We live an age of neo-puritanism, when the John Knoxes, Gerard Winstanleys and Lodowicke Muggletons of our day preach doom and destruction, repentance or death, much as their predecessors did in the 15th and 16th centuries. The tone and nature of their utterances is scarcely distinguishable. Thou shall not eat meat. Thou shalt not drink. Thou shalt not enjoy a smoke. Thou shalt not hunt. Thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not. All emphasised with tedious insistence and wagging of finger. Bit by bit diversity, colour, pleasure and happiness are being drained from life.
I take some comfort from the fact that history has not been kind to moral extremists and sermonising Illuminati. Who remembers John Knox, Gerard Winstanley or Lodowicke Muggleton today? Scholars may acknowledge their contribution to a debate, but the rest of us have long forgotten the vile squealing of their wry-necked fifes. While the bluster and certainty of militant veganistas, these pashas of the pulse, may attract unwarranted attention today, time and perspective will show them to be marginal figures at best, deluded and deluding dogmatists at worst. The tendency of monomaniacal visionaries to reduce questions of immense complexity to facile absolutes is at bestEAT simple minded, at worst deluded and delusional. As Oscar Wilde observed, ‘‘the truth is rarely pure and never simple.’