New Puritans (Assignment 1)


In tandem with this:

  • “Ghosts of Football Future,” RadioLab. Broadcast 1/29/2015.
    Parker, age 8, on why he gave up playing football when he was 4 years old: “I made someone swallow dirt, and that stuff is messing up my history, and I don’t want to get anyone else hurt…It’s just messing up history in my life…it’s like making me have bad memories. I want to have good memories.”
    (Other influences listed at the end.)

Targeted advertising and content has become increasingly pervasive, until each moment of our digital lives simultaneously reflects our lives back to us. This constant self-reflection causes many to obsessively curate their lives virtually, materially, economically, spiritually, intellectually, politically and interpersonally. Each moment will be remembered. Each choice becomes your story.

To communicate this story outwardly, the New Puritan wears a removable collar (in the tradition, if not the style, of the Puritans), which project signifiers of their digital footprint. Although there is a mainstream belief system, a New Puritan is not of any particular religious persuasion, but is someone who has chosen transparency. A New Puritan strives to keep their story pure. He does so by acting on his own ideologies, but also by restricting contact with media or people who do not share his ideology.

This practice only makes it easier to target advertising and media and grow the divide among peoples.


Portrait of a Man, C.1643-45, Frans Hals: Cotton Mather, American School; Portrait of a Lady with White Collar and Cuffs, Ferdinand Bol


I log on and am met with a morning prayer. I glance through the long list of personal petitions. I see Steven and Amy’s. I click the up arrow beside each, and add my own to the list, “Friends, please pray for me on this, my first day at Silo.”

I speak the morning prayer out loud. Then I scroll through my messages, extinguishing anything untrustworthy. I open one from HR and take careful note of my morning schedule–there is so much red tape to deal with on the first day. In my periphery, I notice headlines from The Trusted Source, think pieces and content reviews from Friends, and coupons from the recommended product database. I grab a coupon for locally raised, hormone and harm-free chicken breasts, 50 cents. I follow a content review link to a segment on intestinal health and let it play as I busy myself with breakfast, green tea and steel-cut oats.

I’ve laid out for myself an entirely unspectacular outfit: gray suit, silk blouse, and simple pumps. It’s a little dressier than my typical work clothes, but conservative, beyond reproach. I’ve purchased a new collar for the occasion, more subtle than my last. When you first take a collar out of the package it is the most brilliant white you’ve ever seen. I plug the collar in and wrap it around my neck. The collar reads my scent and connects biometrically, coming alive with little sparkles of light. I wish it would stay this way forever, this luminescent.

I turn my attention to tying back my hair. I apply just a touch of mascara and lip-gloss. The collar flashes in a multi-color display of dancing pixels before it settles on today’s signifiers. The signs of the Trusted Source and the Friends are displayed prominently on each of the collar’s points, as they always should. Around the sides of the collar are a few photos from my holiday in Hawaii; a quote from a recent article I read on the manifestation; ads for the collar and the new pumps I’m wearing; messages from the party leaders I support; and profile photos of Steven and Amy encircled in hearts, to let everyone know I’m thinking of them. The points of the collar hang barely beyond my clavicle, but the back is a large square panel, fashioned more after a sailor collar than the traditional rounded back of the Puritans’. I twist my head around to see the back panel in the mirror.

“Oh shit,” I cover my mouth. There smack in the middle of the yoke is a slimy, raw chicken carcass. Oh Trusted One, why did I have to collect that coupon today? I knew this would happen. It was just 50 cents–why couldn’t I resist? I scan the rest of the collar. The Silo signifier is off in the left-hand corner, cowering, it seems, from the bumpy chicken flesh. I hope HR will forgive me. It is only my first day. I was spared, at least, a video clip of a clogged intestinal track. I flatten the collar neatly over my jacket lapels. I look at myself in the mirror and repeat, “I am pure in thought and deed. I am my history. My history is me.”

In the lobby of Silo I am greeted by a young lady, a clerk. Her oversized, origami-ed mess of a collar is filled with the signifiers of what I assume is a punk rock band. I have to stop myself from laughing when she extends her hand in introduction. I refuse it, of course; she does not wear the mark of the Trusted Source. The rebellions of the young are so simple in their purity. She’ll learn. I remember how hard I used to work to write the story of myself. It seems now that it practically writes itself.



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