Monday’s Mtg: Are Americans Puritans, or Libertines?

[Update:  Ron suggested we devote part of the mtg to discussing the Filner situation.  We discussed San Diego politics extensively on June 17, but that was just before the revelations.  Your thoughts?]

When we talked about the culture war two weeks ago, we touched on cultural causes, but, as always, we focused on structural factors: Class and economic differences, regionalism, race, religion, and so forth.  But, what about people’s personal attitudes towards these very intimate matters?  What role do sharp differences in our personal beliefs play in perpetuating the most divisive culture war issues?

That is, let’s talk about sex.  And drugs.  And other forms of personal expression and/or pleasure-seeking.  Not about the things themselves, of course.  Our meetings are PG-rated, and  I’ll enforce that.  But, I thought a nice Part II of our culture war discussion would be a debate about Americans’ sometimes schizophrenic (and hypocritical?) attitudes towards these matters – both as a right and a choice for themselves to pursue, and towards other people’s rights to do it.  How can America be both puritanical and libertine at the same time?  How can a nation of citizens with such different cultural attitudes get along, when, in the modern age, the personal is so political?  Will live and let live libertarianism ever completely win out on all of these most intimate culture war issues, or will the backlash never end?


  1. What do we mean when we say someone is puritanical or libertine?  Must they be either one or the other?  Can they be both and not be aware of it?
  2. What drives these attitudes in Americans, both psychologically and culturally?  Why are there big differences in beliefs by region, by religion, by age, etc.?
  3. How did the personal get so political?  Which side won?
  4. Are we growing more tolerant of other people’s personal choices, or will the backlash keep burning fiercely as in the last 40 years?
  5. A lot of the conflict is about not only whether law and society should tolerate once-“deviant” behaviors, but whether government should actively support or discourage them.  Abortion, universal contraception, gay adoptions, drug use, etc.  Do conservatives have a point when they object to their tax dollars supporting other people’s choices they don’t like?



Next Week:  Legalizing Marijuana.


2 responses

  1. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    Yes, we could discuss Giovanni Filner if people wish (after Don Giovanni, whom he seems to be emulating.)

    As for the main topic–I have a cherished theory of my own, which I may expound: Americans are neither Puritans nor Libertines, primarily; not sensualists, certainly, but HUCKSTERS!
    Stay tuned…

  2. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    Looks like curtains for Bob/Giovanni. And he can’t be forgiven apparently, according to the group.

    Point made by Aaron is what I was trying to suggest above about “hucksters.” This culture seems to want to sexualize everything, then commercialize it. Hence our problems accepting public nudity, topless women etc. (who are the rule in much of the world)–if we can’t make money from it, we just can’t come to grips with it.

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