Of The Seven, Americans Suffer Sloth More Than the Other Six
Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot long wooden and concrete phallic symbol on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. Like Daniel Burnham gave the White City a big cock pointed at Benton Harbor. As Municipal Pier #2 (Municipal Pier #1 was never built), Navy Pier was planned and built to serve as a mixed-purpose piece of public infrastructure.
In the 1920s, the Pier expanded to have its own streetcar line, a theater and an emergency room. It is estimated that an average of 3.2 million visitors frequented the Pier annually. This decade is sometimes called the Pier's "Golden Age."
During this time, the average American male visitor to the Pier:
• Walked an average of 37,000 steps per day
• Ate an average of 3,000 calories of unprocessed food per day
• Had a waistline that averaged 30 inches
• Spent more time reading and singing and playing cards and engaging in sports and civic activities than he did sitting on his ass.
I worked on Navy Pier at a radio station housed in the middle of the now most popular tourist destination in Chicago for a decade. I tried to get to work before the place opened to the public but lunchtime was a pageant of Americana — thousands of tourists from all over the country descending upon the place, walking, gawking and eating $9 churros, and buckets of soda.
During a typical lunch hour on the Pier, the average American male visitor:
• Walks an average of 3,000 steps per day.
• Eats an average 3,000 calories of mostly processed food per MEAL.
• Has a waistline that averages around 42 inches
• Spends more time sitting on his ass watching television, movies and staring at a computer screen than he does anything else.
Like the dystopian future foreseen in Pixar's WALL•E, Americans have become giant, slothful babies, riding around on electric wheelchairs because their leg muscles cannot hold up the monstrous sacks of suet they've become.
It could be argued that we Americans suffer from gluttony (and I'm sure that's part of it) but it starts with the sitting around all fucking day playing Grand Theft Auto V and going for the convenience of a sodium laced Hot Pocket or a delivered pizza than getting up and making some actual food. And we get fucking defensive about our right to sloth around in life like caged animals with no room to stretch.
How did we get here? The problem is obvious most in those places we visit on vacation. Those places we travel to to get away from our lives. Mount Rushmore. Cancun. Disneyworld. France. Places of leisure.
On the fifth of July, in the twelfth year of the New Century, I spent the day at Six Flags Great America. The name of the place ("Great America") is an incredible illustration of a strange, commerce-driven microcosm of the actual Great America. No car? You're not going to get there. Don't have approximately $250 per person for a day of Theme Parked frivolity? You're not welcome. It has borders loosely surrounded by gates and guards. It has areas defined by regional culture and each one has basically the same food and the same junk to buy — every shop looks different on the outside but sells almost exactly the same toys, tee-shirts, candy, refillable branded cups.
There is a specific form of classism at play with the Flash Pass: if you have an additional $35, or $80 or $140 to spend, you can bypass the long lines for the coolest rides with a device that lets you reserve your place and stroll past the rabble as they wait in the heat for their three minutes of thrills on the roller coasters.
Great America is America.
Everything is paved and over-branded and loud and colorful. Everything is just a bit too self-congratulatory and shameless in the naked attempt to separate people from their money by promising a quick high (from adrenaline or sugar or the fun of having someone guess your weight and perhaps winning a stuffed banana with a sombrero on it). And peppered everywhere in the park are huge yellow signs that declare:
"Smoking Outside of a Designated Smoking Area is Cause for Immediate Ejection from the Park WITHOUT A REFUND! NO WARNINGS!"
This was way back in the WayBack Machine when I smoked cigarettes rather than a pipe.
The areas designated for the despised smokers are all roughly 20 square feet, usually behind some building or tucked away in a corner and bordered by a thick blue line of paint that boxes in the area as if this blue line creates some sort of air barrier from the rest of the park
As I stood in the box, smoking a delicious American Spirit Light, I looked around at this larger box of America. I was marginalized because of my choice to smoke the "evil weed" and on the grounds that it is unhealthy for myself and those around me to do so. Yup. Smoking causes heart disease, cancer, loss of breath, and it's stinky.
From my box, however, I notice people eating giant wads of cotton candy, fried sugar dough, bags of cheese fries, pizza; I notice at least one in every three people is grossly overweight. They wash it all down with 32-ounce plastic tubs of Coke — the caloric intake of one of these buckets of sugar water eclipses that ingested by most children in Third World countries in a week. I notice people heavily walking in the blazing sun, their skin getting crispy and red, and skin cancer just waiting to develop. It's so hot, with the sun and the entire park basically a giant asphalt frying pan, that the only respite is the occasional misting machine, which spits out a cool but strangely antiseptic smelling water mist.
It's a giant cesspool of eminent heart attacks and cancer and people so heavy they need motorized scooters just to get from one ride to the next. The irony of requiring a little motorized bike to go from Superman: The Ride to Johnny Rockets to Vertical Velocity is so thick and impenetrable that it's no surprise that it takes being required to stand behind a painted line in public shame over my cigarette addiction for me to objectively take it all in.
Yes, Americans have some problems with unfocused Wrath. We’re a pretty Greedy lot as well. Lust — yup. Definitely a problem as we are seeing in the collision of Instagram Photos of 20 year olds in bikinis and the #MeToo era. I’ve practically made a case for Gluttony. The desolate swampland of social media has made Envy, once a twitch in your right eye, now a boil on your neck the size of a small child with a shitty attitude. And Pride? Holy shit are we one mess of dwindling self-esteem masquerading as pride in every Identity we can manufacture on a nearly daily basis.
But our deadliest sin in this septenary is Sloth.
Sloth is commonly defined as laziness but that is not the Deadly Sin. The deadly sin is that of spiritual or emotional apathy. And America is an entire country filled with apathy. In our search for things to be easier, for things to be faster and more convenient, we stopped giving a shit. Sloth is, simply put, no longer caring enough to put in the effort.
Why does a third of the polled population still belief Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of 9/11? Intellectual sloth.
Why do we allow politicians (paid for by Big Oil) to ignore 97 percent of the scientific community when they scream at us that we're making the planet uninhabitable? Ideological sloth.
Why do we routinely eat too much, exercise too little and substitute Facebook, Twitter and PornHub for real human interaction? Because real interaction takes too much effort to even give a flying fuck about.
SLOTH is men watching other men brutalize women and saying nothing.
SLOTH is not knowing that The Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing.
SLOTH is wearing pajama bottoms to Target.
SLOTH is complaining about your smartphone data plan in front of a homeless man.
SLOTH is complacency in the face of annihilation.
Once complacency sets in, no civilization can survive it. And instead of Nero playing his fiddle as our Rome burns to the ground, we'll have the theme song to the Real Housewives of Go Fuck Yourself being played on an iPad.