So, I think that it’s about time to devise a Back Towards The Locus ideology. It’s a hallmark of every bold statesman – Lenin, Mao, Bush – to leave behind a doctrine people can regret them by. When I’ve typed my last I’d like to think this blog’s spirit can live on (if only through the Wayback Machine). Still, couldn’t I be grouped amongst some modern ideologues? Am I, for example, a “progressive”?
Nowadays politicians are more keen to dub themselves “progressives” than they’d be to assure the world they’re not murderers. Dave and Nick are both progressives; so are Ed and Barry O’. I think we’re all agreed that it sounds nice and optimistic but does it mean anything? Equating it with progressive taxation is dubious as one considers how frequently it’s used to distinguish views on, say, civil liberties, the Gaza conflict or the wages of footballers. Nonetheless, there seem to be consistent trends within our modern-day progressivism. It’s not an ideology nor quite a method. More an attitude: the progressive’s posture, like the revolutionary’s zeal. Here, I think, are its tenets…
- There is a better world to reach.
- Social reform is necessary if we are to reach that world.
I object to most of these assertions as I’ll detail in gratuitously rancorous and stentorian tones (for which forgive me, please – in a past life, I think, I was a Soviet pamphleteer)…
Where’s this bandwagon going again?
Progressives are gradualists but also utopians. Their causes hint towards an overarching ambition but they’re too ostentatiously pragmatic to expound it. Thus we find that buzzwords litter the progressive discourse: “rights”, “justice” and “equality” without much notion of their forms or how and why they’ve been enshrined as claims or values. Wasn’t ruining one term enough? At its root it’s a collective aspiration or, at least, an aspiration for a collective: not bent on securing individual liberty but on an hazy image of a social order and ethic. The progressives should spell out where they’re progressing to; whatever ideologies drive their baby steps into a brave new world. I wouldn’t hitch a ride if I’d no idea of whether I’d like the destination any more than I enjoyed the present.
Couldn’t we go around?
Some of the keenest defenders of the catastrophic climate change hypothesis seem to be no more troubled by the notion than their sceptical opponents. It’s as if, while the latter hold there’s no ravine and stumbles on regardless, the progressive loudly announces its presence but assumes the thing can be passed over in a bound (see also peak oil). I suspect they’re unwilling to admit that nature may define the limits of our progress. Rather, they maintain a faith in politics to lead us through whatever obstacles arise.
This isn’t the way, surely?
Progressives aren’t just gradualists and utopians, they’re damn well utopian in their gradualism: cherishing a touching faith in the political process. This means that their goals are restricted to the ambit of the Parliamentary system; their values seen as being embodied by whichever representatives they feel best uphold them. This is why, for all the qualities that their title evokes, “progressives” are so ignoble. Their focus on distant political manoeuvrements clouds their broader vision. They become grubbily partisan, both in their fixation on negating their supposed opponents and in their quasi-pragmatic tolerance of compromise. For while the progressives might have certain valuable aims the representatives they pin their colours to often don’t: pursuing different agendas or their own self-interest. But a faith in politics demands a faith in its embodiments: thus, they hold their noses and vote Labour; long for more and better Democrats. Ah, poor progressives: too idealistic to be very practical; too political to be revolutionary.
Any bandwagon I’d clamber aboard would have to (a) have a coherent aim, (b) acknowledge the limits imposed by our natural context and (c) be practicable in a manner that ensures that we’re not reliant on the machinations of our representative rascals. Oh, and have a better name. At present I’m a neo-Wilsonian Zeteticist. Undecided, basically.