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Gandhi Warned of Seven Sins. It Seems We Ignored Him

04/14/2015 12:45 EDT | Updated 06/14/2015 05:59 EDT
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Shortly before he was tragically assassinated, Mahatma Gandhi spoke of current troublesome trends that he eventually titled The Seven Sins:

  • Wealth without work
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Knowledge without character
  • Commerce without morality
  • Science without humanity
  • Worship without sacrifice
  • Politics without principles

Over 60 years later, these seven blunders have been so institutionalized that they have been structured into modern society in ways that are endemic.

Given the increased emphasis on the acquisition of wealth in these last two decades, the reality of people making money off of money as opposed to working with hands and minds has revolutionized the global economy and ostracized communities and entire countries in the process.

The rise of the middle class following the Second World War put money in the average person's pocket in measures unheard of in all of human history. We became a consumer culture, acquiring articles and pursuits of pleasure that gave little thought to the deplorable labour conditions, environmental degradation, and the unemployment crisis that resulted from our acquisitions.

The rapid rise of technology has permitted our "Google generation" to learn almost any fact by the click of a button. But we have acquired knowledge devoid of consequences -- facts without faith, and data without direction. It is knowledge without character.

Commerce without morality takes place at almost every level in a consumer culture, with little thought being given to the consequences on a generation in which money has become an end in itself.

The vast explosion of scientific research and data has taken us from the depths of space to the mysteries of the womb. But it has become a manic kind of discovery that far outpaces the human ability to comprehend its implications, let alone handle it.

Worship once used to entail acts of human betterment and personal character growth, but today religious people pick and choose what they like from their faith and toss out the rest. The result has been a faith without force and almost fully incapable of preparing its adherents to fend off the incursions of materialism.

"Politics without principles" -- has this condemnation not infiltrated every level of political dealings in our modern world. It's so bad that the modern citizen has trouble putting the word politics and principles in the same sentence.

It remains a startling reality that the vast majority of modern citizens have never heard of Gandhi's seven sins, which he first spoke of in 1947.

In reality, Gandhi was seeking a balance, not a severe tipping of the scales in one direction or the other. Some have accused him of making his seven sins extreme, leaving him open to Western criticisms of disliking capitalism or pleasure. Of all the words in the seven sins, one is used more than any other -- without. At no point does he exclude wealth, pleasure, knowledge, or science. He merely points out that the lack of balancing factors on such powerful impulses will inevitably lead to subtle violence that can eventually become more public. If we were to put this point in its context we would say that Gandhi called for wealth and work, science and humanity, pleasure and conscience, knowledge and character, worship and sacrifice, politics and principles.

We live in an era where we adore and worship rock stars and forget God. We secretly admire millionaires and billionaires but deride civil servants. We somehow desire great wealth but wish to be noble and ethical at the same time. We dote on our children but increasingly put their future at risk. We generously give to food banks but permit the growth of child poverty and hunger. We demand government to be accountable and then refuse to vote. We extol human rights but deny them to our aboriginal communities. We glorify private wealth but assist in the decline of our public treasures.

The front line where all these complexities intersect is housed in our communities. There more than anyplace else, citizens can begin the process of rediscovering balance in our collective life. It will take sacrifice and diligence, and no small amount of humility. But the great question is still out there: are we ready for that responsibility?

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