The Assault on Pleasure

The Future Foundation are undertaking a new study of The Assault on Pleasure.  They have apparently identified a new social trend away from the excesses in contemporary soociety.  Blurb:

A total of 30% of people in the UK (35% of under-24s) now agree that : Pregnant women found smoking in a public place should be given a caution by a police officer.

Commenting on the results, Paul Flatters, Chief Executive and Editor of the Future Foundation’s Assault on Pleasure study, said :-

“Only a few years ago, these results would have been unimaginable.

But these days, for whatever reasons, we are accumulating so many anxieties about our personal health and our public environment that ever more of us seem ready to accept new ideas about what we and our fellow consumer-citizens should not do – or not be permitted to do.

It’s almost as if there is a new cromwellianism in the land, a new drive to regulate all manner of markets and behaviours. It is striking that support for so many regulatory propositions stretches across both age and income groups. In every sector of our society, there are now substantial pockets of what we have called the “neo-croms”, those who are motivated to extend the definition of anti-social behaviour into new areas and themes.

This is the culture and the future that not just businesses but also political parties must face.

Every activity involving an element of fun or escapism is falling under new scrutiny from health professionals, green lobbies and pressure groups of all kinds. Perhaps it is this which is feeding these new attitudes, attitudes which might well be seen, for good or ill, as a kind of modern puritanism.

We can only imagine that this instinct to regulate-and-restrict will impact on more markets and more activities in the years ahead.

In five years time, will giving a Christmas box of chocolates attract the same odium as giving a pack of 200 cigarettes once did? Will all office parties be shandy-only? Will it be a dinner-party boast that one does not any longer go to the Lake District – for ecological reasons? How many other activities will go the way of smoking in pubs?

If this is a new trend then it’s kind of ironic that many people are trying to regulate areas of society in the face of ineffectiveness around traditional forms of regulation in the case of ASBOs and the need for a new "Yob Tsar" and on a wider geographical scale the horror with which law and order broke down in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  Indeed puritanical tendencies could be seen to be a reaction to this moral panic now engulfing us on aspects of social order.