Greed and envy are both traditionally considered sins. Heck, they are among the seven deadly sins even. And it's true that both greed and envy can lead people to do heinous things. It can consume them and make them selfish - unfeeling and uncaring towards their fellow men and women. But really so can so many other things when you think about it. When you narrow down your worldview to encompass you and only you, you become selfish and unempathetic, and those are not traits exclusively experienced with greed and envy. In fact, sometimes those things have nothing to do with greed and envy. So consider the following my defence of these two deadly sins.

As a starting point for my defence I shall be using the Pixar short One Man Band. Odd choice, I know, but bare with me. In the short a little girl has come to a square to drop a coin into the fountain at the centre. However when she gets there she is met by a street musician who attempts to impress her with his performance so she would give him the coin instead. However, before he can get the coin he receives competition from another street musician who appears to also attempt to wow the little girl for her coin, and so a competition ensues.

Instead of getting the little girl's coin, the cacophony of the two musicians attempts to outdo each other results in the girl putting her hands to her ears, thus dropping her only coin which falls down a drain and into the sewer below. When neither musician has any money to spare so the girl could have a coin back, she demands the other musician for one of his violins which she then plays until she receives a huge bag of coins from a passer-by. Instead of the short ending on her giving the two musicians coins, she throws two to the very top of the fountain at the center of the square. The short ends on a shot of the two musicians still at the square when it has gone dark, standing on top of each other desperately trying to reach the coins.

The two street musicians in the short are played off as more or less fools that the audience is meant to laugh at. The clearest indication of this is that the end result of all their efforts to get the little girl's coin results in neither of them getting it, but instead we end on them still desperately trying to get coins to no avail. And while we could feel sorry for them, the short doesn't indicate that we should as these two adult men through their desperation to get a little girl's sole coin make her lose her coin and cry. The reason we are meant to laugh at these characters then is because of the desperation of their greed which results in unwanted consequences for those around them. Our sympathies then lie with the girl, not with the musicians.

One thing to notice though is the fact that we don't know the backgrounds of the musicians at all. All we know is that they're street musicians and both seem short on funds with their empty cups and desperation for one measly little coin. Yes, it could be that maybe they have money stashed somewhere else and they're just plain greedy. But doesn't the more likely option seem that both of them are just dirt poor? This would explain their desperation - they need money because they don't have it. And really who of us wouldn't be desperate and needy if we had no money at all? You can hardly blame someone for wanting to make a living. It's not like the two musicians are robbing anyone or doing anything morally bankrupt. They both show off their musical talents in an attempt to impress someone to give them a coin or two. When you put it like that their greed doesn't sound all that bad anymore. Their only real crime then is being inconsiderate towards a little girl which isn't as much because of their greed as it is because of a need to make ends meet.

And suppose these characters don't have ulterior motives. Suppose they are just two people who desperately want the little girl's coin for no other reason than to have the little girl's coin. In an attempt to out-do each other to be the one the girl chooses to give the coin to, we see the two musicians constantly up the ante in their performance. They thrive to be better and more impressive than the other, meaning their performance keeps reaching new heights. Yes, negative results can happen as well, such as when the two musicians become so desperate that instead of working on becoming more impressive they just seem to keep getting louder. But if the greed to want money for your accomplishments and the envy of wanting to be as good or better than the other guy results in you delivering something extraordinary, is there really any harm in greed and envy? As long as your envy of what someone else has results in you making things better for yourself without taking away anything from anyone else, where is the harm? As long as your success isn't detrimental to the success of others, greed and envy are just things that keep people competitive and thus help us reach new heights. Yours truly may be an agnostic atheist, but I still think Anton LaVey got it right when he founded his Satanic philosophy on this kind of foundation.

So I guess the lesson here is that greed and envy, while potential catalysts for heinous acts, are not inherently harmful and can in fact be catalysts for constructive acts as well. And that Pixar makes entertaining, amusing and imaginative films for people of all ages to watch and enjoy, and for cinephile university students such as myself to scrutinize and over-analyze... before watching and enjoying just like everyone else. And the world keeps on spinning.