English Sin

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To carry off Sin properly, you really ought to have a bit of panache. Authentic Sinners are volatile and self-assured. A touch of well-justified vanity definitely helps. If you're a little debauched, you're practically home already.

You don't get many people like that round here, though; not many at all. The English seldom dabble in Sin. On the rare occasions that we dare attempt it, we make a complete hash of it. Repression and Sin just don't go well together. Whereas the Seven Sins are Deadly (Magnificent, even?), the English invariably have to tone them down a little.

Anger, Avarice, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Pride, Sloth. The Seven Deadly Sins arranged neatly in alphabetical order, which is a suitably English way of looking at them.

Oh dear, a difficult one to start with. Anger creates such a scene, don't you think? I mean, I saw this chap complain in a restaurant last week, and I'm still quite upset about it. He acted as if he had a right to expect good service. He said he was paying good money for what was supposed to be a treat for him and his wife, and that the food didn't ought to be cold. His agitation was so dreadfully indiscreet that he was clearly audible on the next table. Well, my food was a little off-warm too, particularly on one side of the plate, but I wouldn't dream of complaining in public. One should just grin and bear it. Well, actually, no - not grin. That would never do. One should just look blank and bear it. Any sense of rage should be suppressed, kept deep inside, quietly hardening one's arteries.

This one is to do with coveting other people's possessions, unless I'm mistaken. Something we should never, ever inflict upon our neighbours. Sneering at their lack of taste, where appropriate, is quite acceptable, but wanting something that someone else has already got is quite obviously beyond the pale. Whatever it is that you hanker after, people like them have already devalued it, my dear. And simply wanting to be disgustingly rich will never do. Don't you see, wanting to be rich is tantamount to admitting to be poor? And being poor is the one social stigma from which one can never recover. Yes, well, all right, there may be a few other stigmata too, that's true, but being poor - well, really, it doesn't bear thinking about.

One might think, at first impression, that envy is getting a little closer to our national strong-suit, what with the impotent longing it implies, and the completely ineffectual approach to competition. If that's all that longing were, well, yes, maybe it would be the Sin that the English could excel in. The trouble is, the test of envy (and indeed any Sin) also involves being driven to immoderate action. And action is, of course, quite unseemly, even when it isn't immoderate.
Please don't let any vague pangs of envy drive you to do something you might later regret. Remember, you're English, which means that anything whatsoever that you do, you will inevitably later regret. You will feel mortified by it, even. Remorse is in your genes. Do not on any account succumb to jealousy and greed. You will only act like a complete idiot and set the neighbours talking.

Gluttony is indulgence to excess. There is a shorthand for this, of course. It means 'behaving like an American'. Need I say more? If you over-indulge, you will find yourself on the slippery slope to extreme antisocial behaviour, such as wearing clothing with an elasticated waistband.

I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. Please forget it. I really have no idea what came over me.

Anyway, gluttony is wasteful. Or at least it's being wasteful in entirely the wrong way. The correct way to be wasteful is to call for a bottle of Gevry Chambertin and leave two-thirds of it on the table in a very conspicuous manner. If you slurp the stuff down to the dregs, then you are going to give onlookers the notion that you are trying to get value for your money, Heaven forfend.

Oh, my word, I've been dreading getting round to this one. Lust is something that foreigners do. It's concerned with an insatiable desire for intimate contact, and it died out in the British Isles around the time of the last Ice Age. Any vestigial tendencies can be dealt with by discreetly locking the bathroom door and spending a few minutes in the company of a gentleman's magazine.

Trust me, you do not know anybody that you want to have sex with. You have a spouse to cover the duty aspect, and you are both aware of your responsibilities, to be enacted in a sober manner at an appropriate frequency. That is all there is to it, and it is simply not a suitable subject for further elaboration. Well, really.

This is an inexplicable vice that afflicts egomaniacs, who are almost certainly French. Pride requires the spurious conviction that you are better than other people. As every true Englishman knows, this is entirely the wrong way round. Rather, everyone else is even worse than you.

Notions of superiority will only lead to destructive fallacies. The superior person deludes himself with the idea that he is admired, or even well-liked. Come now; how many people do you actually like yourself?

Pride comes before a fall, runs the adage, and nowhere is this more true than in England. Pride comes shortly before being stabbed in the back, in fact. Anyone who has the self-confidence to be proud deserves such treatment. You can't be English if you persist in believing that success is the way to get on in life.

This last Sin is an anathema to the English. It means enjoying doing nothing, and the very idea is unthinkable to the subjects of a nation built on paranoia. If you give yourself time to think like that, you will only get yourself into trouble. If people wanted you to think, they wouldn't be so meticulous in telling you exactly what to do.
Everyone you know yawns whenever you essay meaningful conversation, don't they? The Daily Mail is still published, isn't it? Come now, these things wouldn't happen if we were supposed to think for ourselves. Well, all right. There might still be a certain amount of yawning, I'll grant you.

Anyway; don't make the mistake of believing that leisure is somehow recreational. Your leisure time is there to be unsatisfactory, a brief squandered moment of what might have been. We English are sustained by failure and the perpetual reassertion of our inadequacy. For Heaven's sake don't sit back and relax. Instead, rush headlong into your next embarrassment. The sense of abject frustration that you need to feel alive will be all the more vivid the harder you try.

There. We don't do Sin in England, QED. None of this means, of course, that the English are especially virtuous. It's just that somebody in antiquity was far too noble when he named the Sins. The English have their equivalent Sins, naturally, but they are pettier. Cowardice, Hypocrisy, Snobbery perhaps? I'm sure you can come up with your own list. Just don't be too clever about it, because we don't like that either.

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