fin de Millennium

The Seven Deadly Virtues

by Travis Charbeneau

" I FAILED TO RECOGNIZE that my son was holding a hand grenade and that it was live and it was going to go off in his mind." So Mr. Raymond Kuntz characterized a Marilyn Manson CD his fifteen-year-old son showed him before killing himself (Newsweek, 11/17/97). Similar condemnations of rock music have a long history, preceding the Judas Priest trial/acquittal, a similar Ozzie Osbourne flap, and even Tipper Gore's labeling crusade.

In fact, I am old enough to remember the '50s, when rock and roll first inherited the satanic rap from jazz. One pamphlet, received with great hilarity at my high school, denounced "Negro-inspired" rock drumming as a jungle call to Devil worship.

I don't recall any suicide connection until the '60s and the arrival of the counterculture. TV personality Art Linkletter?s daughter, apparently a young woman long beset by difficulties, killed herself some months after an LSD experience. Parents generally and understandably prefer blaming alien over domestic influences for their children?s unhappiness, and Mr. Linkletter promptly launched an anti-drug, anti-hippie, anti-rock crusade. Some thirty years later, drugs, beatniks, and rock music are still here, kids are still killing themselves, and parents are still crusading, sometimes saddling poor Satan with some truly lame machinations.

Consider "backward masking," Devil gospel recorded in reverse for kids who play their LPs backwards. No sooner was this diabolical ploy exposed, when the forward-play-only CD arrived, thwarting the entire operation. And the best alternative Satan's creative department could conjure was an Alice Cooper clone named Marilyn Manson. With a Devil this inept, saint and sinner alike should sleep pretty good.

Of course, "satanic" bands since Black Sabbath have never bothered to mask their vaudeville-grade depravity. To the contrary, like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," they enjoy going to clownish extremes. Guys wearing eye make-up and black leather tights and biting chickens in the neck ought to be fairly easy for concerned parents to spot, never mind any label. Unfortunately, if there is any satanic masking going on in America; anyplace labeling is required, it's right out on Main Street, where it's been for a long, long time.

As the late Ayatollah Khomeni, ex-expatriate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and domestic critics galore have long and noisily maintained, "the Great Satan" and Western culture generally are awash in demon stuff: liquor, lotteries, porno, Victoria's Secret; the Constitution. Any furor over Marilyn Manson amounts to an insidious distraction from the mainstream satanic agenda.

Philosopher Lewis Mumford observed in his Transformations of Man that, during the Industrial Revolution "... all but one of the [seven deadly] sins, sloth, were transformed into a positive virtue. Greed, avarice, envy, gluttony, luxury, and pride were the driving forces of the new economy." Can any of us imagine a modern, capitalist society without these motives stoking the engines? Each is glorified within any single TV commercial for cars, clothes, even mustard.

And a strong argument can now be made for the inclusion of the seventh deadly sin, sloth. This is, after all, the condition offered as reward for the realization of the other six. We call it "retirement," getting enough gold to kick back and become a full-time couch potato, not just a weekend spudling. A Golden Years retirement is sold as sloth incarnate: Go fishing. Play golf. Take cruises and eat things.

We prize these "Seven Deadly Virtues" as "incentive." Without their realization, measured in dollars, men, and now women and children, are considered to be without self-esteem, goals, the ambition to "be somebody." Consider these commonplace character lessons: a well-raised child learns greed and avarice by being taught "the value of a dollar." Keeping up with the Joneses teaches envy. A proper bourgeois table is set with the aristocrat's red meat and white bread, and kids who clean their overfilled plates are rewarded with refined sugar (insuring vigor in the diet industry if not the kids). We are relentlessly programmed to acquire the luxury vehicle of the moment, in which we may take pride for the two years one may, with pride, keep the damn thing. And, as just one indicator for sloth, the suntan originally came into fashion because it spoke to being rich enough to play in the sun all day. Sheer vanity (the "Eighth Deadly Sin"?) keeps tanning fashionable despite notorious health risks. Notions that fail to promote these "values" or spurn them outright, run counter to our prevailing culture and are accurately termed "countercultural"; or vile spawn of the Godless Sixties. In a word, satanic. Boomers and their progeny, according to critics like former Drug Czar William Bennett, are moral failures for rejecting workday virtues strongly reminiscent of the Seven Deadly Sins railed against on Sunday. Pretty Orwellian stuff.

And, as if promoting sin wasn't bad enough, these twisted values so essential to the functioning of a modern economy, are, of course, prerequisites to wealth. Jesus repeatedly and unqualifiedly condemned wealth as being in and of itself a disqualification from salvation: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God," where they don?t take American Express.

Turning Christianity on its head, we pound the worship of Mammon into our children and then leap to concern, condemnation and censorship over Little Richard, Led Zeppelin, and Marilyn Manson. With friends like their parents, teachers, and corporate society, what child needs the "Adversary"?

Satan is not hiding in pop music, nor on TV, nor lurking the Web. Satan is standing in an unemployment line somewhere, hopelessly redundant to our modern economy and culture. The best Mr. Satan can get is temp work selling the suppression of pop culture as a phony cure for the moral vacuum sponsored by Industrialism, Inc. ###


[May & June 1998]