Anyone interested in history cannot fail to notice the recurrent enthusiasms of those fixated on sin, pleasure, comfort and their associated punishment and (occasional) redemption.
Whether it is asceticism or just reforming censoriousness, the Hebrew Prophets, Desert Fathers, Essenes, Zwingli and Calvin and now, Carson-inspired Gaia worshippers have much in common.
Nick Cater’s demolition of the nonsense that is South Australia’s shopping bag ban reinforces the general sense that the Green mindset is another incarnation of the self-hating, self-righteous reformer. The reformer who ignores outcome so long as the law is righteous.
As so often, the real purpose of the exercise seems to be mount the wagon of moral vanity and condemn the rapacious lifestyles of the masses. It is not about righting wrongs, but being seen to be the kind of person who thinks wrongs should be righted.
The link the subeditor made to temperance is timely, given I have just finished reading Christopher Snowdon’s The Art of Suppression: Pleasure, Panic and Prohibition since 1800.
Religious fervour played a huge role in the anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol movements from the early nineteenth century. The Anti-Saloon League – whose director convinced the US government to add a methanol/benzene mix to industrial alcohol, killing thousands during Prohibition – was closely linked to the Baptist movement. And the real driver of the campaign was, of course, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
It was a distinctly Presbyterian interpretation of “Christian civilization”, rather than any outbreak of binge-drinking, which thrust the liquor question to the forefront of the American consciousness in the late nineteenth century.
Snowdon captures the essence of the Prohibitionist mindset:
The phrase something must be done – that great clarion call of our times – can usually be translated as someone who is not me must stop doing the things I do not like.
Combine that with the vanity of those who are assured of their moral and religious superiority, add a touch of projected guilt and voila! you have our moralising atheist Green. Their Calvinist leanings have simply slipped from the Elect, God and Sin, to Cognitive Elite, Gaia and Prosperity.
But their reaction to those that disagree is all too familiar:
The coercive reformer reacts to nonconformity with anger and indignation. Sympathy and pity toward the victim have no place in his emotional orientation… In Prohibition and its enforcement, hostility, hatred, and anger toward the enemy were the major feelings which nurtured the movement.
Of course, such a position is only tenable in times of relative prosperity, as the enviro-activists are finding worldwide after 2007. Substitute ‘harmless gas’ for ‘liquid drug’ and you get the gist.
Hysteria over a liquid drug that had been ingrained in civilisation since antiquity could only thrive in a period of idle tranquility.
Most interesting is the commonality of method. Note how the WCTU operated with a few identifiable parallels to today. The WCTU:
- successfully lobbied for ‘Scientific Temperance Instruction’ to be taught in schools
- acquired by the end of the 19th Century an effective veto over textbooks in schools, and authors had to rewrite texts or be blacklisted
- relied on alarmist junk science in the Scientific Temperance Instruction to push their message, including selectively quoted scientists, fabricated quotations, unsourced anecdotes, demonisation of moderate activity, and writing deliberately designed to scare children
- portrayed a Methodist/Baptist moral crusade as a campaign for public health and protection of children
- harassed any public person who spoke against the crusade with flashmobs of monomaniacs to campaign against them.
Snowdon goes on to quote Andrew Sinclair in his The Era of Excess:
the Drys’ unshakeable belief in the righteousness of their cause led them to look upon drinkers as reactionaries whose “selfish imbibing was a last protest against progress”.
This is a mere snapshot of the Prohibitionist, moral crusading parallels between the temperance and Green movements. There is much else that his been written. Links will appear later.