August 30, 2005

All Hail Hedonism!

Well, not really. I'm not about to don my furry costume and head to the nearest fetish convention, or rally around the NAMBLA flag.

But I am pissed off about what I like to call "selective puritanism," the push to rid society of "evils" that don't really have a moral component but that everyone can agree on and are thus non-controversial and easy to oppose.

Like snack food, for instance. It's bad! BAAAAAAAAD! Ban it! Cigarettes? You should be taken out and shot for merely THINKING about nicotine! Dodgeball? Why, it's the very Hand Of Satan, coming for our precious children! But alcohol and some casual drug use, which can be just as physically harmful, is still socially acceptable--the same soccer moms railing about Doritos are toking it up on the weekends. I have to wonder if they suffer moral pangs while in the throes of the munchies...

The cynic in me believes that it must just be easier to ban things that don't make life aesthetically pleasant, like fat people and cigarette smoke, while keeping the ones that allow us to pretend that we aren't the problem, like booze and drugs. But that's a bit dark, even for me.

It's almost enough to make me a libertarian. It's definitely enough to drive me to drink.

Inspired by this article.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at August 30, 2005 10:53 AM

It's not Puritanism but moral opportunism. The two steps are discover a ``public problem'' and then take ownership of it.

Creating a public problem is no easy matter. Drunk driving, for example, used to be a personal moral failing and not a public problem. It takes hard work to convert it and take it over for your own gain.

Gussfield's _Contested Meanings_ is the handbook.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at August 30, 2005 03:28 PM

It's like Christians who rail against homosexuality, but turn a blind eye to divorce.

Posted by: Michael at August 30, 2005 07:50 PM

I think there's a healthy dose of "Look, I am a Better Person than you because I do not indulge in what I have declared a Public Vice."

The most eye-rolling example I ever saw was a letter to the editor of the newspaper in my parents' town, complaining about Christmas light displays - that they "wasted electricity" and that the people who put up Christmas lights would be better off not doing so, and donating the money they 'save' to some worthy charity.

(I'm not sure how much power those little white "fairy lights" that most people put up draw, but I can't help but think it's not much, certainly not enough to cause a major spike in electricity usage).

There was also a letter going after the practice of giving Christmas gifts, or the giving of gifts wrapped in - gasp - printed paper that would likely be thrown away after the holiday.

Posted by: ricki at August 31, 2005 10:03 AM

The letters to the editor I look forward to every Thanksgiving are from a local vegetarian idiot who calls on everyone to forego meat in favor of "delicious tofu turkey." I eat extra meat all year just to make up for him.

Posted by: Michael at August 31, 2005 07:52 PM