In George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” we are introduced to the concept of two-minute hate, a daily period in which workers must watch a film of the Party’s enemies and express their hatred of them. The purpose of the action was to direct thoughts away from what was actually going on in Oceania – a repressive, gulag-like environment – and toward a perceived enemy.
We have now achieved the two minute hate in our society, thanks to the 24/7 news cycle of television and the Internet. Each week, a new villain is introduced as the person to hate. After days or weeks of solid coverage, the media herd moves on to another subject, and the object of last week’s hate becomes yesterday’s news, left to wallow in their own ignominy.
The sinners in these cases are often allowed to rehabilitate themselves and re-emerge. This involves extensive penance, often coupled with an appearance with a member of the aggrieved, and a vow that they have learned a lesson and will sin no more. Hence, Michael Vick can now be a quarterback in the NFL; Michael Richards can return to television after his nightclub meltdown; Monica Lewinsky can again walk among us, although not dressed in the color blue.
But as we produce sinners faster than ever, the question arises: are the definitions of what used to be construed as sin keeping up with the media churn?
It used to be that the seven deadly sins were defined as pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. They were termed deadly because they led to Hell, a path from which there was allegedly no return, at least in pre-public relations times.
However, given how society has transformed, it’s likely that the seven deadly sins have outlived their usefulness and meaning as “sins.”
After all, when was the last time someone was shamed because of sloth? Today’s society actually invests in maintaining it, offering public benefits so generous that minimum wage work is not worth the effort. Similarly, gluttony has been abandoned. Our obese society is constantly reminded to eat seven different varieties of fried chicken, huge hamburgers, and to visit restaurants where large, salty portions of food comprise most of the menu.
No, today’s society has a far different list of sins. Herewith, seven new sins that will condemn the transgressor to a prominent spot on the evening news:
THE NEW SEVEN DEADLY SINS
1) Racism: Defined as the belief that all members of a specific race have certain characteristics. Accusations of racism are knee-jerk denied by those who are accused of it. Although strangely, saying white men can’t jump isn’t considered racist.
2) Violence: Ray Rice is just now learning that the ubiquitous video cameras in our society are one way to fan minor flames of sin into a raging forest fire. The sin of violence is usually about actions taken against women and children. Anyone else, and the term is “a robbery gone wrong,” to use the terms of law enforcement officials to explain the sin of random violence.
3) Pedophilia: This is pretty universally condemned, except if you’re in law enforcement in the UK and might have to notice it going on in your jurisdiction. Then, it’s considered a boyfriend/girlfriend situation, even if the man is over 30 and the girl is age 12.
4) Anti-Semitism: Usually committed by media people who mistakenly seek a convenient scapegoat. Rick Sanchez of CNN committed this sin. However, CNN anchor Don Lemon’s recent endorsement of the Nation of Islam, an anti-semitic organization, did not qualify.
5) Avarice: In an age where we lionize venture capital and tech billionaires, this seems like an unlikely candidate for sin. But there are Hall of Famers in the avarice department, like former Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowski, best remembered for using company money on a $6,000 golden shower curtain. That we cannot forgive.
6) Intolerance: This is a tricky one. The definition of intolerance is an unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own, which can be fairly benign on its face and a sin everyone is occasionally guilty of committing. But this action can morph into sin when the sinner is perceived as being on the wrong end of the political spectrum and contributes money to unpopular election propositions. Then the long knives come out.
7) Harassment: This is usually defined as unwanted attentions from a suitor, typically in the workplace. It is practically always a male sinning against females situation, but strangely enough, never seems to be committed by a man who looks like Johnny Depp or Denzel Washington. But a Texas man recently won a half-million-dollar jury award after proving his female boss harassed him. So the pendulum can swing both ways.
There you have the new seven deadly sins. They may not be as easy to avoid as pride, envy and anger, but they certainly will provoke a shaming of Biblical proportions if you commit them.