On Sunday, I got a flat tire. In the midst of all the ensuing drama, I was convicted that we really are living in a web of structures of sin. We have set up our society to embody a disorder.
For example. You go into BJ's to the back where the tires are. To get there, you pass a million things you don't need at all but are made to look so attractive. You reach the counter, and instead of a person, you encounter a screen that says "Touch to begin." So you touch the screen. You pick your car, model, make, year. The little computer tells you what tires to get. Now you get to go find them yourself in the maze. Once you have found them, you must take them up to the front, buy them, and wheel them outside and around to the place where they actually do the tire work. Yourself. The tire man asks you to fill out the paperwork about the tire you have just bought. After an hour or so, you drive it up to the door. You drive it in, you drive it out. At the grocery store, you can use screens and scanners to do the check-out on your own.
Hello, radical autonomy.
Not to mention the unnaturalness of a car and roads themselves. Think of the difference, Dr. Schindler encourages us, between a road and a path. And these are just the little day-to-day encounters with society. They are little structures, part of bigger structures discussed by John Paul II below:
"The third meaning of social sin refers to the relationships between the various human communities. These relationships are not always in accordance with the plan of God, who intends that there be justice in the world and freedom and peace between individuals, groups and peoples. Thus the class struggle, whoever the person who leads it or on occasion seeks to give it a theoretical justification, is a social evil. Likewise obstinate confrontation between blocs of nations, between one nation and another, between different groups within the same nation all this too is a social evil. In both cases one may ask whether moral responsibility for these evils, and therefore sin, can be attributed to any person in particular. Now it has to be admitted that realities and situations such as those described, when they become generalized and reach vast proportions as social phenomena, almost always become anonymous, just as their causes are complex and not always identifiable. Hence if one speaks of social sin here, the expression obviously has an analogical meaning. However, to speak even analogically of social sins must not cause us to underestimate the responsibility of the individuals involved. It is meant to be an appeal to the consciences of all, so that each may shoulder his or her responsibility seriously and courageously in order to change those disastrous conditions and intolerable situations."
~JPII, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia
This reminds me also of the movie "Super Size Me." A good movie, in my opinion. It was not Catholic and I do not think he would have named the fast food industry a structure of sin, but what he did was expose it as such, unwittingly. Individual responsibility is not mitigated completely- perhaps he wasn't so clear on this- but the culture is certainly set up in such a way that fast food is not seen for what it is. Its common existence and acceptance point to a loss of the understanding of food as not only for the body but for the whole person, eating as a social activity, and, further, its relation to the Eucharist.