Can the West be a sin?
The seven deadly sins are experiencing a boom. They mark something that can be enjoyed in the right amount, but in excess can have fatal consequences. They belong to the basis of the western value system, which has to be defended from its enemies.
In Wilhelm Hauff's fairy tale “Kalif Storch”, two storks, who don't like frogs, bow to the east and fervently call out the Latin word Mutabor (“I will change”). They hope to transform themselves back into human beings, in this case the caliphs and the grand vizier of Baghdad, for that is what they were before they were bewitched by an evil wizard. In fairy tales they have success with it. Nowadays, it seems to me, there are storks like this mostly among us. They bow so low to the east that one has to fear for their balance, but apart from a surge in growth in the features section, little is happening in the foreseeable future - perhaps because it is not yet clear enough what they actually want to transform into. “The West” - when we talk about the Occident or the Christian world, it doesn't get any more precise either, but at least not only the USA are meant - it feels ugly, morally depraved and no longer acceptable to the world. Of course, not the whole of the West, although it does in fact demand a lot from the world and exploits it righteously and hypocritically. But there is a western public that is ashamed of the actions of corporations, of shareholder value and the addiction to profit, of egoism, energy consumption per capita, the lack of opportunities and impoverishment of the Third and Fourth World and tries to counter this - that is also necessary. Self-criticism is part of the strength of the West, if not always that of its boards of directors and governments. But in the babble of voices, including that of the Muslims, it is difficult to determine what exactly “the West” is supposed to be. It often seems as if it is simply the sum of what has gone wrong on earth, at the same time the addressee of all blame: The people of all parts of the world - noble savages, proud desert dwellers, happy Africans and alcohol-free Indians - would have survived without this juggernaut, the resources the earth left alone, the environment anyway - but these conjunctives do not help. What is it then, "the West"? Above all, a huge assortment of never completely forgotten, never completely past history. The still Christian, still enlightened, still constitutional and democratic western world (with human rights, free elections without pressure and terror, equality of all people before the law) is joined later in the evening by North and South America, albeit different in religious terms knitted. The beginnings of Europe are inconceivable without the Greek city democracies, without the philosophers Plato and Aristotle (these were first brought closer to us in the Middle Ages by the Arab scholar Ibn Ruschd, alias Averroès) - and just as unthinkable without the power of Rome. After a long gestation period in the womb of the Catholic Church, Europe owes a rebirth to the Renaissance and a ray of hope to Protestantism: the sympathetic, in the long term somewhat double-edged statement that faith is the personal decision of everyone. It is also the result of bloody and victorious struggles against the divine right of absolute rulers, and the political system that predominates in it today is owed to the ideas and insights of the Enlightenment, the romantic search for happiness and essentiality, the experience of revolutions, dictatorships and wars, and in particular a special dynamic, accompanied and defended by political liberalism, created by basic civil rights and legal security, not to forget capital formation and freedom of investment (which of course were not the secret goal of everything else - the “West” cannot be reduced to growth and profit rates). If one were to enumerate all the ingredients in this giant pot, Karl Marx should not be forgotten either - at least he is not "East". It has been shown that this heterogeneous mixture is not as explosive as some logical contradictions suggested, such as: religion versus enlightenment. Man has the ability to collectively live and to come to terms with contradictions which, in the opinion of all doctrinaires, ought to tear him apart immediately. The current controversy with Islamic factions, who are hostile to the West, and also its Christians, especially as “unbelievers”, encourages people to think about religion. I want to do that too, without bowing, but also without spitefulness and with friendly respect, knowing full well that nothing annoys a pastor more than the mild smile of a benevolent agnostic. If you ask its followers, the core of every monotheistic religion is the truly existing deity at the very top, from whom everything originally starts and to which everything ultimately leads. Between “originally” and “last” there is a somewhat confusing period of time, called human history, in which each individual and the species as a whole have to find their own way, supposedly under close observation from above. It is controversial whether the deity sometimes intervenes in order to establish justice or whether the believers are specially tested through well-considered injustices. She does not allow herself to be committed to anything, all attempts to do so, starting with human sacrifice, have never really been fruitful. God is great and incomprehensible, can strike horribly, but also be gracious, especially towards his unreserved faithful who do not ask questions; so they believe, but have to fight with doubts every now and then. Religions, if they can look at them without affect and forgive them past and present wrong ways, seem useful within certain limits to those who are resistant to faith. Religions fulfill system-preserving functions, deal with old, holy books and honor their desert language, which is rich in images and symbols and is often incomprehensible today; they ensure order through prohibitions, provide support through formulas and rites, give those hard hit by fate the consolation that language is capable of. There are a few dietary rules from ancient times that seem outdated, but other things are unreservedly welcome. That one does not have to kill (at least) within one's own tribe or covet one's neighbor’s wife is also evident to the heathen. Rationalists complain that to enforce such rules you don't need an almighty and punishing God as a bogeyman - science, experience, the ability to learn and insight are completely sufficient. They overlook the fact that it helps some people when they believe they are committed to a higher being. Serving Him, they are better able to obey the rules, confidently change things that need to be changed, accept others who are not. It would indeed be nice if there were one ultimate authority that surpasses the individual and all his cleverness, but also every power in this world and therefore cannot be intimidated or bought. It is often invoked on solemn occasions as if it existed - the ritual service of religions at baptisms, weddings and funerals is valued, the crucial question of faith is often perceived as rather indiscreet. Someone has formulated that hypocrisy, too, is ultimately a bow to the moral law. Let us reject this consolation: it is even better not to be hypocritical. The “seven deadly sins” have recently become very popular. The magic number seven is popular elsewhere, but most common in this connection. In the meantime, when you look on the Internet, there are quite strange deadly sins, those in investment decisions (seven), the health industry (seven), even in “CMS implementation” there are “seven deadly sins”, whatever CMS and its own (your?) implementation for the devil's work. O internet, you medium of snapping, digital rumor mill, where would we be without you? (Maybe more.) Besides all of this, however, the original, the Catholic Church's catalog of deadly sins, is now being thought about again. Biologists and sociologists use it to spin their own yarn along it. There is even an "interactive deadly sin test" from Switzerland on the Internet, namely as a "portal to the seven vices of the West"! With which we can determine which of these sins we are most likely to succumb to. The seven deadly sins, as they were formulated by Pope Gregory I at the end of the 6th century, have little to do with the ten commandments, although their transgression is also a sin: Those who kill, do not honor their father and mother, lie and intrigue (“wrong Bearing testimony ”) and a lot more, he also sins without a doubt. The first thing that strikes you about the seven deadly sins is the intimidating connection between sin and death, but it obviously doesn't mean that you drop dead as soon as you commit them. They mark something that can, or even must, be exercised to the right extent. Only the excess of it, and getting used to it, are not only sin, but - this is where death comes in - can have fatal consequences. Here is the list: Without voluptuousness (luxuria), optionally also "unchastity", there would be hardly any human reproduction, but one must not succumb to this striving so that one has nothing else in mind. Regarding greed (avaritia): It is not forbidden to get something like a pension at all, it is only sinful here if you go on and on without heart and soul. The envy (invidia) is halfway excusable if it is nothing more than a performance drive, because you have noticed that others have learned more, maybe they were just lucky. It's only bad when it paralyzes and poisons you instead of spurring you on. The indolence of the heart (acedia) - one could also speak of apathetic despondency (but not of ordinary laziness, that is not what we mean) - it really shouldn't be, but I don't think that even the little bit of emotional distance can be meant that we need to consider a case carefully from all sides. Anger (ira): urgently needed as the release of stress hormones so that we can defend ourselves against our skin, of evil only when it turns into a frenzy or a permanent device called hatred. Pride: We need him in order not to let everything be expected of us and to preserve our dignity. It is less good if we carry our noses so high that we no longer want to learn from others and at some point we can no longer. Finally gluttony: everyone has to eat and drink (even if fasting is supposed to be good every now and then). Physical restoration becomes a sin if it degenerates into suicide with a knife and fork, not to mention the cup. The “seven deadly sins” are a checklist of harmful habits, physical and psychological addictions or vices that need to be overcome, nothing more. And it's a pretty reasonable, surprisingly complete list. The fact that there were fanatics in the Catholic Church who talked about the mortification of the flesh and believed that for the sake of God they had to torture themselves and others was abhorrent, but not surprising: the priests' reliable means of power was simply the occupation of human emotions, especially of erotic desire, with great feelings of guilt - and of course only they could release us from it. For centuries the church celebrated, and this continues to have an impact today, a shocking intolerance, contempt for life and human beings, life itself became a sin, everything worldly despicable. But the doctrine of deadly sins, born from observation and experience and interpreted with a little sense of proportion if possible, was and is not the cause of those delusional ideas hostile to life, on the contrary, it belongs to the fatherly, or even motherly, face of this religion facing the world. Can you do something with the old catalog? In terms of his improvement goals, yes, and this is probably one of the reasons why in the secularized society of the “West” people are still talking and writing about it or again and again. The main reason is probably that more and more people today recognize the danger of habituation and dependency in the satisfaction of every even budding desire for pleasure, in hedonism and lifestyle, and take care of their physical and mental integrity (which, pardon, far from being in a church leads). Each of the “deadly sins” marks a possibility of addiction, dependence, and insanity. Each can in its own way impair a person's navigation and leave him stranded, even if he insists for a long time that it is only a matter of exercising his right to enjoyment of life and self-reward. Take greed and gluttony: there is an addiction of saving as well as one of wasting. Or anger, pride, envy: because of hatred, conceit and self-righteousness, a person can lose every opportunity to move towards others, to forgive or to help. Incidentally, the term “mortal sin” was strangely wrong from the start: for “sin” denotes turning away from God. But those who only let themselves go mentally and physically commit what would actually be called “sacrilege”, squandering or destroying what has been entrusted to them. He wastes and ruins what was initially given to him, such as comprehension, social ability, health. As a failed person, he completely spoils the mood of others, which in turn earns him little love - a vicious circle. You don't have to ask God to see this, and neither does the devil, although he understands more about it. Anyone who knows such developments even from watching knows how difficult it is to get better without submission to an authority. Just being sensible, just not overdoing it? Luther spoke roughly ironically of the "old whore reason". Right, because the stupid thing about cleverness is that it always finds reasons - for everything. For example, for exceptions to the rule when someone has prescribed reform rules. Anyone who has managed to quit smoking more than ten times in a row knows. We have the personal freedom to drive self-destruct programs, often with great success. And then? The way back, if we get so far to take it, doesn't make us look quite so free anymore. And that is also “West”: It is not only the big general store for the global history of freedom, but also the big terminus for life routes of all kinds, from completely foreign-determined existence to the highest personal goals. A huge playground for biographical obstinacy, travel agency for all needs for deviation and self-delimitation and, if the name were still free, a “bar of all reason”. The collectives, the “masses” (of which there was a lot of talk in the previous and previous centuries), the large majorities have lost their power to shape and discipline (even in elections). Agreed: Individualization (Islam regards it as the source of all turmoil) is a possibility of happiness. Unfortunately, no guarantee. There are by no means only those millions who are constantly looking for their unmistakable experience, their special enjoyment, their main personal fun, as designers of the adventure society and the beautiful life want us to believe, there is also the other side, on which everyone tries out on their own - you could call it the "reform and healing front". Everyone who does not lose themselves but wants to keep or find oneself struggles against it, through fitness, wellness, calmness, beauty farms, diets, in therapies without end or spiritually oriented meditation groups (the churches swim with you on the wave), in training centers for everyone's improvement Type and weaning strategies with which entire herds of inner bastards are to be complimented. And because it is so difficult to become someone else, we often find both directions of movement, going over the top and striving for self-discipline and improvement, comically combined in the daily routine of one and the same person. What else is the "West"? An intelligent juggernaut of gelatinous shape like Stanislaw Lem's plasma ocean in “Solaris”, which can take any shape and make use of everything. The economy of the West lives from the profitability of reason, from the striving for optimization and improvement, but also from the profitability of all vice. We still live somewhat secure, maybe even benefit a little, indulge ourselves a bit, even a little moral indignation, because it is also good for us. But every day we betray a piece of what we once wanted to live for, of what we have to live on.We try to fade out the contradiction, see above under “People”, but it doesn't quite work. Maybe a reason to treat yourself to at least something, and sometimes a little too much. The West can appropriate everything, arouse all hopes and then scrap them, it earns from both, it can money and even wash some brains, it can really do everything. Except being silent (that's where the weak point lies, the West is a talk show). One can blame it, reject it, brand it - it is and remains fascinating. The West is not only present politically and economically everywhere, there has long been an “inner West” in almost everyone around the globe, even in societies that are anti-Western at any price. And to him, the political as well as the inner West, right down to the last hut, this powerhouse of vice and improvement, fear has now run into his limbs. Not the one against the Islamists' hatred of unbelievers. This is more of an epidemic - if nothing happens for a while, the editorialists recover from panic and the stock market from soaring. By the way: Anyone who constantly harbors or stirs up this fear in this country should go to Israel once to regain their sense of proportion. And the idea that in the face of oriental fundamentalism we now have to talk about values here too, possibly save the West with a dose of the state of God, is - I can't think of a better word - nonsense. Rather, the real main concern is the galloping decline of politics, the threatening sole rule of the economy over elected governments and their decisions. The “global players” have long had more money than all governments, and they don't have to take care of people like these. There is no such thing as “Stalinism of money” (the Central Committee and Gulag are missing), but the direction and paralysis of politics cannot be overlooked. The greatest danger seems to be here, more so than in Islamist terror, which is easier to make an issue, after all, you are not dealing with companies here. Which policies can solve this greatest problem in the West and the world? I don't know anyone who knows. There are neither political nor religious paths that lead safely and directly to happiness. Every path taken must be regularly checked and corrected if it is not supposed to lead reliably to misfortune, perhaps even to the misery of everyone. There is definitely a direct way to happiness, it's just not political, but individual and in a very responsible way - narrative! Everyone who lives tells a story through this. This story, which he lives himself, should have a destination and navigation and should not be messed about somewhere. And if more and more people keep an eye on this, then it also has political implications. Let me say to the storks: Don't bow too long to the east, find the way in the other direction, find your inner west again, i.e. the slightly older one, and remain a friend to him. And moderate yourselves with one or the other "deadly sin", that transforms a lot and makes you more confident. Sten Nadolny is a PhD historian and writer. He published, among other things, the novels "Netzkarte", "The discovery of slowness" and "Selim or the gift of speech"