As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves. - Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi wrote about Seven Dangers to Human Virtue, also known as the Seven Social Sins or Seven Blunders. They were published in his weekly newspaper, Young India, on October 22, 1925. The list represents seven ways of living that are bound to undermine your well being and the well being of those around you.
They are as relevant today as they were in 1925. In fact, the cautionary tales that represent these dangers seem even more prominent in modern times.
Wealth without work - Trust fund babies seem to have a great time on their yachts throwing wild parties, but wealth without purpose often does a person in. There is no shortage of tragic stories, but the heirs to the Johnson and Johnson fortune have had a particularly tragic time. The grandchildren and great grandchildren never had to work. One grandson rammed his motorcycle into a parking meter and another overdosed on cocaine. The successful one was almost paralyzed for life after drunkenly falling off a cliff, but was able to use that experience to rebuild, only to have his disowned socialite daughter die in squalor at age 31.
Pleasure without conscience - Lindsay Lohan isn’t worried about the consequence of driving drunk, or stealing jewelry, or missing court dates for a trip to Paris. She is the quintessential representation of this danger. Some say that her Dionysian lifestyle has dampened career and saddled her with high legal bills. It’s good to remember that Dionysus, God of Wine, was closely associated with Greek Tragedy for a reason.
Knowledge without character - Sure, you’re a smart cookie... and an asshole. Will that work out for you? Maybe. Maybe they’ll make a movie about you, and regard your personal life as a failed tragedy as they did for Steve Jobs, the “icy-hearted anti-hero.” If you’re cool with that, then carry on. But there might be benefit to working on character traits in your spare time. No matter what you think of Job’s character, even he had regrets about hubris.
Commerce without morality - Consuming without any thought given to why, or why not, is its own strange hell. In the rich, it looks like bigger and bigger yachts and the tragedy is a bit buried. But look to the middle class hoarder for a nice, up-close view of why this is dangerous. TLC has shown us many people who will die surrounded by their useless stuff. Some so deep into the psychosis of commerce that they stack their things in their homes and leave only narrow paths in which to walk.
Science without humanity -- Because science for fame, power, and corporate or political interests is basically evil, as evidenced by every portrayal in film, ever. It’s not just happening in Hollywood either. The Tuskegee Study is the perfect example of what happens when science trumps humanity. Black men with syphilis were studied for 40 years. Here’s the catch, the best information was gathered by autopsy, so those being studied were purposefully denied medical care. If that’s not evil enough, here’s a list of 10 Evil Scientists for your perusing pleasure.
Worship without sacrifice - Ah yes, the ones in the pew, so devout, who never touch anyone even remotely downtrodden or in need. This is particularly relevant advice for those who adhere to the Prosperity Gospel in America touted by most televangelists. The idea? Rich people are blessed by God. Poor people are cursed. So much for the meek inheriting the earth.
Politics without principle - Nothing illustrates this danger more earnestly and accurately than Niccolo Machiavelli, who believed, “Politics have no relation to morals.” His ideas on politics, later called, Machiavellianism, are often said to have shaped modern political ethos, or lack thereof. Better to take a page from politician and writer, John Quincy Adams, who said: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
Being a person of character and virtue is not easy, but ultimately being a good human being benefits everyone, including yourself.
We’ll leave you with Shakespeare: “This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”