Erick Werner: The Puritan work ethic

Embarkation of the Pilgrims, by Robert Walter Weir. Google Art Project

If you walked down Main Street in Newhall today, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t know the story of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims who came with her.

Given the city’s high level of education, you would probably also find that the majority of people understand who these Pilgrims, and later Puritans, were. They were a people who valued work above all else and resisted every hedonistic temptation possible.

As most of us learned growing up, we know that the society they founded flourished because of the sweat and toil committed to it, not in spite of those efforts, and that for a community to grow and prosper, sacrifices have to be made in the face of immediate, personal gratification.

Most of us know this story; however, what many aren’t aware of is the fact that, once California became a part of the Union, many Puritans settled in Los Angeles, bringing with them their culture of abstaining from all things immoral, along with a superior work ethic.

Much of the ensuing prosperity that Los Angeles would achieve would come as a result of the transplanted New Englanders who decided that it was better for a man to live sparsely, humbly, and laboriously rather than dedicate himself to a life of decadence.

These are virtues that have, especially for us Millennials, fallen out of popularity.

Every generation of Americans alive today has experienced a culture of excess and self-indulgence, and unfortunately those of us born around the turn of the century personify these qualities in so many ways.

In almost all cases, we let our desires for instant gratification get the better of us and get in the way of the development we are supposed to have into adulthood.

When people complain that Millennials are a generation of self-absorbed whiners, it is not an indictment of the youth, but rather an indictment of those who allowed such a culture to exist in the first place.

The fact of the matter is that since the economic boom of post-World War II, we as a nation have culturally been pushing farther and farther toward a desire to satisfy our basest instincts, culminating in the entitled generation that makes up our young people today.

As a university student, I myself have been both surrounded by and a part of this culture enough to realize that it is first and foremost not going to bring about anything good for our future.

Allowing for greater degeneracy of our values will only lead to a greater degeneracy of our standard of living.

In Santa Clarita, we enjoy a standard of living that is one of the best in the entire world. A relatively low crime rate, city services that function on time, a clean and safe community where you can be fairly certain that your kids will be able to go to and from school every day without harm befalling them.

This life we enjoy did not simply fall out of the sky. It was earned through the blood and sweat of people who chose to shirk personal gratification in favor of a life of labor that would eventually result in a community that would be greater when they died than it was when they were born.

The route we are on now, with our generation’s seeming dedication to avoiding personal responsibility – instead demanding that every need of theirs is bought and paid for by someone else – is not a path to a better life for our posterity.

It is the path that will lead our communities to be in a worse position when we leave them than they were when we inherited them.

The Puritans, however quirky they may have been, knew that building a community that is truly great requires immense self-sacrifice.

We could learn a thing or two from our forefathers.

Erick Werner is a third-year student at the University of Minnesota and a lifelong Santa Clarita resident.

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