I’ve been mouthing off about “progressives” and post-modernism and sort of ranting that they are bad and bad for the country. I have received more than a few emails chiding me for being anti-progress and never really explaining why I am against “thinking outside the box” so to speak.
I’m against neither true progress nor new thinking. What I am against is supporting any political movement or ideology that is not based on facts and rooted in logic.
I do believe that at one time, there were people called “progressives” who really wanted progress, for mankind to do big things and to achieve greatness on behalf and for the benefit of mankind. There are people who still believe that but they can no longer be called progressive. Like using the word “liberal” in conjunction with a modern Democrat, the word “progressive” now means just the opposite.
“Progressives” have become fatalists, people who believe that every action taken, unless it is done in a collectivist fashion or by government will result in doom and destruction. In the late 60’s, it was Paul Erlich and his “population bomb” that was going to starve the world unless we did “something”, then in the 70’s it was a new ice age as reported in this 1974 Time magazine article:
Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.
The funniest part of the Time article is this dénouement:
The earth’s current climate is something of an anomaly; in the past 700,000 years, there have been at least seven major episodes of glaciers spreading over much of the planet. Temperatures have been as high as they are now only about 5% of the time. But there is a peril more immediate than the prospect of another ice age. Even if temperature and rainfall patterns change only slightly in the near future in one or more of the three major grain-exporting countries—the U.S., Canada and Australia —global food stores would be sharply reduced. University of Toronto Climatologist Kenneth Hare, a former president of the Royal Meteorological Society, believes that the continuing drought and the recent failure of the Russian harvest gave the world a grim premonition of what might happen. Warns Hare: “I don’t believe that the world’s present population is sustainable if there are more than three years like 1972 in a row.”
I would laugh if it weren’t so tragic.
In the 80’s it was pollution and “no more nukes” – and the “progressives” just knew that mean old Ronald Reagan was just going to provoke the USSR so he would have an excuse to toss the nuclear football – the 90’s we ushered in radical environmentalism and we saved the whales, then the double ought’s brought us anthropogenic global warming (now global climate change), now the in the 2010’s we have to submit to one global government or we all are going to die.
The nexus between fatalism and “progressive” ideology occurred the minute that true progressive thought was co-opted by communists and communist ideology, thereby causing the original ideology to lose faith in, and trust of, the individual. They assumed that business could not be trusted to be fair, and to be fair, there were those that weren’t, and they assumed that only government could do “big things” (think FDR). Once they created the image of a benevolent government that was needed to do those “big things”, the problems suddenly became so big and fatal that only larger government, with greater control over its assets – its people – could possibly overcome them.
The problem that I have with “progressives” and their attachment to fatalism is that they are like the boy who cried wolf, none of these “extinction level events” occurred. Even legitimate issues like the rampant industrial pollution were solved by technology developed in the free market.
Because of that fatalism and the solution to every problem being more government, I’m not a fan.
[Note: There will be those who will say that government forced the change on pollution but the EPA was set up by a Republican president, Richard Nixon, with the charter to work with industry to achieve a cleaner environment. Writing in a memo memorializing the inception of the agency, the first administrator, William D. Ruckelshaus stated, “The job that must be done now to restore and preserve the quality of our air, water, and soil can only be accomplished if this new Federal agency works closely with industry and with other levels of government.”]
As far as “new” thinking, I am a fan. What I am not down with is thinking that is not based in fact and reality. Post-modernism has no ties to reality or obeys any rules – or a better description is that post-modernists simply change the rules to fit the situation.
How can a “logic” that is constructed with infinite flexibility be sustained? In order for anything to have meaning in any context, do we not have to anchor our very being with consistent rules and laws? How can a society even exist if it makes up new codes of conduct every morning based on the emotions of the day? Does society not require some sense of constancy to prevent it from devolving into anarchy or chaos?
Think of it in terms of our American monetary system. In this system, we have defined denominations and no matter what part of society you come from, you understand the value of these monetary units – a penny is 1₵, a dime is 25₵, a quarter is 25₵, a half-dollar is 50₵ and a dollar is 100₵, and so on – but this is known and understood that a 1₵ does not equal a dollar and 50₵ does not equal 50 dollars. We know this because it is an established and unquestioned fact – different segments of society cannot assign different values to the money, it is the same for black as it is for white, a rich person’s dollar is not worth more than a poor man’s dollar. This is the basis for our commerce; we count on the stability of those definitions of value to develop our perception of relative value. We expect a $5,000 car to take more money to buy than a 50₵ pack of gum. The stability of the currency rules provide that understanding.
Now suppose that tomorrow morning, society wakes up and decides that the old rules are not fair anymore and the car not costs 50₵ and the pack of gum costs $5,000…and the next day the rules change again, the following day the same. Society starts assigning random worth to our units of currency based on what they feel is “fair” for that day.
How would an economy ever be able to handle that degree of instability? How would anyone ever be able to survive in a monetary and economic system that was unpredictable and untrustworthy?
We couldn’t. The economy would cease to exist.
Just as economic systems rely on consistent definitions of monetary worth, legal, political and social systems also rely on consistent laws, meaning and mores. These are the currency of those latter systems and if there is no consistency in definition of legal and illegal, right and wrong and good and evil, the legal, political and social systems will collapse as surely as the economy in the example above. Post-modernism denies that there are any fixed rules other than “ad hoc” rules that can be redefined and any time, for any reason and based on a whim.
Post-modernists will argue that there are no rules because mankind fails to live up to them. In the Slate review of Stanly Fish’s 1999 book that I mentioned in the post A Rotting Fish, the magazine captures a classic example of this “logic”:
The most troubling essay in the book is called “Mission Impossible.” Here Fish claims that there is no such thing as liberalism, since liberalism’s only way of dealing with those who don’t agree with it is forcibly to exclude them, mostly by calling them mad. It’s an old argument, but Fish makes it new by going back to the source–John Locke–and showing that in order to arrive at the principle of separation of church and state (the bedrock of liberal polity), Locke had to define religion as an internal process, each man’s war “upon his own lusts and vices.” In so doing, says Fish, Locke defines religion away, or at least all religions with strong beliefs and problematic forms of public worship. Locke does acknowledge that in some rare cases churches must be suppressed, but, he says, that’s not a problem–we’ll know which ones to suppress because they will be condemned “by the judgment of all mankind.” Right there, says Fish, Locke undoes his own argument, since “the judgment of all mankind” requires a reigning consensus that doesn’t exist. If it did, Locke wouldn’t have had to invent liberalism. Liberals, rather than practicing tolerance, have by acts of intellectual (and real) violence elevated their own ideas of what will and won’t do to the status of that which is universally right.
Well, broken rules do not mean that the rules are illegitimate. Christians acting in un-Christian manners do not mean that Christianity is wrong and just because an individual is conflicted by morality does not delegitimize that morality. Rather than deal with these problems of logic, post-modernists simply sidestep them by attempting to legitimize a process of going around rather than working to resolve them.
Sound familiar? This is the very “logic” that explains the “progressive” belief in a living and malleable Constitution and the overreach of government power based on expansive “interpretations”.
That is why I rant against post-modernism. It has been mainstreamed into politics via attachment to “progressivism” and is the very reason that “progressive” ideology is the greatest threat to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in America today.
Simply put, American society cannot survive post-modernism.
I ask you, good readers, to consider this: is what I have stated not the same with ideas, ideology and logic? How can society be expected to order itself and to survive under the instability brought about by post-modernist “thought”? If there are no foundational standards, how can anything have meaning? How can a life have meaning? Could this explain why so many people seem to be unable to think independently or critically and will grab for the promised safety of an ideology that claims it will remove their burdens?