1400 years ago, Pope Gregory compiled his list of seven deadly sins. Pride, or superbia in Latin, headed the list, followed by envy, anger, avarice and sloth. These five are considered sins of the spirit, the soul: the true or higher self. The last two, gluttony and lust, are considered sins of the flesh. For centuries, the negative, clerical concept of sin allowed the Church to manipulate the flock with great skill, through fear and guilt.

It’s still all about social control. The only difference now is that it’s about marketers grabbing mindshare by appealing to our most questionable qualities. In convincing consumers to want things they don’t truly need, the market acts out a dual role as arsonist/fire chief, setting fires of desire while promising to put them out. Sin has been spun; the deadly sins are now the Deadly spins.

Yet for all the range of superb products and excellent services we can access so quickly and so easily, media regularly tells us our high-consumption, fossil-fuel burning way of life is not sustainable in the long term. So how can media simulateously trumpet the glory of continual economic growth? Writer George Orwell would have identififed this schizoid message as
doublethink. Even as the dollar devalues, inflation rises, and resources decline, the consumer culture continue to push lifestyles of instant gratification, self-absorption, and high personal debt – mostly because we have convinced ourselves such things are synonymous with civilization itself.

While rewarding the mind and body with endless pleasures and distractions, the deadly spins promote the sense of being separate from others and the world itself, and most significantly, our own inner resources. This creates a mindset that is predatory, fragmented, and fundamentally unhappy. Greed, anger and all the other spins tend to diminish the world, by reducing it to the boundaries of what Zen philosopher Alan Watts called the “skin-encapsulated ego.” There’s a way out, but it requires understanding the depth of manipulation we’re exposed to daily.

- Geoff Olson