In Western society we have all heard of the seven cardinal sins. And, whilst it’s a Christian concept, pretty much every person in every society can see why they are viewed so negatively. Pride is not only unpleasant to be around, it can motivate people to act in their own best interests rather than those of the group. Wrath is dangerous to a society, the wrathful person and their victims. Envy can be a motivator behind violence and more unpleasant activities. Lust undermines the romantic and political structures behind human relationships. Greed can encourage people to focus only on themselves, or to work only for unconsumable rewards, again interfering with society’s function as well as being irritating. Gluttony can make the sinner unhealthy as well as risking an imbalanced divide of consumables, causing starvation. Sloth makes people unproductive, encourages them to rely on the work of others and is a general bane to society.
And, just as most people in most societies understand the problems the cardinal sins bring, most people and most cultures have their own examples that spring to mind when these sins are mentioned. In the West, we picture the arrogant businessman with an inflated sense of self importance as Pride, the angry harpy beating her boyfriend over every misdemeanor as Wrath, the teenager keying his wealthier classmate’s car as Envy, the amateur “stripper” with a partner count in the 100s as Lust, the elitist CEO driving third world workers to death as Greed, the morbidly obese hedonist gourmet-meets-gourmand as Gluttony and the bone-idle thirty-something shutaway living off their parents and the dole as Sloth.
But we have these views because they disconnect us from the reality of these sins. These extreme examples are extreme because of how massively they impact those affected. But they are hardly the most common manifestations of these sins. Each is more common and just as extreme in our daily lives, and whilst the impact of one or two people engaging in these behaviours is small, their collective impact is destroying our society.
Pride = Entitlement
Pride is an overinflated sense of self-worth accompanied by an expression of that sense and often poor self-esteem. Basically, a proud person believes they are very important whilst harbouring volatile insecurity beneath the surface. Hence “pride goes before destruction”, as the inevitable result of pride is the cracking of the shell.
And nowhere is pride more evident in our society than in our fragile and all-encompassing sense of entitlement. Often confused with narcissism, this form of pride comes young. Children already display it in a way not evidenced in tribal or pre-1900s societies. It is the obsession with your own worth, the idea that you deserve everything you want, that every denial is injust, that everyone who dislikes you is jealous and everyone who loves you does so for the right reasons. It is born of a combination of easygoing parenting, extreme wealth and a deep fear of abandonment and hatred. Whenever pride is denied or the illusion is broken, a feeling of resentment and fear ensues.
It may manifest as an expectation that you’ll get a certain gift for valentine’s, a desire to be deeply loved by everyone or a need to get your ideal car, at your ideal price, regardless of all context.
Wrath = Stress
Wrath is intense, uncontrolled anger, normally born from vengeful desires. Basically, a wrathful person is quick to anger, sensitive to other people’s anger, quick to act on their anger and often paranoid.
Wrath in our society is actually a more subtle sin. Due to careful indoctrination in schools, extreme policing and careful observation of our social rules by both individuals and organizations, there aren’t many vents for anger. Not only is this bad for general irritability, as bottling your anger isn’t very good for you, but it’s even worse in terms of wrath. When you bottle rightful anger and wrath together, you can lose sight of what is a helpful emotion designed to tell you what is harming you, and what is a rooted desire for vengeance and destruction. When this happens, we begin to pile straw onto the camel’s back. Everything gets mixed up and causes stress. Because we’re angry, frustrated, wrathful and can’t express it, identify it, deal with it. Stress is your body’s response to danger. And when we harbour wrath we can’t act on, we feel endangered, hurt and start to become stressed.
Of course, not all stress is born of wrath. A lot of stress comes from exhaustion, overworking, etc. But, then again, some of the most effective stress release therapies involve violent outbursts. Boxing, pillow-screaming, stress balls, punching pillows, martial arts… Think of how many people do that to let off steam. Consider how much wrath could be behind their stress, unaddressed.
Envy = Debt
Envy is a desire for something that someone else has, usually largely because they happen to have it. Basically, an envious person wants to own the things that others have. They would not want them if the other person did not have them or enjoy them. They feel an acute pain when someone else has something good and they desire it.
Just to be clear, I am not saying debt is envy. Rather, a lot of debt in modern Western societies is the manifestation of envy: its physical result in the real world. Some people will be in debt due to a crisis: sudden unemployment, illness and injury, fire in an uninsured home, etc. But this isn’t the case for the vast majority of Western people. The vast majority are in debt because we spend beyond our means, buy pointless things and always need to upgrade. Students who get engineering degrees are rarely in debt for very long. They get out, get work and pay off their debt. But students who aren’t bright or qualified enough for an engineering degree would rather accumulate debt they can’t repay in a marxist film theory degree than be “outshone” by the engineers. People with good money can afford yearly new cars and £1M houses. People without good money will use credit, mortgages and installments to live a good money lifestyle.
Most individuals are in debt because a friend, relative, celebrity or random person on TV showed themselves to have more than the individual had, so the individual got a degree, a car, a house, etc to compete with everyone else. Keeping up with the Joneses is envy that begets debt.
Lust = Porn
Whereas envy is a reactive desire: wanting what someone else has because they have it, lust is an active desire: wanting something because it is. Lust is perceived as an integral, animalistic drive, following your baser instincts rather than taught behaviours. It is usually connected to sex, as sex is the strongest source of spontaneous attraction to humans, often coming before food.
I know this one has been done into the dust, but it has because it’s true. Lust in our society manifests primarily in our consumption of pornographic materials. And boy do we consume them. Pornographic content is available at the touch of a button online, composing around 5% of websites and getting more traffic than Netflix. There are also forums and message boards dedicated to it. And where it’s viewed as a man’s problem, people are starting to become aware that when women feel the urge, we are just as likely to go to a porn site. To add to that, we have the traditional sources of porn: magazines, erotica, photos, both in their old forms and online forms. Furthermore, we have become so obsessed with sex that we need to talk about who is or isn’t having it, what is appropriate to do in your private bedroom and whether breastfeeding is sexual. We are so obsessed that we now use sex icons to sell fairly innocuous products and all sorts of items, for men, women and teens alike, are sold using sex.
When we watch videos worshiping the female behind, when we buy a product that was sold using sex, when we consume erotica, pornographic videos or “soft” pictures, we are indulging lust. And almost nobody is exempt.
Greed = Workaholism
Greed is “excessive aquisitiveness”, or the desire to possess more than you need. Basically, the greedy person is a hoarder, wanting to accumulate beyond what they could possibly ever use. They never have enough, whatever they add to the hoard becomes the new “baseline” they never want to drop below. They just keep accumulating.
Greed in our society is manifest as workaholism. Now, again, we’re not talking about the actual medical condition where someone is basically addicted to the work itself. We’re talking about the far more common form: the addiction to earning. These are the people who ate their jobs and do the bare minimum for their hourly pay, but will do extra hours, extra work and take on secondary jobs to get more money in the bank. They will then use that money to buy material goods to hoard or boast of, or events and experiences to boast of. All that matters is accumulating enough wealth. And most people indulge in greed to a degree.
Yet thanks to a combination of greed, pride and envy, we don’t realize how greedy or jealous we actually are, as we will spend right the way to the edge of every paycheck trying to keep up with the Joneses. Plenty of people survive on 4-10k/year in Western countries. Yet a workaholic with a 200k paycheck and 100k in debt feels like they are living a bare basics lifestyle when, in fact, they are consumed by greed and envy.
Gluttony = Obesity
Gluttony is often confused with greed. Gluttony is the permanent desire for consumable goods and an overconsumption of them when they get them. Basically, a glutton is someone who longs for more food than they need and regularly indulges that longing.
And our manifestation of gluttony is obesity. Now, you could argue that gluttony is also manifest as gourmets, gourmands and bulimics. But these people, even added up, do not make up a half to two thirds of any given population. We are surrounded by food and the only people who are not truly gluttonous are those who eat the amount they need to sustain themselves and eat largely if not wholly for sustenance. So two thirds of the population is already excluded and that’s without counting thin people who suffer from binge eating disorders, who obsess over food, who eat only for pleasure and not for health. In short, we live in such a time of abundance that not only is the temptation to be greedy strong, there are few among us who haven’t succumbed to it.
Sloth = Infantilism
Finally, we get to sloth. Sloth is an aversion to work or activity, not at all limited to the physical. Basically, a slothful person will be work-shy, physically idle and therefore unfit, uninclined to make up their own minds about anything, needing to have their opinions and ideas fed to them, fond of mindless entertainment, etc.
As you have probably guessed, sloth is as prevalent in our society as pride, gluttony and envy. Probably more prevalent. And it is because of taught infantilism. Infantilism is the state of being mentally younger than your biological age. Taught infantilism is when that state is not a result of disability, but of upbringing. And every generation is more and more infantilized. We are hand-held through life. Our parents guard and protect us from bad images on TV, insults and fights with siblings. Our parents can’t punish their children efficiently any more. The government coddles and stunts children. We know no suffering, no pain, no fear, no injury, no insult. Too many children never hear “no”. Between weak parenting and government intrusion, many people don’t mentally mature beyond the age range 8-13, leaving them overly sensitive to insult, insecure, with abandonment issues, unable to look after themselves, relying heavily on the government for their income, safety, education, security, decision-making, etc.
The results of infantilism are fairly evident. Children need to look up to their parents, trust teachers and siblings, learn from their elders, rely on others to make decisions for them, etc. That is the natural order. But in an adult who should be robust, mature and independent those behaviours are just slothful. Someone who needs a comfortable car to go everywhere, who needs to be told who to vote for, who needs someone to protect them whenever they choose to intoxicate themselves, who needs to slap them on the wrist when they hurt themselves… that person is as slothful as someone who never gets up from the sofa.
Sins = Chaos
So there are the seven cardinal sins, why they are a problem whether you are Christian or not, religious or not and how they manifest in our society. You needn’t have any faith at all to realize that cardinal sins are sins because they mess things up for everyone and shouldn’t be done.
But as a population and as individuals we regularly indulge the seven sins. It’s quite likely that at least half the population gives into all seven over the course of a week and doesn’t even realize they have done it. We expect to be catered to by everyone and guarded from ourselves by the government, but we don’t see our pride and sloth. We obsess over earning more, getting good credit, all so we can get a car that our mate Dave has been showing off, but we don’t see envy, greed and pride. We overeat and get fat, but we don’t see gluttony and sloth. We long for every item we see for sale, but we don’t see greed, lust, pride, and envy. We get overly anxious at work because we aren’t earning enough and need a promotion to pay off our mortgage faster, but we don’t see greed, envy and wrath. We treat each other as objects, trying to extort money, sex, attention, all sorts of things out of the people who pass through our lives, but we don’t see lust, pride and greed. As a population we are consumed by the seven cardinal sins. And our society is a perfect example of why these sins are so much of a problem.
We can move beyond it on an individual level. We will all succumb to them from time to time, but we can at least strive to be modest, unselfish, calm, kind, loving, active, restrained and mature, to make the most of what we have, enjoy others successes, strive for our own success and be moderate in all we consume and use. But unless 99% of the Western world adopted that approach, we will be a drop of water in the ocean.
What do you think? Do you agree on the modern representations of the sins? Do you fight them, or do you “enjoy the decline”? How do you deal with people who display all these problems? Share your thoughts, knowledge and experiences in the comments!
TTFN and Happy Hunting.