– Who Were They And W Essay, Research Paper

Puritans- Who Were They and What Are They Doing in My Kitchen?

Puritans are indeed among us in society. They are in our drug stores, our laundromats, and yes, our kitchens. They are purists. Puritans want to make society a dull place where everyone works hard and no one has too much fun. Although they think they know what is good for everybody, their way of life not only disagrees with modern society; it contradicts itself.

The Puritan movement began in England in the 1500 s (Puritanism World Book). The word Puritan first appeared in 1564. It began as a taunt or insult applied to those who criticized or wished to purify the Church of England (Puritanism England). The Puritans sought through church reform to make their lifestyle the pattern for the whole nation. (Puritanism Britannica).

The Puritans are very serious people and oppose most things that are fun for themselves or others (Gambling). Vices such as drunkenness, smoking, gambling, swearing and Sabbath breaking were strongly forbidden in their culture. Even ostentatious dress was prohibited by the Puritans (Heyrman). Puritanism is also defined as strict denial of pleasure (Puritanism Philosophy). Over time the term broadened to mean strictness in morals or religious matters (Puritanism World Book).

Puritans are strict Calvinists. Calvinism is associated with the Theory of Predestination. Predestination is the theory that God has a master plan for people before they are born. It does not matter what they do in their life because God has planned out for them whether they will go to heaven or hell. If Puritans are Calvinists, why do they believe in such a strict way of life? The two facts are contradictory of each other. It helps to show how ridiculous the whole ideology is (Puritans).

In the Shakespearian play Twelfth Night there is dialogue pertaining to the topic of Puritans:

Maria- Marry, sir, sometimes he [Malvolio] is a kind of puritan.

Sir Andrew- O, if I thought that, I ld beat him like a dog.

Sir Toby- What, for being a puritan? Thy exquisite reason, dear knight?

Sir Andrew- I have no exquisite reason for it (Rowse 524)

In this passage, when Malvolio was accused of being a Puritan, Sir Andrew s immediate instinct was to inflict harm to him. It shows that Shakespeare had ill feelings towards Puritans. Shakespeare had every reason to think this way. The Puritans denounced his plays and theatre all together as breeding grounds of sin and vice and an encouragement to unproductiveness. It was the Puritans intentions to close down all theatres if they could (Asimov 579-80)

At the time of the beginning of Puritanism in England, Queen Elizabeth I was in her reign. She opposed and blocked the reformation, as well as many other nobles of the time period (Hulse). The efforts of the Puritans eventually led to a civil war in England! A civil war broke out in England because of the Puritan movement!

Because of the instability and lack of support for the Puritan movement in England, the Puritans broke away and founded colonies in America. These colonies were based upon the Puritan ideals and way of life (Puritanism Britannica). In America, the Puritans sought to cleanse the culture of what they regarded as corrupt, sinful practices (Heyrman).

The Puritans shaped religion, social life and government in North America and their ideals. Their belief in government-by-contract from the governed influenced the development of the American democratic principals (Puritanism World Book). They believed that the government should strictly enforce public morality by prohibiting vices (Heyrman). A German Sociologist, Max Weber, associated the Puritan belief in hard work with the rise of the American free enterprise system (Puritanism World Book).

In America, it seems that the urge to legislate and regulate health and sobriety comes in cycles spaced sixty or eighty years apart. In fact, Dr. Ruth C. Engs, a professor of applied health science at Indiana University, says that Every 80 years or so we come out with all these laws against people s personal, pleasurable pursuits: tobacco, alcohol, meat, sex (qtd in Ross).

Dr. Engs s cycle is divided into three parts. In the first part, reformers agitate against the inappropriate behavior. Only after the protesting does Congress start passing laws. In the middle third, it becomes cool to flout the law. Here, people either lose interest in the laws or actively rebel against them. In the last third, the police barely enforce the laws on the books on the books. Also, the banned behavior comes out into the open. The consumption of contraband begins to rise, but at a slower pace. The cycle pretty much ends when another generation sees the devastation brought by the abuse of the addictive behaviors. At this point the cycle begins anew.

The bouncing back and forth from one extreme to another is exaggerated in America where it dates back to the Puritan fathers themselves. Why does the cycle have to be so extreme? The cycle is vicious, because most of the time we are overreacting to a previous generation s experiences (a p3). The cycle of addictions seems to have its own natural rhythm related to people s memories of what those addictions did to an earlier generation. We are at the peak of the liberal section now. With more and more laws passing restricting the pleasurable things in life, we will soon experience a new wave of Puritanism. Right now the vices such as drugs, drinking, smoking, and gambling are at a high.

Cocaine first struck doctors as a wonder drug. Cocaine was promoted in all the medical journals, much like Prozac is today. Later, the evils of cocaine addiction became apparent. Use of the drug ceased among the upper class, and it became associated with low lives. Consumption of cocaine plummeted. After everyone was disinterested with cocaine, it was then that laws were passed against it, around the 1910 s. By the 1930 s, nobody even remembered cocaine. By the 1970 s it was back strongly. Drug usage peaked around the late 1970 s. There was a lull but cocaine is still prominent in today s society (Ross).

In the 1750 s, governments made repeated attempts to ban alcohol and discourage excessive use. But no plan had worked. In 1851, Maine banned consumption and production of alcohol. By 1855, several more had followed. But after the Civil War, saloons became popular. But the Puritan reformists continued to complain and by 1900, many saloons were closed. In 1917, the 18th Amendment was passed. It prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors. The Volstead Act was what enforced the amendment. It defined intoxicating liquors as drinks with alcohol content greater that .05 percent. In the late 1920 s, the prohibition was repealed (Puritanism Encarta).

Alcohol consumption has risen ever since in the U.S. It is expected to peak within the next few years. The plan of attack against alcohol will first be tries to dissuade people from drinking. Second, marginalize of those who drink. Third, demonize them. Finally, they will pass laws against drinking. Ironically, the result of this Puritanism might be more alcohol consumption a decade or two from now.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving persuaded legislators to raise the drinking age. Now they want to further restrict advertising of alcohol. The raising of the drinking age may have boosted alcoholism in the long run. Life-long habits are often formed in the late teen years. When kids start drinking at age 19, they find they cannot stop at age 21. When you can legally belly up to the bar, you do not want to.

The anti-tobacco crusade may be backfiring. Heavy increases in teen smoking in the past couple years has occurred. There is some kind of forbidden fruit glamour to smoking. There has been a 4.6 percent rise in smoking by teenage girls in the past five years (Ross).

Lotteries and other gambling devices flourished in the 18th century. But outbursts of morality and scandal against it in the 1820 s rid the country of gambling. The second wave of gambling started after the Civil War. This newfound interest in gambling eventually led to more scandals and more morality than the last time. This occurred in the early 20th Century. In the 1930 s America started to recover from the Puritanism when Nevada re-legalized casinos, bingo, and racetracks. State lotteries came back in 1964. State lotteries are now run by 33 states. These lotteries are making this third wave the strongest so far (Gambling).

The conditions are right for a massive Prohibition. Drug use is high. Alcohol consumption is high. Smoking is high. Gambling is very high. The reform laws appear to be increasing slightly. The new prohibition is destined to fail, just like the last prohibition failed in the 1920 s. It aims to enforce clean living by government laws. Temperance laws only glamorize the banned product. The laws generally fail to improve matters. Banning and rationing only creates economically perverse outcomes. Businesses are created for the banned substances. They stay in business because of the tremendously high prices and profit margins. Another unwanted outcome is, If you make it hard (or expensive) for kids to get beer, they will get marijuana instead.

Substance abuse is harmful. Yet it is inevitable because we live in the short run, particularly when it comes to what are deemed as guilty pleasures. Laws against substance abuse are pointless. In each Puritan movement, most of the decline in consumption came before the

laws took effect. Make no mistake: Alcohol, tobacco and narcotics cause much human misery, and people would be well advised to use them little or not at all. Advised–but not commanded– for coercion doesn t work in the long run (Ross).

The world s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, despised Puritans. It is a proven fact that Puritanism contradicts itself. How can people believe in an ideology that does not make any sense? Just like the kitchen.


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