When Vices Become Habits

In 1974 I was 27 years old and out of college about five years.  In those days one of our favorite rock bands was the Doobie Brothers, and that year they released an album titled “What Once Were Vices Are Now Habits.”  The album featured well-known classics like Black Water, Road Angel, and Another Park, Another Sunday.  But it is the album title that is the real attention getter today because it was more prophetic than the Doobie Brothers could have ever forecast.  More than any short phrase these days, this encapsulates the abrupt decline in our social mores over the past fifty years.

I have searched for the origin of the phrase used in the album title, and it is original or at least obscured by the passage of time.  It is so descriptive that it is difficult to imagine that it was not used somewhere along the way to describe the ever-evolving human condition.  I seriously doubt that our schools even brooch the topic of the “Seven Deadly Sins” (also known as cardinal sins) today.  These are not directly delineated in the Bible, but certainly run as a theme of behaviors to avoid.  The list has been around for centuries, and if you have studied either art or literature you have run into the list.

The seven deadly sins are most often defined as Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.  Dante’s Inferno is burned in our memories from school days, and visual representations of hell often use the seven deadly sins as a motif.  Dante’s Inferno is still relevant today because there is that little voice inside all of us that knows right from wrong, even in this crazy “woke” world.  We know that today’s “wokeness” allows us to do anything so long as it can be justified through some hazy lens of historical injustice.  “Wokeness” teaches that there is no shame in any behavior, regardless of how it affects us, family, or others.

Vices to habits is not a popular topic because to broach this subject we must admit our own fallibility and the destructive shifts we have endorsed, or learned to ignore, in society.  But there are some who broach the topic and see either the problems or shifts in norms.

In October 2013 W. Ben Hunt penned an article for his web site www.epsilontheory.com on Central Bank usage of instruments and processes such as swap lines and QE to “save the economic system” as a temporary measure.  He notes that these “temporary measures” quickly became “permanent” when Central Banks and governments learned that they could be used as an insurance policy against improper or ill-advised financial behavior.

A second economic article was written by John Byrne in February 2019 for the web site www.amlrightSource.com where he notes that “Age old corruption still exists and is really part of the economic fabric” (AML stands for “Anti-Money Laundering).  Mr. Byrne makes note of a recent book by Dr. Louise Shelly of George Mason University who details the use of dark commerce (illicit trade) through the ages by criminals, government officials, and rulers alike to achieve their aims.  She notes that human trafficking, which we know to be wrong, has become a habitual piece of national commerce in countries like China and Russia.  These vices to them are acceptable practices (habits) that help fuel their economies.

A more honest and telling article is one titled “Vices We Don’t Have to be Ashamed of Anymore,” published in January 2018 for http://www.Dictionary.com with no byline.  In this article there are eight “things” listed that have now become socially acceptable.  Smoking, cursing, fast food, wastefulness, sex on TV, vanity, gambling, and alcohol according to the unnamed author are now socially acceptable and not subject to shame.  Of these eight, five can be tied directly to the internet and the rise of social media.  Cursing, wastefulness, sex on TV, vanity, and gambling are all fueled by the anonymous nature of the internet and especially social media.  The other three; smoking, fast food, and alcohol are indirectly tied to the internet and ease of access.  Conversations promoting smoking and vaping are widely accepted.  The rise of services such as food delivery door-to-door promotes gluttony.  And alcohol can now be delivered door-to-door just like fast food.  All of these were worsened by the pandemic and forced isolation, but the cessation of isolation has not ended the use of these services.  This list almost looks like a “how to align with the Seven Deadly Sins” instruction book.

Shame is a powerful tool that has been used down through history to set boundaries on all our behaviors.  Without shame we see individuals acting in ways that just a few short years ago would have been unacceptable in a civil society.  Shame has been nullified by the disintegration of our core family structure, but it is also a planned shift in our collective consciousness, and now a bullying tactic of the “woke” mob.  When you reach the point that there is no small voice telling you to avoid certain behaviors, then society begins to break down.  We must push back against those tendencies.

What started as a catchy album title in 1974 has become a sad commentary on the times we occupy.  For our children, grandchildren, and nation it has become important to set the ship right so that they do not inherit the vices of the 1970’s as norms.  “What Once Were Vices Are Now Habits” does not have to be the commentary on our times unless we choose to make it so through inaction.