Little do we realise, but we as a nation epitomise the seven deadly sins - wrath, greed, sloth, pride, envy, lust and gluttony. These sins are so intertwined and complimentary that we succumb to one and step into the realm of the other without cognisance of having done so. We display the wrathful side of our character at the drop of a penny in the name of honour and injured pride. We nurture greed born of envy, lust and gluttony and we resort to slothful display of poor civic responsibility.

While coming to work a few days ago, I was stopped by a crowd of people on the road. It appeared that an old man, feeble in mind and body, had infuriated a middle-aged car driver and was being subjected to a merciless pounding by the latter. I could not help, but intervene by shielding the unfortunate victim and telling the other party to desist considering the age and condition of the old man. While I did manage to put an end to the beating, I became the target of some insulting language from the irate party. I simply looked at the frothing stereotype of an average Pakistani and walked away with a shake of my head.

Killing in the name of honour has already tainted our image from global perspective. While honour is a virtue, we have refused to unfetter ourselves from medieval concepts in this regard. I was once interactively engaged in a rather embarrassing episode, while on the short flight from St Petersburg to Amsterdam many years ago. The elderly gentleman sitting next to me struck up a conversation that began by asking me where I came from. When I told him that I was a Pakistani, I could see the gentleman become visibly uncomfortable. Moments later, out popped the question that had apparently caused all the discomfiture: “Is it true that in your country women are treated as slaves?” It took me all of our flying time and the few photos of my family that I carried in my wallet to convince him that this was a perception falsely created by vested interests. All the same, deep inside, I knew that what he was saying was to a sizeable extent, the result of our own doing.

I know of a gentleman who belonged to a middle class family of Lahore, but gave in to the irresistible urge of “keeping up with the Joneses”, without realising where it would lead him. In the process, he not only ruined himself financially, but also lost his wife and children. He now lives a hand to mouth lonely existence, ruing the day he succumbed to greed and envy.

Gluttony is a sin that appears to obsess us as a nation and manifests itself in all tiers of society. An everyday example of this is invariably seen at marriage ceremonies when dish covers are lifted and the host announces that food is served. What one sees then, is worse than a horde of hyenas gorging themselves on a kill. Guests make a dash for the buffet tables, grab at plates, which are then piled high with rice and meat. Not content with this ‘grand show’ that defies dignified norms, they continue to mill around the serving stations for quick replenishment and in so doing, block other better mannered guests from reaching the food. A recent demonstration of this side of our national character was covered by the media, when participants of a political rally over ran the tables and in their feeding frenzy managed to pull the tent down on themselves.

Greed and the resultant race to get rich speedily is, undoubtedly, the main catalyst of corruption in the land of the pure. I recently became a hapless victim to this menace, when I entered an application for availing a simple utility (due to me as a citizen) from a government department. It took me multiple visits and waiting in dingy corridors to submit my request, only to be told that I would have to grease some palms and sweeten some gaping maws. I decided that I was better off without the said utility and withdrew my application.

The other day, I was amazed to see someone, who a few years ago, was without means. My amazement was due to the fact that this person was driving an SUV and sporting gold rings on his hands. When I mentioned the fact to another common acquaintance, I was told that the gentleman had recently made a fortune. I have toiled all my life trying to earn an honest living and have yet to even reach anywhere close to the type of prosperity displayed by the person in this story.

I firmly believe that mankind is tested by being blessed with plenty and alternately by the pangs of ‘want’. This test is designed to see if we keep our heads and virtues, as we pass through this world.

n    The writer is a freelance columnist.