I woke up this morning remembering that Bill Clinton used Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop in his presidential campaign. It goes;
Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow,
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here,
It’ll be better than before,
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.
And I thought that maybe he chose this because ‘progressives’ are very much oriented towards the future, which they usually see as much rosier than the present or the past. They want to ‘progress’ towards that future. They quite literally never stop thinking about tomorrow, which will soon be here, better than before.
I think there’s a problem with being future-oriented in this way, and it’s that you never live in the present, in the now. Because when the future becomes the present, you’ll be looking to yet another future, which also will soon be here, better than today. And so on. You never get to enjoy life right now. Not ever.
The other thing that goes with being future-oriented like this is that you’re always pushing to make the future come quicker. You’re impatient. And if you’re sufficiently impatient, you may even become a revolutionary, just so as to speed things up a bit.
I once read somewhere that, back around the time of the Russian revolution, many Russians were impatient for a future which would see Russia become a modern industrial democracy. If they’d just waited, it would have happened of its own accord. But they couldn’t wait. And the future that they brought upon themselves was that of Stalin’s gulags, which probably wasn’t quite what they’d been dreaming of.
Modern progressives – who are also future-oriented – also can’t wait for the future that they foresee to be realised. And so they try to legislate it into existence.
Antismoking ‘progressives’ have foreseen a world in which nobody smokes – but rather than wait for it to arrive, they have set about legislating it into existence.
Green ‘progressives’ have foreseen a green, low energy world in which polluting industry has vanished. This isn’t entirely irrational. The more efficiently we use energy, the less of it we’ll need. And it’s possible to see the process of miniaturisation in computing technology, which now can pack into one hand-held device the computing power that needed an air-conditioned building 50 years ago. But rather than wait for it to happen if its own accord, they also have set about legislating it into existence, with carbon taxes and windmills.
And the EU is full of ‘progressives’ who have foreseen a United States of Europe, and they’ve set about legislating that into existence as well.
None of them will just let things happen of their own accord, and in their own time. They feel compelled to make things happen, just like Lenin and every other revolutionary.
But trying to make things happen is like coming up behind someone who is walking along a street, and pushing them to make them run. And this brings resistance. People don’t like to be pushed to do things that they were going to do anyway. And that’s one reason why, when people push to make things happen, they very frequently don’t happen at all, or the opposite happens.
And that’s what’s likely to happen with smoking bans, and energy conservation, and the EU. The attempts to force them into existence, to legislate them into existence, will result in unforeseen outcomes, and an unexpected future.
Nevertheless, ‘progressives’ see themselves as morally superior to non-progressives, because they regard themselves as embodying or exemplifying the future, particularly if they don’t smoke, and drive an eco-friendly car, and think of themselves as Europeans rather than natives of some obsolete nation state.
Because in their moral universe, the future is deemed good, and the past deemed bad, and to the extent that they have reached the future earlier than anyone else, they are morally superior to them.
I can imagine a world in which people don’t smoke, because they don’t want to smoke. I can also imagine a world in which a great deal can be done using very little energy. And I can even imagine a United States of Europe. But I can only imagine them if they are the result of people’s free choice. If they are forced into existence, I can’t last.
But I can also imagine (much more readily) a world in which people continue to smoke. And one in which they use more and more energy, rather than less and less. And I can imagine a Europe that has become a thousand city states just as easily as I can see a monolithic European superstate.
And in neither case can I ever say that I have seen the future. I haven’t. I’ve just seen one or two possible futures.
Nobody can see the future. And for anyone to imagine that they can is a conceit. And of course, ‘progressives’ are very conceited. They think they know better.