivers and villages to claim the land for themselves and erase Native people from their homelands. But that wasn’t enough. Eventually colonial officials introduced a grisly incentive to hasten that erasure: bounties for dead Native Americans….

    “The reward: about $12,000 in today’s dollars for the scalp of a man, half that for a woman, and a bit less for a child. It was nearly as much as a soldier would earn in two years. Sometimes bounty hunters were granted the land of the people they scalped – thousands of acres, which scalpers used to found towns that they named after themselves, like Westbrook, Maine; Shirley, Massachusetts; and Spencer, Massachusetts, to name just a few.” [Lest we think that only the South bequeathed our legacy of greed, the North has its own covetous atrocities. For an in-depth description of European and European-American genocidal actions against First Americans, see An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz].

  6. Sillett, D. (2020, February 20). Song to the men of EnglandPoetry Prof. “In this poem, Shelley rails against those who use their power and positions to exploit the working classes – and also saves some of his ire for those ‘thoughtless’ ones who, like sheep ambling casually towards the slaughterhouse, allow such evil to be perpetrated upon them [Shelley criticizes the passivity of the working class, yet the poem was written in 1819 after a 60,000 workers’ peaceful demonstration was turned bloody when a private militia paid for by rich locals stormed the crowd with sabers]….

    My favourite Percy Bysshe Shelley story is that he once gave up sugar in tea. ‘So what?’ I hear you say. It doesn’t seem like the most exciting piece of information. And, given the out-of-the-ordinary life he otherwise led, I concede it is a little mundane. Consider, though, that he not only gave [it] up himself (his wife second wife, Mary, of Frankenstein fame, also gave [it] up in support) but he spearheaded a campaign which resulted in up to 400,000 Britons doing the same. Why? Sugar consumed in Britain was grown in Caribbean plantations by African slaves, so had become synonymous with the evils of the slave trade. Shelley – despite famously craving sweets, cakes and sugar – switched to green tea so that he could drink his favourite beverage without needing to add sugar.” [Link is in the original].

6 replies on “Stampede Greed and Desperate Need”

Tom, thank you again for a excellent discussion concerning greed and the associated effects of it. Seuntjens’ work provided an opportunity for discussions about greed and greedy. One question involves who defines greed, and how they define it because the definition of greed is relative as well as subjective. That being the case, what would be the difference between an over-achiever and a greedy person. To some people, the over-achiever is simply following natural urges towards success, regardless of what that success looks like. The other, the greedy does the same thing, but seemingly for a purpose different from success. All individuals possess elements of this natural urge, so when does it become greed?

The second concern is about the statement concerning America’s greatest sin being slavery. That statement is incorrect. America’s greatest sin was believing in the myth of European supremacy (white supremacy) and using slavery as an expression of that belief.

Thank you for the opportunity to address my concerns, Tom.

Thank you Paul for your thoughtful comments. You’re right about the ambiguity of the definition of greed. Seuntjens spends a large amount of her research and discussion in the development of an empirically-supported definition of greed. I refer you to her dissertation link above.

I remember social psychological research of many years ago that concluded people don’t treat others badly because they think they’re lesser people; people think others are lesser than human because they treat those people badly.

Because I agree with that finding, and because of how the quadrune mind conceptualizes the hierarchy of consciousness, I still believe that greed preceded bigotry and the systemization of “race” as justification of enslavement of human beings.

Greed motivated physical atrocities against other people to steal tangible assets, such as valuable land to grow profitable crops (a reptilian-minded motivation). A system of bigotry as justification of free slave labor, I believe, followed to allow the enslavers (Afflicters) to perceive themselves as in the “right.” Bigotry would represent a later developing old mammalian/new mammalian emotionally-charged rationalization.

This is why I agree that slavery is not America’s greatest sin, but also why I believe that it is greed. Greed preceded slavery and was justified by “race.”

I’m sure this response to your comment is less than satisfactory and look forward to our next opportunity to discuss.

Good job on this topic, Tom.
While I agree that greed may be the original sin and is certainly a cardinal sin, I am not sure that it always precedes bigotry. There seem to be lots of poor bigots out there. The majority of Confederate soldiers seem to have been fighting to keep a social system in place rather than an economic system. But in some people, greed and bigotry may be
fraternal twins. Anyway thanks for the thought provoking post.

Thanks Allan. I agree that greed does not always precede bigotry. In this case it is one cultural group with the resources and greedy inclination that is able to dominate another cultural group over a lengthy period of time. Additionally, that dominance required (and continues to require) barbaric, cruel force against families of mothers and fathers and their children. The plantation class, among others, must distort the reality of what they are doing by an extreme degree to defend their belief in their own “humanity.” Bigotry is their solution by way of the “white supremacy” mythology. (Myths being the stories a group of people tell themselves to explain their place in the world and why things are the way they are, which myths have done for all human cultures throughout history.)

Hi, Tom. Thank you for the opportunity to read your article and share some thoughts about it. I will admit up front that my comments contain some personal political opinion. I found your analysis of greed as a root cause very interesting, including the comparison of Haiti refugees and the Sackler family.

Based on your post, I thought about connections of greed in context of some major recent events, such as the 2020 election, the Capitol insurrection, and the Covid pandemic. In each case I could easily see greed as a primary cause. Greed for power and money were obvious, but I could also see greed in both the behavior of people being manipulated by disinformation and lies, and certainly in those who were responsible for disinformation and lies.

I am curious if you see selfishness and inconsideration of others as a form of greed in context of your article and the Covid situation. Clearly the politicians, propaganda outlets, and others using disinformation to discourage vaccination, masking, and vaccine mandates are operating out of various forms of greed, but I am not as clear on how greed might be a motivation or reason for those falling prey and to and believing Covid related disinformation. Perhaps such people are greedy in the sense that they think they should be able to do whatever they want with no concern for anyone else or the larger impact of their actions. I am very interested in your thoughts on that.

Meanwhile, I continued thinking about various policies or organizations created throughout our country’s history that have tried to counteract shameless and deliberate greed. For example, labor unions grew out of abuses of workers by employers (and I see a similarity here to your connection between greed and race and slavery). Left unchecked the greed of the employers had little or no bounds. Another example might be various types of regulations, such as environmental regulations to offset damage and harm caused by greedy companies and developers.

Finally, and to me this applies to all of the above, the statement in the article of “Afflicters always believe that the suffering they cause other people is justified” seems spot on, but also sad.


Terri Seuntjens in her dissertation cites some general statements about greed that might be helpful in our understanding here: “What is greed?
One way to get a better conception of greed is to look at the origin of the word. ‘Greed’ originates from the Old English term græd or grædig (with cognates in a variety of other Germanic languages; e.g., gretig in Dutch, grådig in Danish, and gráðigr in Old Scandinavian languages), meaning voracious or eager (Online Etymology Dictionary, 2013). Greed can thus be seen as an excessive desire or hunger. Definitions in leading dictionaries confirm this view; greed is described as the ‘selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed’ (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2013); ‘a strong desire for more wealth, possessions, power, etc. than a person needs’ (Online Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 2013), and ‘when you want a lot more
food, money, etc. than you need’ (Online Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary, 2013). As is apparent from all these definitions, greed refers to an inappeasable longing for not just money but also other goods and resources. Depending on the object of interest greed can manifest itself as avarice, cupidity, exceeding ambition, lust, or gluttony (Tickle, 2004). Thus, when people talk about greed they mean more than just an extreme desire for more money” (pp. 30-31).
From her description I think we can apply the term “greed” as relevant to the self-centered goals across politics, social standing, privilege, even daily acts of disrespect toward others, etc.
I think the supporters of “greedy” policies are getting something they want that they don’t believe they can get on their own. That “something” probably can fit into these general definitions of greed. Perhaps their motivations may be related to the informal meanings of “jealousy” and “envy” I remember reading years ago: jealousy is wanting something someone else has that we think we deserve to have but don’t; envy is wanting something someone else has that we don’t think we can get.
I greatly appreciate your incisive thoughts and questions about this post. Thank you for the generous time you have given by your response.

Comments are closed.