Category Archive 'Puritanism'
09 Mar 2019

Contemporary Radicalism and Political Intolerance Come Down From Massachusetts Bay

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Daniel Flynn, in the American Spectator, says: Yes, you can blame Massachusetts.

William Blaxton, the city’s first settler who dwelled alone on Boston Common, invited the Puritans to settle on the Shawmut. They soon encouraged him to leave. “I have come from England because I did not like the Lord Bishops,” the first Bostonian lamented. “I cannot join you because I would not be under the lord brethren.”

In the next generation, the Puritans, who depicted themselves as paragons of religious freedom (a bit of propaganda so effective that most fall for it today), executed four on Boston Common for the crime of Quakerism.

Beacon Hill, overlooking the Boston Common, served as the epicenter of the Know Nothing Party during its brief, 1850s heyday. The Know Nothings won every congressional seat, every seat in the state senate, every state constitutional office, and all but 3 of 379 seats in the state house of representatives in the 1854 elections in Massachusetts.

H.L. Mencken traveled from Baltimore to Boston in 1926 to sell a copy of The American Mercury, which contained a story about — gasp — a prostitute, to the Reverend J. Franklin Chase. The Watch and Ward Society head handed a half-dollar to Mencken, who hilariously bit the silver coin to affirm the honesty of the minister magazine buyer. He then handed over a copy of The American Mercury, which resulted in his immediate arrest — and the cigar-chomping Mencken throwing his remaining magazines in the air to the crowd gathered at Brimstone Corner at the edge of Boston Common where the entrance to the Park Street station stands.

Boston imagines itself as the Hub of the Universe and the Athens of America. Massachusetts executed more witches than the rest of the colonies combined, “banned in” regularly prefaces the name of its capital city, and Chik-fil-A, plastic bags, leaf blowers, and other annoyances of the enlightened today regularly face official opprobrium.

How to reconcile the former self-perception with the latter reality?

Today’s Proper Bostonians deny their ancestry. But a thread runs through the Puritans to the Know Nothings to the Watch and Ward Society to today’s do-gooders. Just as the Puritans, the Know Nothings, and the Watch and Ward Society regarded themselves as enlightened, progressive, and cultured, local parochial cosmopolitans imagine themselves as the vanguard of tolerance. Intolerant people remain most intolerant to the idea of their own intolerance.

“As politics have become more about identity than policy, partisan leanings have become more about how we grew up and where we feel like we belong,” the Atlantic, which commissioned the survey, points out. “Politics are acting more like religion, in other words.”

RTWT

HT: Bird Dog.

18 Sep 2013

A Boy Named Humiliation

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A Puritan Family

Joseph Norwood, at Slate, admires the religiously enthusiastic Onomastic customs of Puritan New England.

My personal favorite Puritan name is If Christ Had Not Died For Thy Sins Thou Shouldst Be Damned Forever Barebones.

Even after these kinds of expressive of over-the-top religious sentiments personal names went out of fashion, Puritan New Englanders still continued naming their children, right up into the early 20th Century, in colorful and distinctive ways. I actually used to know a Reverdy Whitlock. But my favorite new era Puritan name, dating from the late 18th century, would have to be Epaphroditus Champion.

21 Oct 2012

“Pofaced, Pedantic, Goody-Goody, Efficient, and Technologically-Minded”

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Simon Raven (1927-2001)

In The Old Gang, A Sporting and Military Memoir, Simon Raven describes meeting again in 1987, at the “Tweasledown Races (near Camberly)”, Major (Quartermaster) L. R. Plumb [name doubtless fictionalized], an old comrade-in-arms with whom he’d served in Germany and Kenya in the 1950s.

Later in the same decade, Raven had been allowed to resign quietly from the regiment to avoid scandal, after he had accrued debts to bookmakers he couldn’t pay. Plumb, on the other hand, remained in the service, advancing up the NCO ranks, and finally winding up a commissioned Quartermaster officer, and a Major no less.

When Raven inquires how things have been in the British Army over the last twenty years, Plumb complains that the Empire shrank away, and the old types of officers, gentlemen of the old school, had been replaced by a new class of humanity.

“All the time, Simon, everyone getting more and more pofaced and pedantic and goody-goody and “efficient”, more “technologically minded”, less and less capable of making or enjoying a joke, shit scared of doing anything that might affect their miserable dreary careers, forever passing the pisspot to somebody else and hoping he’d spill it, so that his enemies could kick him in the face while he was trying to mop up. And all so deadly serious, so earnest, so pi. Christ, how I longed for a breath of Darcy, or O., that lot, your lot, the old gang. …

But oh the boredom. And the nagging. After 1960 the whole thing changed completely. Don’t do this, you might kill someone; don’t do that, you might offend someone; don’t drink at lunchtime; get married, we don’t approve of bachelors; get children or the other NCOs will be jealous that you’re not buggered up with kids like they are; get a smaller car, that one will cause envy; wear a hat at the races, it’s the done thing; don’t wear a hat at the races, we don’t do the done thing anymore, it isn’t progressive and modern.”

I particularly liked the “pofaced and pedantic and goody-goody and ‘efficient’, [and] ‘technologically minded.'” The image came immediately to mind of Barack Hussein Obama promising “100,000 more teachers” and his brave new world of “green jobs.”

Raven has the contemporary incarnation of the Puritan pegged: self-important, pious, and constantly busybody-ishly improving and always in the name of Science and Progress. Look at Obama’s campaign motto: Forward. Forward like lemmings, right over the cliff of ideology.

08 Oct 2012

2012: Liberal Versus Conservative Puritan

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Walter Russell Mead, in a typically witty and insightful essay, compares and contrasts the legacy of Massachusetts Bay and Harvard on this year’s two candidates.

When Wilsonians turn their gaze toward the United States, they become what I think of as the Bostonian school in domestic politics. Like the New England Puritans to whom they owe so much, today’s Bostonians believe that a strong state led by the righteous should use its power to make America a more moral and ethical country. This, I believe, is the tradition in American domestic politics that most profoundly shapes President Obama’s worldview; it inspired many of the abolitionists and prohibitionists who played such large roles in 19th century reform politics, and it continues to influence the country wherever the spirit of Old New England survives. (Not all domestic Bostonians are international Wilsonians, by the way; some believe that America should lead by example rather than by imposing its views on others.)

Bostonians over the years have changed their ideas about morality; few today would agree with Increase Mather and John Winthrop that the state should punish any deviation from Biblical morality as understood by 17th century puritan divines. But when it comes to punishing offenses against righteousness as defined by a congress of humanities professors, multiculturalist activists and foundation grants officers, the liberal morality police are ready to march — and to smite. Today’s neo-puritans would certainly agree that once morality has been re-defined in a suitably feminist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-tobacco and anti-obesity way, it is the clear duty of the Civil Magistrate to enforce the moral law—and that our governing constitutions and laws must be interpreted—by the godly who alone ought to be seated on the judicial tribunals—to give said magistrates all the power they require for their immense and unending task of moral regulation and uplift.

Read the whole thing.

04 Oct 2012

You Can Dance If You Want To (But Not at Silliman College at Yale Anymore)

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A previous year’s Safety Dance


Wikipedia
‘s entry on Yale’s Silliman Residential College reads:

Each fall, Silliman hosts a Yale-wide 80s theme party called the Safety Dance, the largest dance at Yale.

The name “Safety Dance” derives from a a 1983 hit single recording by the Canadian New Wave band Men Without Hats.

But, as The Oldest College Daily recently reported:

Silliman College has decided to cancel all future Safety Dances after eight hospitalizations followed Saturday’s event.

In a Monday night email to the News following this week’s Silliman Activities and Administrative Committee meeting, Safety Dance organizers Nicole De Santis ’15 and Hannah Fornero ’15 announced that the “risk and liability of the Safety Dance are too great for us to continue having it.” Though new efforts were made at this year’s Safety Dance to help improve student safety, binge drinking and hospital transports still dominated the event. Silliman College Master Judith Kraus said three students were transported from the dance site to Yale-New Haven Hospital, and that another five were transported from several other locations on campus — marking a significant increase from last year’s five students in total. Krauss said that aside from those students transported due to intoxication, many others were excessively intoxicated and engaged in inappropriate behavior.

“There were countless incidents inside the dance, most of them unrepeatable, that can be directly attributed to drunkenness,” Krauss said.

———————————-

Goldie08 nailed it in the YDN’s Comments section:

Master K has always been the biggest sourpuss on campus. Just a curmudgeony old witch with a total no fun attitude. This quote blew me away:

““There were countless incidents inside the dance, most of them unrepeatable, that can be directly attributed to drunkenness,” Krauss said.”

It calls to mind Neidermeyer’s line from the disciplinary hearing in Animal House: “And most recently of all, a “Roman Toga Party” was held from which we have received more than two dozen reports of individual acts of perversion SO profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here”

    “…ambulances picked up the other five students from different locations around campus, attributing these cases to excessive pre-gaming.”

As would be expected when you ban or heavily restrict access to alcohol at the event itself. Experience has shown that when access to alcohol is limited, students will simply hide in their rooms and rip shots before mixing up some sauce in a gatorate bottle or flask for the road. They’ll drink it quickly leading to a rapid and dangerous rise in BAC.

This whole thing is ironic given subject matter of the Men Without Hats song from which the dance’s name was derived. It was the band’s response to curmudgeons like Master K who thought the drunken, raucous new wave dance parties of the 80’s were detrimental to society. “We can dance if we want to…” Except at Yale.

Lame.

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13 drunks got carted off to the tank after the major party of the year attended by roughly 2300 undergraduates. Oh, me! oh, my!

In my day, of course, when you got yourself blue, blind, paralytic drunk, nobody came to the rescue with an ambulance. You had your own private session of worshipping the porcelain god, and then you staggered off to bed, doomed to rise eventually to experience the kind of hangover that makes one seriously consider embracing Mormonism.

In those days, Yale residential college masters were all incredibly distinguished, internationally renowned scholars, and representatives of armigerous families whose first American settler had signed the Mayflower Compact. They were worldly men, who had won fame by publishing major studies of prominent canonical subjects like Shakespeare or Dante, or who had written the definitive diplomatic history of the Madison Administration, or who presided over the Yale Library’s cataloguing of the papers of Benjamin Franklin.

They were men of the world, operating at an Olympian level of serenity which could not possibly be disturbed by the petty follies or incidental misbehavior of lowly undergraduates.

The current Master of Silliman College is a professor from the Yale School of Nursing, forsooth! I always thought the existence of a Yale School of Nursing was a quaint anomaly instituted sometime in the Middle Dark Ages to provide a kind of minimal level access to females in the grim pre-coeducation era, probably as a budgetary expedient intended to lower slightly the university dining halls’ budget for saltpeter. We’d probably get more sophisticated residential college governance if the current administration were selecting college masters from the faculties of a Yale School of Taxidermy or the Yale Correspondence College of Beauticians.

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16 Mar 2012

“Meat Is The New Tobacco”

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(click on image for larger version)

First they came for your morphine and cocaine. You don’t remember that because they banned those over a hundred years ago. Then they came for alcohol, but they were forced to give it back. They outlawed marijuana, “the killer weed” which produced “reefer madness” allegedly turning its smokers into violent maniacs just a bit before my generation came along. Then, they went after tobacco. Try lighting a cigarette today in public buildings anywhere in an American city.

Has anybody stopped to wonder what’s next on Puritanism’s hit list? Kelly Freston can tell you.

When I think about the effect of animal products on human health, I’m reminded of how quickly we’ve done a national about face on tobacco, and I look forward to the day when the Times magazine has a similar apology from someone who promoted animal products — because the evidence is in and it continues to grow: Animal products kill a lot more Americans than tobacco does.

The West’s three biggest killers — heart disease, cancer, and stroke — are linked to excessive animal product consumption, and vegetarians have much lower risks of all three. Vegetarians also have a fraction of the obesity and diabetes rates of the general population — of course, both diseases are at epidemic levels and are only getting worse.

But much more important than the vegetarian community’s general statistics are what can be done with the right vegetarian diet: For some years now, doctors have been not just preventing, but even reversing, heart disease using a low-fat vegetarian diet.

That’s right — the disease that kills almost as many Americans as everything else combined can be not just prevented, but reversed, with a low fat plant-based diet, as documented by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
.

They’ve evidently converted that confirmed sensualist Bill Clinton. His video impressed me actually. He has lost a lot of weight, and it isn’t difficult to believe that a vegan diet would return most of us to our weight levels in high school (if not in Auschwitz). Trying that diet to lose weight does make a certain amount of sense, and losing weight is undoubtedly good for reducing the progression of heart disease. I’m not sure that I believe that eating like a vegan idiot will actually reverse heart disease though. I did buy Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s book and may give that diet a bit of a try.

22 Apr 2011

A Strike I’d Actually Support

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A drink or two helps with this sort of thing.

The Telegraph reports that the French riot police are threatening to go out on strike to resist the French nanny state. The issuing of alcohol to men going into physical combat used to be a routine step during the ancien regime. France with its Catholic tradition ought to be more resistant to the pettiness of modern Puritanism.

The CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité), which made its name quelling student demonstrators during nationwide disturbances in 1968, has always enjoyed a glass of beer or wine with its meals.

However, following photos of riot police drinking bottles of beer during Paris street protest, police chiefs have decided to put an end to the tradition.

They were wearing body armour and carrying weapons as they sipped from beer and wine bottles. Some were also smoking.

Didier Mangione, national secretary of the police union, said bosses were “trying to turn us into priests, but without the altar wine”.

“Nobody should object to a small drink on jobs,” he said. “CRS officers do not have any more or less alcohol problems than anybody else in society. They should be allowed to drink in moderation.”

While British police are strictly barred from drinking on duty, the French have traditionally been allowed 25cl of wine or a small beer with their main meal of the day.

It was normally served on an official tray and sometimes eaten in full view of the public, often outside riot-control vans.

“Our right to drink alcohol with our food is protected by the law and our members are very unhappy at being treated like children,” Mr Mangione added.

The CRS, which was formed after the Second World War to “protect” the Republic from internal threats, has always been renowned for employing particularly tough officers.

They are often seen bracing themselves for action on the streets of major cities like Paris, Marseilles and Lyon.

Whenever a riot is threatened in a housing project or outside a university, it is invariably the CRS who are called to mobilise. Their tactics involve responding swiftly, and often violently.

Mr Mangione said he would be making a formal appeal against the new rules to the police authority.

Hat tip to Ralph Coti.

23 Apr 2010

The Simple Life

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Charles Edouard Delort, Marie Antoinette at the Petit Trianon Versailles Playing at Being a Shepherdess

Charlotte Allen explains how modern Puritan triumphalism manages to make simplicity the new luxury and distinction.

Hunting is usually taboo in the simplicity movement because it involves guns (hated by the professionally simple) and exploitation of animals (ditto). However, if you’re hunting boar in the upscale hills ringing the San Francisco Bay so as to furnish yourself a “locally grown” boar paté, as does Berkeley professor and simplicity movement guru Michael (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) Pollan, or perhaps to experience an “epiphany,” as another well-fixed Bay Area boar hunter recently told the New York Times, you’re doing a fine job of returning to the simple life. Indeed, the Times article was replete with quotations from portfolio managers, systems analysts, and graphic designers who have taken up shooting boar, deer, and bison in their spare time because it affords them a “primal connection” with the food on their plates and is also “carbon-neutral” (zero “food miles” if the deer you slay happened to have been munching the tulips in your backyard). But if you’re a laid-off lumber mill worker bagging possums in Eutaw Springs, S.C., because your main primal connection with food is that you don’t have much money to spend on it, you’re an unsophisticated redneck.

Simplicity movement people always seem to shell out more money than the not-so-simple, usually because the simple things they love always seem to cost more than the mass-produced versions. On a website called Passionate Homemaking that’s dedicated to making, among other things, your own cheese, your own beeswax candles, and your own underarm deodorant, you are also advised to cook with nothing but raw cultured butter from a mail-order outfit called Organic Pastures. The butter probably tastes great. It also costs $10.75 a pound – plus UPS shipping. At farmer’s markets, where those striving for simplicity like to browse with their cloth shopping bags, the organic, the locally grown, and the humanely raised come at a price: tomatoes at $4 a pound, bread at $8 a loaf, and $6 for a cup of “artisanal” gelato.

Wealthy and well-born people admiring – and sparing themselves no expense in convincing themselves that they’re cultivating – the virtues of humble folk is nothing new. Two millennia ago, Virgil, in his Georgics, heaped praise upon the tree pruners and beekeepers whom he likely could see toiling in the distance while he sipped wine on the veranda of his wealthy patron, Maecenas. Marie Antoinette liked to dress up as a shepherdess and hold court in her “rustic” cottage at the Petit Trianon. Other harbingers of today’s simplicity movement were the arts-and-crafts devotees of the early 1900s who filled their homes with handcrafted medieval-looking benches and the 1960s hippies whose minibuses and geodesic domes that enabled their gypsy lifestyles usually came courtesy of checks from their parents.

But it has been only in the last decade or so that the simplicity movement has come into its own, aligning itself not only with aesthetic style but also with power. Thanks to the government-backed war against obesity (fat people, conveniently, tend to belong to the polyester-clad, Big Mac-guzzling lower orders) and the “green” movement in its various save-the-planet manifestations, simplicity people can look down their noses at the not-so-simple with their low-rent tastes while also putting them on the moral defensive. Thus you have Michael Pollan, whose zero-impact ethic of food simplicity won’t let him eat anything not grown within one hundred miles of his Bay Area home, and preferably grown (or killed, milked, churned, or picked) himself. He bristles with outrage not only at McDonald’s burgers, Doritos, and grapes imported from Chile (foreign fruit destroys people’s “sense of place,” he writes in The Omnivore’s Dilemma) but even at Walmart’s announcement in 2006 that it would start stocking organic products at affordable prices. Walmart, like factory farms, SUVs, wide-screen TVs, and outlet malls, is usually anathema to the simplicity set, but here you would think the giga-chain would be doing poor people a favor by widening their access to healthy, less-fattening produce. Not as far as Pollan is concerned. Instead, as Reason magazine’s Katherine Mangu-Ward reported, Pollan worried on his blog that “Walmart’s version of cheap, industrialized organic food” might drive the boutique farms that served him and his locavore neighbors out of business. …

The problem with the simplicity movement isn’t simply that you’ve got to be rich to live simply. In their 2007 book Plenty, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, who had vowed to spend a year sticking to the 100-mile locavore eating radius (and, as freelance writers, had plenty of time to put together meals that lived up to this promise), discovered that they were spending $11 per jar on honey to substitute for $2.59 sugar and that one of their locally foraged dinners cost them $130 and more than a day to prepare. …

The problem with the simplicity movement is that its proponents mistake simplicity, which is an aesthetic lifestyle choice, for humility, which is a genuine virtue.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

15 Apr 2010

Not Available in My Local Convenience Store

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Japanese intellectual worker’s survival rations: canned coffee and a couple of packs of cigarettes. The pezzonovantes would never let anyone package such hazardous products together in this way in the “mostly free” US of A.

Hat tip to the News Junkie, Ambisinistral and Trendhunter

13 Apr 2010

The Puritan Left

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August Saint-Gaudens, The Puritan, 1883 – 1886, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fast cars, smoking, flirting, even eating fast food at Burger King, the puritans of the Left are determined to eradicate each and every one of life’s little pleasures, Dennis Praeger warns.

Just as the Soviets removed Trotsky from old photos, anti-smoking zealots have forced the removal of cigarettes from old photos — from photos of FDR, from the famous Beatles photo — and from movies whenever possible. Torture and murder are ubiquitous in films, but smoking is all but banned — even cigars are now banned from James Bond films.

Smoking has been banned in entire cities, outdoors as well as in. In Pasadena, Calif., one cannot even smoke in a cigar store. …

Virtually every game I played as a child during school recess is now banned because organizations such as the National Program for Playground Safety deem games in which kids are “running into each other” as too dangerous. Someone might get hurt.

Until a few years ago, just about every American boy, and many girls, played dodgeball. No more. This joy, too, has been eliminated from American life. “We consider it inappropriate to use children as human targets,” said Mary Marks, physical education supervisor for Fairfax County, Va. And it may hurt the feelings of kids who are eliminated. For the same reason — potential hurt feelings of those eliminated — musical chairs is no longer played in some schools.

Some might argue that these bans are not because of Leftism but because of fear of lawsuits. But in light of how leftwing the trial bar is, that only reinforces my argument.

Read the whole thing.

17 Mar 2009

Depression-era Parents

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Steve Tuttle, in Newsweek, nominates his frugal parents as ideal role models for the Age of Obama, the new era of poverty and scarcity in which thrift is a survival skill.

Last summer I was at my parents’ cabin in rural Virginia and I noticed a dead mouse in a rusty old trap. I tossed it in the trash. Later that day I told my dad about the mouse, and he asked, “Where’s the trap?” I told him it looked as though it were falling apart, and I’d thrown it out with the mouse still attached. He looked at me as if I’d punched him in the face. My mom chimed in: “We’ve had that trap since we got married!” I wasn’t sure she was joking, and they got married almost 50 years ago. I sheepishly dug it out of the garbage and loaded it up with cheese again. Now it’s become one of those perennial things they bring up every time I go home: “Remember when Steve threw out the mousetrap, mouse and all!?” This is followed by shuddering and head shaking, as they silently wonder where it all went wrong.

What Tuttle doesn’t seem to realize is that his parents are simply typical representatives of an older, working-class life style in which cash was in severely limited supply and in which one’s own time in the form of labor would routinely serve as a substitute.

My generation always blamed our parents’ resistance to our own preferred high consumption economic style as the product of the psychic trauma of living through the Great Depression.

A lot of people on the left these days seem to be rejoicing in the arrival of economic bad times the same way many Britons and other Europeans welcomed the outbreak of the First World War, as a purifying fire that would sweep away corruption and decadence and which would ennoble those who passed through the flames. Well, we all know how well things worked out for those Europeans of the WWI era.

04 Feb 2009

Michael Phelps’s Apology

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Andrew Stuttaford comments on Michael Phelps’s apology for pot smoking.

In the meantime, I merely note that this broken wreck of a man’s failure to win any more than a pathetic fourteen Olympic gold medals (so far) is a terrifying warning of the horrific damage that cannabis can do to someone’s health—and a powerful reminder of just how sensible the drug laws really are.

Meanwhile, Radley Balko, at Reason Online, offers his own alternative version of Phelps’s letter of apology.

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