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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Whatever happened to the seven deadly sins?

With the wages of sin at record lows, Mary Telford investigates how the seven deadly sins have been rebranded in today’s more laissez-faire, digitally enabled age

Mary Telford: We are like the Victorians and sex. We would rather not talk about sin. They lie like old banana skins, empty of content. But what if something of their purpose remains? We may even slip on them, and fall

Whatever happened to sins, deadly or otherwise?
The seven deadly sins have become invisible; no longer having the power to cause scandal and restrict behaviour. In a consumption culture founded upon convenient gratification and pleasure even “naughty but nice” sounds judgemental. Sins are forgotten so much that many people nowadays don’t know that they are sinning (though remain very quick to recognise when they are sinned against).

Without fanfare, discussion or notice, the traditional Seven Deadly Sins had a makeunder and dropped off our charts. Admission or acknowledgement of sin nowadays belongs to a different, fustier era. Sins have almost disappeared from our vocabulary, minds and behaviour.
Sins is such a deliciously short, four-letter word.
We may all sin now.
And we do.
Sinning is just another sport. To be enjoyed on our own, or with others.
That’s what it is:
Sinning as recreation.
Sinning with impunity may take the edge off the pleasure.
But on the other hand, who wants hellfire and damnation?
Or even a fine?

We have choice:
Seven scrumptious flavours:
Envy now rebranded as Aspiration
Sloth now rebranded as Chillaxing
Lust now rebranded as Desire
Pride now rebranded as Self Respect
Gluttony now rebranded as Gourmet Dining
Avarice now rebranded as Ambition
Anger now rebranded as Self Expression
All are normal
All are legitimate
There is no punishment
For indulging.

Consider ENVY:
How many of us covet our neighbour’s ox, or his ass?
But we covet his wife.
Even more, we covet his house, his job, his salary.
Aspire to a banker’s life of fast cars and champagne.
Aspire to celebrity status for doing nothing but celebrate yourself.
Aspire to real fur, real diamonds and real crocodile shoes…
Women are the most successful aspirers, men the most cruel.
We are all aspirational.
We are told it is good.

Spend to aspire, they say.
Aspire to keep the economy going.
And we envy all that are in a position
To obey.

Now consider SLOTH:
This is the killer, literally.
How slothful to drive everywhere,
To sit all weekend watching boxed sets,
Not to bother, not to care, not to lift a helping hand.
We call this chilling, switching off, even dropping out.

Chill! The cry goes up.
Why care what is happening at home?
In society?
In the wild?
It’s just not worth the effort.
And when we can no longer walk
And when we have to be winched out of bed
No-one calls us lazy.
We are pitied
And cosseted
And take up two seats in the bus.

Consider LUST:
The acme of self-gratification.
Or by proxy.
It’s a natural urge.
Why put obstacles in its way?
If we dam the tide of lust
We will suffer from
Damaged psyche.
Go ahead, ravish the maidens,
You know they secretly want it.
We must indulge our lust or
We will be frustrated.
Our lives will be ruined.
Forget the expense of spirit in a waste of shame.
It is a question of maintenance.
We don’t want to be perverted
Or our minds and bodies distorted
By self-control.

Let us consider PRIDE.
We must all be proud of ourselves.
We must all love ourselves.
We must at all costs not be beaten
In an argument,
In a negotiation,
In a friendly tennis match
Pride must be public.
We must boast
We must flaunt
We must call the tune
We must never, ever allow anyone to doubt
Our strength
Our brilliance
Our philanthropy
Our dress sense
The pithiness of our tweets
We must never back down.

Consider GLUTTONY.
If we resist we are pariahs.
Do we watch television?
See the advertisements for food.
How expensively it is styled to bring out
The taste
The texture
The colour.
See how cereals shine with sugar coating
See the technicolour pizzas
The oozing puddings.
The sauces
The sizzle of succulent steaks
Hear the honeyed tones
Exhorting us to
Eat! Eat! Eat!
Fill that gaping hole where love and friendship should be
With food.

Consider AVARICE:
Without it the world would stop.
We all need money.
We need more money than our colleagues
Bigger bonuses. Larger share options
We need more money than our friends
We don’t have to spend it
We certainly don’t have to give it away
It can live in our mansion with swimming pool, tennis court and gym.
It can sit in our bank account.
We just need to watch
The bottom line increasing.
Hang on to it tight.
Do not give a sou.
Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow

We consider ANGER at our peril:
Call it self-expression,
This sin can still shock, terrorise.
It is even sometimes, just,
In special cases, taboo.
When the feral beast breaks out
Claws spread
Hooves ready to strike
Jaws to crush.
Blind rage.
Seeing red.
Keep well clear.
And do not interfere.
If that anger is not expressed,
It will turn on itself.
If it is repressed
It will eat its own guts.
You want to see anger tear its own flesh apart?
Stand back
Out of reach
Watch the damage done
Without demur.
Let it go
Let it all hang out.
Be destructive
Be angry.
We are like the Victorians and sex.
We would rather not talk about sin.
We would rather not hear about it.
We would rather not see it.
It isn’t there
It has gone away

In our happy, fulfilled lives, these ancient guides to right and wrong are redundant
Mary Telford