The tyrant has too many friends
In the roar of uninterrupted proclamations that inform us of the triumphs of the dominant society on the terrains of its overwhelming, energetic power, its gross national product, its modernized crises, its cultivated computers and so many other pleasant abstractions, one too modestly forgets a concrete phenomenon of an immense significance: the worldwide organization of society that is being put into place with an always-increasing speed, has in the second half of the 20th century succeeded in abolishing six of the seven deadly sins (or, to put it in the terms that are more transmittable today, a percentage approximately equal to 86%) […]
Pride is obviously dead for the administered voter, the sounded-out automobile driver, the polluted tele-spectator, the inhabitant of the flat and the highway vacationer. No one who has accepted surviving in this way can even hope for the possibility of experiencing a fleeting moment of pride.
Avarice no longer has any basis, since property tends to become concentrated in the State, which squanders on principle. Read individual property, accessible to very few people, is gnawed at by hairsplitting control and the right to intervention by a thousand public or corporate authorities. The salaried worker can no longer hoard a little poor money, which is of a value that is always changing, fictive and as fluid as water. This same money distances itself into an always-further away abstraction, simply “plastic,” a game of accounting that is played without the worker’s participation. And if he thinks of accumulating a few more precious objects than what is offered daily on the market, a thief carries them off.
Lust has disappeared almost everywhere, with the liquidation of real personalities and real tastes. Lust has withdrawn before the flood of ideology that is too obviously insincere, cold simulation and the comic pretensions of the robot to automatic passion […]
Gluttony has surrendered its weapons in the face of the findings of the food-processing industry. Moreover, the spectator – here as well as at the theater — no longer believes himself capable of judging the taste of what he eats. Thus he is guided by the stimuli that are the names of the fashionable dishes, advertising and the judgment of gastronomical critique.
Anger has so many reasons [for existing] and so few manifestations that it is dissolved into the general cowardice and resignation. In good faith, does a voter have the occasion to become angry with the final result of an election, which in truth is always the same and thus precisely foreseeable and guaranteed? Ill-advised to play with disappointed and humiliated innocence, the voter is in any case guilty. He can only feel anger at himself and this is an uncomfortable position that he ordinarily wants to avoid.
Laziness is no longer possible: there is too much noise everywhere. It is even worse for all those unfortunate people who hurry to work or their vacations. Laziness is only a pleasure for the one who is pleased with himself and in his own company. The modern countries can have an elevated number of unemployed people and others who work on many completely useless things. But they cannot preserve laziness for anyone; they are not rich enough for that.
One might object to us that this exposition, despite its profound truth, is a little too systematic because reality in history is always dialectic and that it is an impoverished schematization that presents all the deadly sins as being condemned to the same ruin. This objection is not founded: we have not at all forgotten envy, which contradictorily survives and which is the only inheritor of all the other annihilated powers.
Envy has become an exclusive and universal motive. Envy has always proceeded from the fact that many individuals measure themselves according to the same scale. Most often, this is power and money. Beyond this common measure of limitation, reality remains diverse and those who do not care too much for power and riches obviously remain sheltered from envy. On another side, some envious characters can always be in rivalry with people in their spheres of activity. A poet might envy a[nother] poet. And such envy can be manifested by a general, a prostitute, an actor or an owner of a cafe. But the largest number of individuals hardly arouse the envy of others. Today, when people have almost nothing and love nothing, they want everything, without neglecting the contrary. Any [given] spectator envies almost all of the stars. But he can also simultaneously envy all of the traits of all the stars. He who has the baseness to make a career, and who is thus hardly satisfied with that career (others are always higher up), would also have the honor and pleasure of being considered as someone who is misunderstood, insubordinate and “cursed.” And since this pursuit of the wind is absolutely vain, all of today’s cuckolds are thus condemned to run unceasingly. Ignoring real life, they do not know that almost all the human traits are actually grounded by necessarily excluding many of the others.
We say that the intensive and extensive repression of personality inevitably involves the disappearance of personal taste. What can actually please someone who is nothing, has nothing and knows nothing — other than lying and imbecilic hearsay? And almost nothing displeases such a person: such is exactly the goal that the owners and “deciders” of this society propose, that is, those who hold the instruments of social communication, with the aid of which they find themselves in a position to manipulate the simulacra of disappeared tastes.