The Oxford English Dictionary defines venality as;
- The quality or fact of being for sale.
- The quality of being venal; readiness to give support or favour in return for profit or reward; prostitution of talents or principles for mercenary considerations.
Like it or not, venality is a fact of the world that we live in. I don’t think that I have ever read venality used as a positive attribute, it is always used pejoratively.
In the best debut novel ever written by me, the protagonist, Sean, could be characterised as venal. He is ambitious, he wants to get on and, he wants to succeed. He is prepared to work hard to achieve these aims. Does this make him venal?
I suspect that it comes down to how far he is prepared to go to get what he wants. The actions that he takes will determine our view of his motivation. After all, one person’s ‘venal’ is another’s ‘driven’.
Are we not all venal in some way? Certainly in the ‘developed’ world, many, if not all of of us, satisfy number 1 in the definition above. We sell our time and effort. That is how our world works. What is far more interesting to me is what principles we are prepared to put aside or suppress in return for reward.
Is venality inevitable in our world?