Saturday, September 13, 2008

Progressives: Marching Forward Into the Past

A rewritten post from two Septembers ago. I decided to give it a second look because, for some reason, it always gets a lot of hits -- probably by progressive barbarians looking for something else. Might as well make sure it's sufficiently mocking for when they stumble upon it again.


Who can hope to obtain proper concepts of the present, without knowing the future? --Johann Georg Hamann

When we inquire into the meaning of history, facts alone cannot help us. This is because what we specifically wish to know is whether history means anything other than the numberless facts it leaves in its wake. As such, the meaning of history can only be found in the present, in an imaginative vision.

But even that isn't quite right, for we can only really understand the meaning of something by discerning where it is headed -- by its direction and end.

As we have said before, this idea of history having a direction and destination was a Judeo-Christian innovation, as all primitive and pagan cultures (including Islam) saw time as either a cyclical or degenerative process. But all of us in the west are so saturated with historical consciousness that we all believe in the directionality of history, even if we deny it. It's very similar to biology, wherein biologists can only pretend that teleology doesn't exist.

For example, Josef Pieper writes, “Whoever says ‘historical development’ has already said and thought that history possesses an irreversible direction; this applies all the more to anyone who says ‘progress.’ In the most innocent use of the words ‘already’ and ‘still’ (‘the Greeks already knew...’) -- such turns of phrase always contain the implication that history is leading up to something, that a particular state -- of perfection or of impoverishment -- is the end state.

“It therefore appears impossible to reflect upon history in a spirit of philosophical inquiry without at the same time inquiring, in some sense or other, as to the End. This question cannot be ‘left alone.’”

In the west we have two divergent political movements that would seem to define themselves in terms of their historical ends, “progressives” and “conservatives.” The progressive obviously believes in the a priori sanctity of the word “progress,” as if it is self-justifying. But there are many kinds of progress -- for example, a progressive disease that has an inevitable end state called “death.” More often than not, what the progressive means by “progress” is merely change, agitation, rebellion, or the bracing thrill of falling.

Interestingly, we often hear progressives tout the statistic that this or that many people believe the country is "on the wrong track." First of all, it is a meaningless statistic in light of the fact that the liberal media constantly propagate the fantasy that the country is "on the wrong track." Therefore, it is a kind of tautology.

But more deeply, it is simply an invitation to project into politics what properly belongs to the realms of psychology or spirituality. In other words, the left always benefits when people are stupid enough to project all of their existential problems into the arena of politics. I'm thinking of one particular blogger who hates himself, his life, and his country, but unconsciously imagines that an Obama victory will somehow change that. But it has never occurred to me that my happiness is the responsibility of the president. A conservative should never really be gleeful when we win an election, only relieved. True, we dodged another ballot, but the devil never rests, so it's as if the new baseball season were to begin moments after the end of the World Series.

In a sense, progressivism is deeply ahistorical, for it merely examines the now, pronounces that it does not care for the now, and proposes radical policies to change the character of the now, which any idiot can do. And this is why the policies so frequently end in disaster, for as Thomas Sowell has written, they never take the time to “think beyond stage one” and calculate the actual effect of their policies. It's all about the feeling that went into them. Progressives who supposedly love "peace" as the highest value have no idea how it is created. It's like loving health but hating antibiotics.

Nor do they ever think before stage one, and examine the true reasons for the "problems of the now," most of which can only be resolved by a transformation in values from below, not a president from above.

Welfare, for example, was a deeply “progressive” system. And yet, look at all the progress that has been made since it it was radically reformed over a decade ago, thanks to “conservatives.” “Between 1965 and 1995 we spent more than $5 trillion on Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, while welfare rolls, chronic unemployment, and illegitimacy rates all steadily grew” (National Review, 9-11-06).

But since Clinton signed the Republican reform into law, “welfare rolls have shrunk by more than 60 percent, the number of poor children has fallen by 1.4 million, and illegitimacy rates have stopped growing. Black-child poverty is at its lowest in history.” In order to achieve this end, it was necessary to overcome the compassion (what Buddhists call "idiot compassion") of all the usual progressive suspects -- academics, government bureaucrats, the media, liberal church groups, etc. -- but “the poor are richer for it.”

But do conservatives get any credit for helping the poor? Of course not. Again, by hijacking the word “progress” and incorporating it into their very name, everything progressives do is.... progressive, no matter how regressive -- high taxes, undermining marriage, multiculturalism, moral relativism, appeasing terrorists, a permanently broken educational system, corrupt unions.

The true conservative is interested in conserving the very conditions that allow progress to occur (especially psycho-spiritual progress), while progressives simply assume those historically rare and precious conditions and try to tinker with the outcome, both in the micro realm (e.g., the family) and the macro realm (economics, education, foreign policy).

When it comes to economics, for example, conservatives are interested in the conditions that allow for the creation of wealth to occur, whereas liberals simply assume that the wealth is there, and that it is merely a matter of "fairly" distributing it. But by doing so, they unwittingly undermine the very conditions that allow the creation of wealth to begin with, and elevate petty tyrants who will dispense their arbitrary notions of "economic justice," i.e., revenge. Likewise, by appeasing terrorists in the name of "peace," they undermine the most important condition of peace, which is f*ck with us and you are dead.

We saw this backward approach to economics in its naked form in communist countries, but it it is also happening in virtually all of the socialist countries of western Europe, which have stagnant economies and cannot sustain their huge government outlays for various welfare programs. The more progressive they become, the further behind they fall, not just economically but spiritually.

Likewise, countries that have abandoned socialist doctrine, such as India and Israel, have experienced phenomenal growth (imagine what an economic and technological powerhouse tiny Israel would be if it didn’t have to exhaust so much of its resources defending itself from Islamic barbarians).

What is the real end of history? How do we measure actual progress? Again, progress -- which is relative -- can only be measured in terms of an absolute, whether it is explicit or implicit. In the purely horizontal world of secular progressives, I suppose it can mean only one thing -- material equality, as if it were somehow possible for everyone to be above average. But by definition, half the population is below average in whatever it is you are measuring. Therefore, to enforce equality in the name of progress might be fine for the lamb but is tyranny for the lion. No wonder “job one” of the Democratic party is converting people into lambs, otherwise known as victims.

And once you have created a victim you have created a monster, because you have undermined the legitimacy of the whole system, and thereby santioned the expression of righteous violence. In fact, righteous violence is obviously justified under a corrupt and dehumanizing tyranny. But the absurd message of a Barack Obama or John Edwards or Joe Biden is that I made, it and neither can you!, or I love this great country, and you shouldn't either! Progressives say one thing while giving a wink and a green light to the expression of primitive impulses of existential envy and revenge.

The most important victims for the Democratic party are blacks, for the Democrats would no longer be a viable party in something like 26 states if they did not garner 90% of the black vote. So naturally they were against welfare reform in particular and black progress in general, for if blacks break free of the Democrats, it's over for them. There are simply not enough tenured idiots to sustain a political party.

The left is against any policy that actually reduces the number of victims that can be both created and then rescued by progressives. This also explains why they are against school choice, for it is obviously neccessary to maintain an intellectually crippled population that adheres to "progressivism" even after biological maturity has occurred (for progressivism is probably a normal condition for the ahistorical and emotion-driven adolescent psyche -- see dailykos or huffingtonpost for details). And they are especially enthusiastic about undermining the institution of marriage, since single mothers and bitter feminists are other key constituencies.

And this also explains the implicit -- and sometimes explicit -- alliance of progressives and Islamists, for “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The Islamists wish to march backward into the future, while the left wishes to march forward into the past. Different route, same end. Especially after the Islamist allahgator eats the progressives last. And then sheds q'rocodile tears.


julie said...

"I love this great country, and you shouldn't either!"

jwm said...

Here's some compassionate progressivism for you. It seems that the unfortunates of south Los Angeles (formerly known as South Central, but they changed the name because it was rasciss) can't feed themselves properly, so the city government stepped in to put things right.
Fast food restaurant ban in So. LA

Glad they're out there looking out for us!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Van said...

"In the west we have two divergent political movements that would seem to define themselves in terms of their historical ends, “progressives” and “conservatives.” The progressive obviously believes in the a priori sanctity of the word “progress,” as if it is self-justifying. But there are many kinds of progress -- for example, a progressive disease that has an inevitable end state called “death.” More often than not, what the progressive means by “progress” is merely change, agitation, rebellion, or the bracing thrill of falling. "

I'm reading a, so far, very interesting book called "Empires of Trust", sub-titled "How Rome Built - and America Is building - a New World". I normally skip over the 'America is the new Rome' books, most are so selective in their comparisons, equivocations and evasions as to seem as if Ray wrote them. This one caught my eye, however, because of a blurb by Victor Davis Hanson (who also usually dismisses such comparisons by pointing out the inappropriate comparisons, equivocations and evasions) "A much needed reassessment of the now hackneyed view that we are simply grasping Romans - and thus are doomed to suffer the same imperial decadence. Thomas Madden shows us a different Rome that established security and prosperity - and trust - winning the hearts and minds of millions in the Mediterranean world. Likewise the United States has become powerful abroad due to its marriage of force with credibility and the rule of law. An original thesis, lucidly argued - and timely in an uncanny fashion", and I'm finding that to be true.

The part that applies to today's discussion of the Proregressives, is this, where he's talking about Adams influential 3 volume set "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America", that Rome was very much in the minds of the Founders who were well versed in its history, and sought to emulate it's virtues and avoid it's errors and vices,

"Yet Rome fell. Adams knew that well enough and he was determined that the same thing would not happen to the United States. More specifically, he worried about the fall of the Republic in the first century BC, when the rise of military strongmen led to the creation of the Principate, wherein one man ruled. Through the eyes of Polybius, Sallust, Livy, and Cicero, Adams and his generation had watched the freedom and moral virtue of the Roman Republic turn into the tyranny and excess of the Roman Empire. And they had a pretty good idea what had led to it. Even while the Republic was still in good shape, Polybius had predicted that it would collapse as a result of its own successes. More wealth would make the people less willing to serve and more demanding of their government. Politicians would then step in to give them what they wanted, pitting one group against another for their own political benefit. In the end, Polybius predicted, the constitution would be overturned in the name of freedom and democracy, which was simply another way of saying mob rule."

The Founders sought two things, One being that the Individual American would be secure in his Rights and Property, and Two, that America would NOT become a Democracy, because the surest way to ensure that the people would lose their Rights, was to enable "The People" to demand whatever they wanted. The leftists have been pushing for over a century, the idea that we are a 'Democracy', that the mark of an acceptable political process, was that it be 'democratic'.

We were designed as a Republic, with a very well defined Hierarchy of separated powers, and layered bodies of the Executive, Judicial and most importantly, the Legislative with the Senate separated from the People, stable and on top, and the House made up of and responsive to the People, whose actions had to pass up through the Senate and then the Executive, and as developed, with the Judicial as a last check upon all (note 'check', not an active agent).

The Progressives (which predominate among the left, but are present in the right as well) are determined to destroy the Republic, in order to establish their 'we know better' nanny-tyranny of 'neighborliness'. All else, is only, and has always been, means towards that end.

chandler said...


You have really uncovered the POWER formula here: 1) you create the victims 2) you rescue them and then, 3) they vote for you. I remember growing up outside of Detroit when blacks were eager to succeed by the rules of the market place. There was no racial anger when I was young. We could walk safely through any section of Detroit. Flash forward forty years and I'm in a seminar where a black person stands up and says that anger over slavery is in her "at the cellular level." Well, it wasn't in her grandmother. So those cells have been INJECTED! By whom? Maybe by leftists with white guilt and race hustlers like Jesse Jackson and the "Black Muslims." Now we have this victim virus spread by the media and Hollywood films and the educational system. A formidable set of bio-weopons to go against.

But this blog of yours leads the way so thank you ... you probably can't realize the influence you now have, and it can't be measured in site visits and other sterile numbers...those clicks can't measure how far and wide we readers of yours are CARRYING THE MESSAGE.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, it is so blindingly obvious. The black family was one of the stronger institutions -- which it had to be -- prior to leftist do-gooders getting their grubby hands on it. Now they need to rescue them from the damage they caused. A 50 year war on poverty, with no exit strategy in sight.

Van said...

"Nor do they ever think before stage one, and examine the true reasons for the "problems of the now," most of which can only be resolved by a transformation in values from below, not a president from above."

Ain't it the truth. Which of course becomes easier to get away with as people are educastrated into thinking there is no self, no such thing as choice, and no real difference between right and wrong actions to choose (just ignore that) to do.

Van said...

"Likewise, by appeasing terrorists in the name of "peace," they undermine the most important condition of peace, which is f*ck with us and you are dead."

Heh-heh-heh... also the most fundamental understanding for Law.

julie said...

Chuck Norris Fact #2: "There is no 'ctrl' button on Chuck Norris's computer. Chuck Norris is always in control."

matthew said...

Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous 1962 analysis pointed out that the American black family was already in collapse. Can't blame everything on progressives.

But at ANY point, in order for 'help' to be helpful, it does have to have a goal of training self-sufficiency, i.e. teaching a man to fish... Welfare failed because it didn't build self-sufficiency and create opportunity, but supported a minimal level of poverty without the right incentives for improvement.

I live in Israel, where the infinite blank welfare checks written by the world for Palestinian 'refugees' for the last 60 years have not just perpetuated but badly worsened the problems. 'Refugee' camps don't even pretend to abide by the UN's own rules about terrorists, about job training, about legitimate accounting...

matthew said...

Van, thank you for the 'Empires of Trust' review. I have far more respect for the founding fathers and for the rights I took for granted as an American by birth, now that I live in Israel where rights are not absolute. (Of course America in the Civil War and World Wars found that few rights are absolute in wartime or crisis.)

There ARE some fundamental principles-- expressed in even such minor events as fighting a parking ticket-- that are essential to basic freedom. Does the gov't have arbitrary power over you? Do you have recourse? Is there due process, or accountability? Can elected officials be recalled or defeated in a timely manner? Is the path to power for different points of view equally open?

Both America and Israel fail on many of these points, these days... The only major modern polity I can think of that was a true success of large-scale democracy was the Iroquois confederacy, at least until about 1769.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Chandler, the scary thing is that the whole "client creation" ploy has a 50% share of the US population, apparently.

It all collapses once we pass that benchmark, when the takers outpace the givers.

hoarhey said...

"Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous 1962 analysis pointed out that the American black family was already in collapse. Can't blame everything on progressives."

Uhh, who atarted the Welfare State which threw personal respomsibility out the window, established welfare as an entitlement and began the social decline if not the Regressives who controlled Congress, if not the White House for 40 years?

Just because the libs change their title every few years after people catch on to them doesn't mean they change.

john said...

Great post Bob,
In my simplistic view, the real difference between the Left and conservatives is their respective belief in others as incapable or capable. I think that in a modern sense you can replace Marx's "oppressed" with "incapable". When you are incapable you can no longer be held accountable. Isn't that the bases for for all Liberal polices, avoiding accountability at any cost? Conservatives are "evil" because they consider others, like Black Americans, capable and worthy of the same accountability applied to Whites.

Tina West said...

It looks like there's a lot of preaching to the choir here, so I'm coming in with my heathen ways.
At many places on the Internet, this same article has been written with the word "Liberal" exchanged for "Conservative."
The moment we divide "us" against "them," we start blaming the other side for the country's problems. And for every bleeding heart liberal complaining about the right-wing media, there's a Bible-thumping conservative bitching about the liberal media. Everyone thinks he's getting screwed because we've polarized each other. It's not them. It's not us. It's not the Dems. It's not the Republicans. It's not the Left. It's not the Right. It's everybody. Each individual making choices that lead to suffering and then looking for someone else to blame when the going gets tough. And, as evidenced by the takeover of Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the bailout of AIG, we can no longer argue that a lack of accountability is exclusively a liberal trait.

John said...

Tina, thoughtful yet I feel you miss the mark. Much of the current mortgage crisis comes from giving home loans to people incapable of the behaviors necessary to own an maintain a home.
There is nothing Conservative about a bailout of any type.
As far as switching labels please show me the Conservative equivalent of: Affimartive Action, Grade Inflation, No fault divorce, Bilingual education, Gun Control, Abortion, or any of the "isims" that are used prevent any critical discussion of the failures of certain special interest groups.

Tina West said...

I think you miss my point which is:
The problems of this country can be put on a whole slew of people running the gamut from Left to Right. But this is the time in the election when our leaders tell us, "It's the other party's fault." I believe it is that divisiveness, rather than either party's values, that "prevent any critical discussion" of any kind.
What I meant by switching labels is that a Liberal blogger can take issues like Affirmative Action, Gun Control, etc., and use his words to demonstrate how they've been good for this country. And he will believe he's just as right as Bob does. Both sides have some things to teach the other, but the blame game is not the road to that education.