The one Deadly Sin

When I was young, fifty or sixty years ago, I was told that there were seven deadly sins. My grandmother frequently listed them. Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed and Sloth. Things have changed.

Greed is now a virtue. Margaret Thatcher made selfishness a policy driver. Capitalism doesn’t depend on greed, but its modern manifestation certainly seems to. I cite as evidence the widening gap between the pay of those who run things and those who work for them. Greed at quite astonishing levels is now touted as a key driver of economic growth. Greed is off the sin list, leaving six.

Gluttony hardly needs discussing, you have only to graph the number of obese people in western society to see how that sin has become normality. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says: “Nearly three-quarters of American men and more than 60% of women are obese or overweight.” There are similar trends in most of the developed world. Gluttony has been made normal and obviously is no longer a sin. Five left.

Pride. Surly pride is a virtue now. The number of selfies on Facebook might be one metric. Pride is encouraged at every turn. How many workplaces have an employee of the month plaque visible to all? Gone is the modest ‘Well done’ from the boss. Now we have to be pumped up and proud, or out and proud, or anything and proud. So many interviews with athletes and performers talk about how proud they are of their Mum and Dad, or their team, or themselves. How was pride ever even on the list. Four left.

Envy. We can’t call that a sin and still claim that competition is a key driver of efficiency and growth. Why compete if you don’t envy something about the opposition. Envy has been completely rehabilitated, it even has it’s own colour — Green. Green, a fashionable, up and coming word if ever there was one. Three left.

Lust. There’s a word to conjour with. Sex sells, I don’t need evidence for that when you can drive through any town and see the billboards. Saying sex sells is too simple; sex doesn’t sell without lust to drive it. Two left

Anger. Anger went off the list a long time back. This isn’t a sly swipe at anger management courses, though the fact that they are so often used as an excuse for a joke tells you something. I am more concerned with all those comments on the bottom of news posts and Facebook pages and all those raging Tweets that fill cyberspace. So much anger pouring out all over everywhere. I am left in no doubt that anger has been rehabilitated; if it really was a sin then vast numbers of people would not feel free to throw it around all the time. One left.

Sloth. That is still a sin. The invention of words like chillaxing shows us that idleness without a purpose is disapproved of. We have to label inactivity. We can recharge our batteries, we can play golf, make rubbish art, commune with nature, but unjusifiable laziness, sloth, still gets a bad press. Maybe even more than it deserves. I don’t want to exaggerate. When politicians talk about spongers and scroungers I always find myself wondering if there really are two sorts of lazy people or are they using two alliterated words to make the number sound bigger. Personally I don’t think there are very many really lazy people. So many jobs these days require workers to put in so much effort to stand still that laziness equals starvation for many.

Now that greed, envy, pride, gluttony and lust have become part of everyday life and anger is the prefered mode of addressing strangers, it has become impossible to hide sloth.

If, by chance you have read this far, perhaps because you are on holiday or your train is stuck in a tunnel or your next appointment is late, then kick back, be slothful, and enjoy the only sin left. If someone asks, you can always say you are researching modern morality.