“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
I first came across this quote nearly 30 years ago when I was a History undergraduate. It seems even more apt in the late 2010s than in the late 1980s. Whole sections of the internet seem to be populated entirely with people who go looking for “offence.” Cyberspace is alive with accusations of “phobias” and “isms” – accusations of being prejudiced against things I wasn’t even aware existed. These modern day Puritans are happiest – if that’s not an inappropriate word – when damning people for violating the latest taboo.
Squadrons of violently right-wing, religious maniacs, who have rules about everything from what you can eat to the proper way to go to the toilet, are ever vigilant in case somebody, somewhere does something to offend their imaginary friend. From women’s hair to a can of beer, nothing escapes these fanatics – even something as harmless as dancing can get them frothing at the mouth.
And what on earth is this nonsense about a quarter of British youngsters being teetotal? When I was at university, the Students’ Union was a branch of the UK brewing industry. Never trust someone who doesn’t drink – in the inimitable words of foul-mouthed Australian comic Jim Jefferies, “If you don’t drink, you’re a boring c*** and all your stories suck.”