Doing things differently since 1984
Yesterday, I got on the computer to find every social media network flooded with posts about Kony 2012. I’m going to assume that everyone knows about it now – if you don’t, Google it. The majority wanted to join the cause; others wanted to raise the red flag pertaining to the rallying organization’s possible ulterior financial motives, or the pointlessness of simply sharing a link to a video, or the outdatedness of the cause.
But nobody – and I mean nobody – said, “But what Kony is/was doing isn’t really THAT bad…!” Because, pretty much universally, everyone can agree that rape and murder are bad, even moreso when it involves children.
In a way, I’m glad that our society is still at the point where we can agree that Kony’s actions are/were bad. In another way, I think it’s quite poignant that it takes something that extreme to make people agree on what is definitely “wrong”.
After reading another blogger’s post on the Seven Deadly Sins – once thought to be the root of all evil and a good way to put a target on your head to Heaven saying, “Please smite me!” – I thought about what our current society’s equivalent would be. What are the really bad things nowadays? Here is what I came up with:
Obviously, there is some overlapping in those categories. But to be honest, I had trouble coming up with 7 relatively generic things that most of the “postmodern” world would pretty universally consider bad. Some people may disagree with some of those points, or have additional ones to add – your feedback is well appreciated. Don’t be fooled when I make myself out to be someone that has all the answers.
But anyway, compare this list to the Seven Deadly Sins (c. 590 AD, and agreed upon for over a millennium thereafter):
I mean, really? Could you see someone being sent to court for acting on his or her impulses of gluttony (a.k.a. overeating/drinking)? Or for hampering society with an overabundance of slothfulness (a.k.a. laziness)? It seems that these are closer to the pillars of our society now than harbingers of condemnation.
Because really, we all strive to get to the point where we have lots of money (greed), lots of admirers (envy), don’t have to do any work (sloth), and can party all day (gluttony), right? (Which is all, of course, pride). Isn’t that, like, the American dream?
Now of course, this isn’t to say simply that morality has gone downhill – I mean, it probably has, but that’s not my main point – because in comparing the two lists, it is in fact probably more useful to condemn genocide than it is gluttony if you’re promoting a peaceful society. What I think is most noticeable between this two lists is that morality has gone external.
Look again at the top list – it’s all stuff that is up for public display. People see it, they don’t like it, they act accordingly. Then compare that to the original Seven Deadly Sins – it’s all internal. It’s a war of the mind. If you can prevent lust, you’ve prevented rape. If you can prevent wrath, you’ve prevented most murders. If you can prevent greed, you’ve prevented most wars and oppression. If you can prevent pride, you’ve prevented bigotry. And so on.
So, I know I probably go on too much about the value of learning from history, or, more importantly, how people used to view the world in times past, but this is the kind of thing I mean. Nobody condemns the internal anymore – not even for themselves. That’s too ‘judgmental’. We care about how it looks on tv, how it sounds in 140 characters, how racy it sounds as a headline, how it tabulates on a graph. We run around like crazy trying to treat symptoms instead of illnesses.
When I say “we”, I mean pretty much every group I can think of. Governments, activist groups, Facebook groups, school systems, even churches – nobody is immune. I’m not immune. Here is my Plan to Fix Everything Bad:
1) Think of anything you don’t like in the world (example: Kony)
2) Try and work out the root causes of that thing happening (example: lust for power, disregard for others)
3) Think about how often you too are guilty of that root cause (example: do you perform risky maneuvers on the road just to get one space ahead?)
4) Stop doing it.
If everyone in the world did that, you would have a Utopia. You’ll find that this plan is consistent with most of the people who obviously knew what they were talking about throughout history – you know the ones I mean. Jesus would certainly agree. Churches should, but they don’t act on it nearly as often as they should.
So by all means – sign the petition, write to your congressman, tweet your heart out – those things are all great. But if you want to see the world really change for the better, you’re going to have to take a large dose of humility and start with yourself.