The Puritans


Recently I came across an interesting essay on The New Puritans by Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word ‘puritan‘ as the “one who practices or preaches a more rigorous or professedly purer moral code than that which prevails”.

The Wikipedia describes the puritans as the “English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and should become more Protestant”.

Applebaum writes her essay in the the context of changing social norms and currently ongoing debate on ‘social codes’ or American culture.

Social codes are changing, in many ways for the better. But for those whose behavior doesn’t adapt fast enough to the new norms, judgment can be swift—and merciless.

Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic

A few quotes from Applebaum’s essay:

How much intellectual life is now stifled because of fear of what a poorly worded comment would look like if taken out of context and spread on Twitter?

While discussing secretive investigation of journalists and other critical writers, Applebaum writes:

Neither our secretive university committees nor the social-media mobs are backed by authoritarian regimes threatening violence. Despite the right-wing rhetoric that says otherwise, these procedures are not being driven by a “unified left” (there is no “unified left”), or by a unified movement of any kind, let alone by the government.

That kind of behavior, once accepted or at least tolerated in many workplaces, is also now out of bounds. Workplaces once considered demanding are now described as toxic. The sort of open criticism, voiced in front of other people, that was once normal in newsrooms and academic seminars is now as unacceptable as chewing with your mouth open.

“if we drive all of the difficult people, the demanding people, and the eccentric people away from the creative professions where they used to thrive, we will become a flatter, duller, less interesting society,” writes Applebaum.