I think that ‘progressives’ always have some ideal future towards which they wish to progress. But the flip side of such progressivism is that progressives hate the present, and that’s why they want to change it into something else.
So the ‘progressive’ goal of a ‘smoke-free’ world actually grows out of a hatred of smoke. It starts with hating something.
And the more radically ‘progressive’ you are, the more you hate the world the way it currently is.
And some people seem to hate absolutely everything. It often seems to me, for example, that Greens hate not just all human industry, but also the entire human race.
And I suppose that the opposite of a progressive is a conservative who likes the way the world is, and therefore sees no reason to change it. And an ultra-conservative is someone who loves the way the world, and wouldn’t change anything at all.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been much of a progressive. Because I’ve never much hated the way the world is. I’ve instead always been interested in it. Rather than condemn it, and make plans for what to replace it with, I have instead tended to wonder how it came to be the way it is, and come up with my own explanations.
So when, for example, I got thinking about the ancient institution of slavery, it wasn’t to condemn it, and be glad that it had been swept away by right-minded progressives, but to wonder why it had ever arisen in the first place. And my explanation was that it had arisen in antiquity because the only way back then of living a life of leisure was to force other people to do all the work. And if we don’t have slavery now, it’s not because we’re right-minded progressives, but because much of the burden of work has been passed over to machines – ranging from steam engines through internal combustion engines to electric motors and now computers. But for them, the institution of slavery would still exist. Which it did in the old, pre-industrial US South in about 1850, before it fought and lost a civil war with the newly-industrialised North. It would have maybe saved much blood if the Northern industrialists had invented machines to pick cotton and cut sugar cane, and sold them to their Southern neighbours to free the slaves that worked the cotton fields. But instead, the Northerners were seemingly only liberated by their new machines to become right-minded progressives, and to force their new values upon their Southern kinfolk.
I doubt if many Americans regret the demise of slavery. But progressivism doesn’t always make life better. In the post-WW2 era in Britain, much of the old stock of housing was torn down and replaced by tower blocks. This was another piece of progressivism. And it grew out of a hatred of the old back-to-back ‘slums’. Whether the ‘progressive’ new tower blocks were any better was actually rather doubtful, because they tore up communities and created a perfect environment for muggers in their corridors and walkways and malfunctioning lifts. And so 20 years after they’s been built, the tower blocks started being demolished, and replaced with low-rise housing which looked much like the old back-to-back terraces they’d replaced. The tower blocks might have looked good on the drawing board, but they didn’t work as functioning communities the way their predecessors had.
I think that the wave of smoking bans currently sweeping the world is another piece of dysfunctional progressivism. It may have looked good on the drawing board, and so much cleaner and tidier and healthier than the smoke-filled drinking dens that it set out to sweep away, but – much like the 50s and 60s tower blocks – it shattered communities and bankrupted tens of thousands of pubs and clubs and cafes, as well as making pariahs of a quarter or more of the population. In short, it didn’t work. It did far more harm than good. And when this finally gets recognised, an attempt will be made to reconstruct the convivial culture that the ‘progressives’ destroyed.
And maybe it is beginning to be recognised that the UK smoking ban was a disaster. UKIP’s Nigel Farage is certainly no fan of the UK smoking ban, and nor is his latest UKIP convert, Douglas Carswell. And as support for UKIP climbs, it would seem that the British people are swinging away from progressivism and towards conservatism. Because UKIP is really just a conservative party, made up of people who liked things the way they used to be (when we were a sovereign state, and controlled our own borders, and people could smoke in pubs, etc, etc.), and who had never really wanted to change everything.
I was never much of a progressive, but these days I seem to be becoming more and more conservative. Because I also liked things the way they used to be (certainly before 1 July 2007), and I never really wanted to change them either. So I vote UKIP now, and will do so for the foreseeable future.
And I’ve always thought the British people are fairly conservative in temperament. And maybe that conservatism is beginning to re-surface. But if so, it’s doing so in a political climate where all the UK mainstream political parties (and the media too) are thoroughly progressivist, including David Cameron’s Conservative party.
But if the British people are swinging conservative, that will force all the ‘progressive’ mainstream parties to (unwillingly) also become more conservative. It’s already beginning to happen in small ways with Cameron’s Conservatives.
But maybe a few of these ‘progressives’ will start to be asked why they always want to change everything, and why they are so full of hate for the world in which they find themselves.