In the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” fictional corporate raider Gordon Gekko utters perhaps the most memorable words in the annals of yuppiedom: “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed...is good,” he tells the transfixed shareholders at an annual meeting. “Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind”. Admittedly, that sort of rampant rapacity once resonated all too powerfully, at a time when the most pressing issue for a generation of upwardly mobile young Americans seemed to be whether to opt for the cabriolet or targa roof on the Porsche 911, once the stock options finally kicked in.But today, it seems as dated as nouvelle cuisine.It’s as if one morning we all woke up and, while fumbling with our whitening strips in the bathroom mirror, took a good look at ourselves and realized that the obsessive, ruthless pursuit of power, money and expensive toys had become, well, a bitdéclassé.
We suddenly understood the importance of other things in life—such as protecting the precariously fragile ecosystem of our planet, aiding the impoverished and homeless in our own communities, working to better conditions for workers in the Third World, helping dissidents bring democracy to oppressed countries, rescuing stray dogs from animal shelters.At the same time, we hesitated to completely turn our backs on financial success and the material comforts to which we’ve become accustomed.Sure, we admire Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama, but we don’t want to give up our daily double latte with extra foam, the flat-panel home entertainment system or that comfy goose-down quilt on our $3,000 Swedish Tempur-Pedic bed.And while we care about global warming, we’re not quite ready to quit driving to work and go live on an organic farm in Vermont.
But fortunately, we don’t have to do any of that. It’s possible for even the most inveterate Rolex-and-suspenders-wearing capitalist tool to evolve into a higher state of social consciousness--in which anyone can help save the planet and look stylish while doing it, in which conspicuous consumption is fine, provided that it’s done with a conscience. It’s possible to be successful, live well and do good, all at once.In pop psychology lingo, we’re experiencing a paradigm shift—the metamorphosis of Yuppie into Scuppie, the Socially Conscious, Upwardly-mobile person.
For more evidence of the trend, consider that the Toyota Prius, the gasoline-electric hybrid sedan that’s emerged as the status symbol for Scuppies, attracts buyers with an average income of nearly $100,000.Beyond that, look at what’s happened to the über-yuppies, the ‘80s and ‘90s moguls whose hard-driving quest for wealth provided the blueprint for a generation of business-school grads. Microsoft founder-chairman Bill Gates used to grind competitors into the dust; now he’s using his billions to improve public health in the Third World. Texas oilman-corporate raider T. Boone Pickens? These days, he’s touting the future of alternative fuels. If Gordon Gekko was real, it’s an even bet that today, he’d be busy endowing an alternative school in the South Bronx, or leading an international campaign against land mines.So forget greed. Green is good.