Wastefulness: the Eighth Deadly Sin

The movie Bedazzled (the original with Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore) had a scene where the devil complained of his lack of creativity since the old days in coming up with new sins, listing advertising as the only one he’s come up with after the last seven. I can think of one more, and find the absence of wastefulness among the originals disturbing. Besides greed its one of the greatest sins destroying us today.

Wastefulness is so commonly chided, it’s surprising not to see it listed in any religious texts (so far as I know). It’s related to greed or gluttony, but it’s not quite the same thing. Greed means accumulating more due to excessive want, but wastefulness is the lack of want. It’s not giving a shit about the things you have. Gluttony is closer, when it means over-consumption, but again it seems to assume you actually consume all you take rather than acquiring it only to throw it away.

Perhaps it was less of an issue in pre-industrial times. After all, when you don’t have much and have to struggle for all you get, you tend to appreciate it more. When clean water isn’t something you take for granted, you’re less likely to literally piss it away by the gallon when you flush the toilet (more conscientious societies use grey water for this instead). I don’t think anyone in Biblical times or the Medieval era could even fathom a world so glutted with goods as ours.

Never before has there been an age where clothing is as cheap as rags, where food is so abundant farmers can afford to let half their fruit rot on the ground, and where plastic is so cheap to make it’s not actually worth recycling. This is mainly in the west of course, but China is catching up fast. They’re manufacturing most of this shit after all.

And that’s the problem. It’s all shit. There’s no point to most of the plastic junk we make. So many crappy gewgaws clutter up our lives, only to gather dust and cause us stress. Then when we get fed up with all of it, it’s so worthless the frugal course of action is to chuck it in the landfill. It’s not worth the energy to save it for anything. Farmers breed their fruit to look good, so it sells, while sacrificing the taste. Those super red giganto strawberries taste like styrofoam. I’ve eaten spotty strawberries and they were some of the best I’ve ever had. I buy bananas when they’re just starting to turn brown.

So often fruit tastes best when it’s just starting to look bad, but no one figures that out unless they’re trying to be frugal.
It’s not the rich who are the most wasteful either, because they don’t tend to buy all the cheap shit their factories make. It’s mostly a middle class problem. You get people like my SO, who grew up poor, associating frugality with a shittier life. When they finally make enough money not to worry, they start chucking out shoes that are only a little bit worn because, “Whatever. I can just buy some new ones.” I’d probably give him more hell about this if he didn’t donate his barely worn-out shoes to the homeless.

I frequently use “wasteful” as a reproach whenever I catch someone being exactly that. Codifying it as a deadly sin, which it bloody well is, probably wouldn’t help because the seven official ones are pretty fucking rampant. It needs to be acknowledged as something worse than “that thing your tightass mother/father/etc. nags you about” because that only brings out the rebellious ass in people. Not being wasteful needs to become a core ethic, because in this society it’s already well out of hand, and the disease is rapidly spreading across the developing world.

I wish Christmas wasn’t so associated with accumulating more crap.

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Sarah Dimento

The only thing interesting about me is my interest in interesting things – and sometimes I make cool shit.

2 thoughts to “Wastefulness: the Eighth Deadly Sin”

  1. Putting a name on it – WASTEFULNESS – is a great step.

    I don’t happen to have that one, and neither does the spouse, which is odd. We met in grad school, when our stipends, combined, barely allowed us to exist, and it was out ‘great depression.’

    But we were happy and busy and our friends were in the same boat of tight finances, and we could somehow manage the things we really needed.

    We have the trait still – I read about how much food American households waste, and compare it to washing the ham if I let it go too far, so I can get one last sandwich, because tossing it when it’s a little bit slimy would be wasteful.

    And yet we still face dejunking the house and moving into senior housing – by divesting ourselves of the things accumulated in a lifetime of having children: the hockey skates (maybe I can give them to the neighbor for his grandchildren), the last of the camping supplies (can go to the Trenton Boy Scout troop that took the big tents a few years ago), all the tools (!) we will never need because the retirement community sends out a fellow to do everything from changing a light bulb to fixing the icemaker. Maybe the kids, maybe the local vocational school which took a bunch of grandpa’s professional-quality tools.

    Even when you’re not wasteful, we have access to so much STUFF.

    Need some tools? But they are heavy, and shipping expensive. Sigh.

    1. American households are a drop in the bucket compared to the food industry itself: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=i8xwLWb0lLY And yet people still go hungry in North America. It’s sickening.

      I try to give everything useful away if I don’t need it, but the worst stuff I have is crap given to me that I wouldn’t foist on anyone because it’s so stupid and useless, but because it’s not broken I have trouble throwing it away. I have a rant about one of those items coming up next week.

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