What’s So Progressive About Progressivism?

All ‘progress’, I was thinking this morning, seems to involve diminution. It’s something that’s perhaps seen clearest in modern architecture, where all – or almost all – ornamentation has been stripped away, and buildings are minimal boxes with windows in them. Or just glass boxes, with even the walls stripped out. And inside them, the interiors are equally devoid of ornament, with plain walls – usually white – and plain floors, and plain chairs and tables. And if there is any art inside these interiors, it is increasingly abstract and minimal and monochromatic: a green square with a red dot on it.

If the process continues, we may expect that architecture will completely vanish, and buildings will become invisible.

The same thing has been happening with clothing, that other form of architecture. Clothes have become simpler. And people wear less of them. Eventually, perhaps they will wear nothing at all.

A few days ago I saw a TV set which actually had vanished, and become a transparent sheet of glass when not in operation. Perhaps the final stage of this evolutionary process would be that it would remain transparent even when in operation: the minimal TV set would not only be invisible, but there would be nothing to see on it.

Perhaps the entire thrust of Western civilisation has always been one of simplifying and diminishing and minimising. Modern science attempts to explain the world with the fewest possible concepts – mass, length, and time -, and in so doing replaces elaborate systems of religious belief with something abstract and minimal.

And smoking bans entail a further diminution, entirely in keeping with the minimalist direction of progress. Smoke was another inessential item that could be stripped out, and so it was. In time, no doubt, they will also strip out the inessential wines and beers and spirits as well. And the music. And the quite unnecessary conversation. And finally they will dispense with all the inessential pubs and bars and cafes themselves. They will vanish.

Contrast that with the architecture of the Parthenon, with its sculpted frieze (now held in the British museum), or the Temple of Amun at Karnak, with its numerous sculpted gods and pharaohs, every inch of it covered in hieroglyphs. In the past, simplicity was only to be found in peasant dwellings and clothes: the rich wore elaborate costumes, and lived in sumptuous decorated palaces.

But as the inessential and unnecessary is stripped away, meaning is stripped away along with it. Modern art and architecture is increasingly meaningless, faceless, devoid of content. Smoke-free pubs lose their ambience.

So do smoke-free cinemas. Cinemas used to be social places in which people talked animatedly between shows, and ate and drank and smoked throughout, with the projection lights shining through a haze onto the screen. I stopped going to cinemas when, long before pub smoking bans, they introduced cinema smoking bans (and probably alcohol and talking bans). Cinemas were stripped down to their barest essential purpose, of watching movies. Everything else, including the slight thrill of anticipation that accompanied seeing any new movie, was excised.

Political progressivism also entails stripping away the inessential, and creating an administrative state in which people are simply kept alive, with the bare minimum of food and shelter and clothing. Our lives must be stripped of inessential tobacco, alcohol, fat, sugar, salt. We will live on bread and water in barren rooms inside faceless buildings. We will be prisoners.

What’s probably most disgusting to progressives about someone like Donald Trump is that he is quite unnecessarily rich, and flaunts his wealth in huge buildings, and large private jets (why can’t he have a little Lear jet, like other rich people?), and sprawling golf courses. He wears ties that are two unnecessary inches longer than everyone else’s. Most of the rich have learned to keep their wealth respectably out of sight, and to live lives as apparently minimal as everyone else’s. Not The Donald. He is a living affront to the ascetic minimalism of this progressive era.

But is this sort of ‘progress’ really progress? Isn’t it more like being gradually returned to a state of poverty? Isn’t wealth naturally expansive and loud and decorative? If we really were rich, wouldn’t we live in buildings as elaborately decorated as the Parthenon or the Temple of Amun, and wouldn’t we wear elaborate costumes, and eat and drink and smoke the widest variety of substances? Isn’t all wealth inessential? It is as if, as Christianity has lost its institutional hold over us, we have been invaded by a new army of secular, self-flagellating, self-denying monks preaching vows of poverty and chastity and silence.

About Frank Davis

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20 Responses to What’s So Progressive About Progressivism?

  1. So do smoke-free cinemas
    I have always wondered why Big Brewski didn’t take a lesson from the Cinemas and oppose the Smoking Verbot. Even when I was a teen in the mid 80’s most towns seemed to have a cinema. Of course the increasing numbers of TVs at home had pretty much killed off the ‘Pathe’ audience of our parents generation and the Saturday morning Childrens was dying too, thanks to bloody Noel Edmonds and Robinson Crusoe (although the Children’s Saturday Morning showing with it’s BFF film , full of good wholesome clean fun, continued here longer than most places, i used to go as a child in the late 70s) by that time. But a lot of people seem to think that the decline in Cinema’s was due to TVs and then videos-followed by DVDs. Yet they forget that,even to this day, new films were almost always shown at cinemas first and the video release was later. If you wanted, and want, to go see the latest Jean Claude Van Damme you had to go to the flicks.
    I think the reason why so many cinemas died, assisted by ‘Piracy’, was because they were simply no longer ‘comfortable’. A large chunk of the population still smoked and how many smokers can really relax for an hour and a half and watch a film without a smoke? Smokers simply found in general, it was more comfortable to wait for the video release and watch it at home. A ‘smokey-drinking-looky’ . As always there seems to have been a blue hazy elephant in the room.
    I dare say ASH also promised Cinema owners that numbers would increase when they told , what, a 3rd of the adult population they were no longer going to be made to feel welcome. And bare in mind back then , in smoking terms, 16 was ‘adult’. Yes the very audience the cinemas craved, the audience that had money in it’s pockets and despite videos still went to see every new Stallone film. I recall watching ‘Ghost Busters’ at the cinema and the place was packed, standing room only, all under 18s. I think the entire school was there. NB that wasn’t on the first night showing either. How many late teens went and saw ‘Grease’ multiply times?
    Once smokers got out of the cinema habit, that was it . Audiences shrank, local advertising went elsewhere Pah-pah-pah -paaa-PAH!

  2. My bad. It was CFF, Childrens Film Foundation that was the stalwart of the Saturday morning cinema, not BFF.

  3. Smoking Lamp says:

    I fondly remember smoking in cinemas. That went first then came the bans in bars. Now they are aiming at comprehensive bans restricting smoking in apartments, all outdoor spaces and eventually everywhere resulting in total prohibition. For example Beverly Hills, cCalifornia is now looking at imposing a total ban inside their city limits. There is some push back but not enough. Macau for the time being has halted additional bans on smoking in casinos. This will continue until the underlying totalitarian nature of tobacco control’s ‘progressivism’ is exposed and tobacco control is destroyed.

  4. Neil McIntee says:

    Used to go to the flicks three or four times a week in the 70s; once the smoking ban kicked-in haven’t been back. They obviously don’t want my custom…

  5. garyk30 says:

    ” minimalist direction of progress.”

    Since that means no more grotesquely ornate Gothic cathedrals, I can live with progress.

    Especially since that means hot running water, central air and heating, indoor plumbing, reliable refrigeration, and the internet.

  6. garyk30 says:

    I wish science was ‘minimalistic’.

    Here is a simple question:
    what is energy?
    The answer to that is a little unsatisfying.

    There’s this quantity, that takes a lot of forms (physical movement, electromagnetic fields, being physically high in a gravitational well, chemical potential, etc., etc.). We can measure each of them, and we know that the total value between all of the various forms stays constant, and just like every other every constant, measurable thing it gets a name; energy.

    If fusion in the Sun releases energy*, then the amount released is E = (Δm)c2 (where Δm is the change in mass between the hydrogen input and helium output and c is the speed of light).
    If that energy travels from the Sun to the Earth as light, then each photon of that light carries E=hν (Planck’s constant times frequency), of it.
    If those photons then fall onto a solar panel, that light energy can be converted into electrical energy.
    If that electrical energy runs a motor, then the energy used is E = VIT (voltage times current times time).
    If that motor is used to compress a spring, then the energy stored in the spring is E=0.5kA2 (where k is a spring constant, and A is the distance it’s compressed).
    If that spring tosses a stone into the air, then at the top of its flight it will have converted all of that energy into gravitational potential, in the amount of E = mgh (mass of the stone times the acceleration of gravity times height).
    When it falls back to the ground that energy will become kinetic energy again, E=0.5mv2 (where m is the stone’s mass and v is its velocity).
    If that stone falls into water and stirs it up, then the water will heat up by an amount given by E = C(ΔT) (where C is the heat capacity of water, and ΔT is the change in temperature).

    The “same energy” is being used at every stage of this example (assuming perfect efficiency).

  7. waltc says:

    This is so beautifully observed with everything encompassed that I think I’ll copy it to read again at leisure. The Modern has increasingly become Maoist, hasn’t it. . Didn’t Mao openly decree that everything “unnecessary” should be stripped away? as counter-revolutionary? Everyone therefore dressed alike and was supposed to be alike. A functionary of The Machine. Shades of Fritz Lang.

    i find most modern architecture discomfiting and dehumanizing. As tho, when you enter those buildings, they take away your name and give you a number. I feel relief when I walk certain streets in the West Village with their carriage houses and red brick and green shutters and human scale. Or when I look at the few remaining towers with limestone and gargoyles. Like the looming streets of Leningrad, the purposely impersonal nature of modern architecture seems designed to make the individual feel insignificant. At the least, its another example of the we-know-best Expert claiming the field. (The old Museum of Modern Art here was terrific, a user-friendly place about art and its viewers ; the new one feels like walking through an airport and, oh yes, there seem to be some pictures on the walls…)

    We were thinking of seeing a particular movie but learned it was only playing at one of those barren multiplexes, like watching a film on the top level of a six-story parking garage, so on those grounds alone we decided against it. And just as most of the small street level movie houses have closed, so have the small quiet restaurants and friendly bars.

    It all starts to seem anti-human.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Didn’t Mao openly decree that everything “unnecessary” should be stripped away?

      I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised. A year or so back I was reading a book about him, but ground to a halt part way through it. Perhaps I should go back to it.

  8. jaxthefirst says:

    Only today, I was out walking the dog with my OH, and part of our walk took us down a very, very posh street in our area. We noted with some surprise that, squeezed in between many of the beautiful, quirky, interesting 1920s-30s built houses which used to comprise this street, were what can only be described as utterly hideous eyesores, described, no doubt, by estate agents as “ultra-modern, luxury homes.” In that road, it’s unlikely that any of these monstrosities would sell for anything less than a couple of million quid, but what amazed us was that anyone with that sort of cash at their disposal could possibly want to buy one of these tacky, office-block lookalikes. They’re about as homely-looking as the Arctic in the middle of winter with a snowstorm raging, and they’re about as classy as Katie Price’s wedding dress, and yet every one of them was occupied, with the obligatory four-wheel drive car parked outside and the equally obligatory huge wrought-iron, remote-controlled gates (also very tacky).

    It’s really worrying when someone who’s clearly got the ability to do well enough to have sufficient money to buy one of these places at the same time seems to lack the ability to realise that they’re buying a load of badly thought-out tat which I confidently predict, like the “modern” inner city tower blocks of the 1960s and 70s, will, in 20 years’ time be regarded as hideously dated, thoroughly unappealing and will probably only be sellable for the value of the land they stand on, so that they can be demolished and replaced with something much nicer. Some people simply have more money than sense, I suspect. They certainly have more money than good taste, that’s for sure.

    • Frank Davis says:

      On the other hand, it’s also rather surprising how places that used to be pretty much slums become much-sought-after, upmarket districts. I was reading recently about an area in London’s Notting Hill which had been a slum, with 5 people living to a room, and which was now a millionaire row, without having been re-developed at all: they were the exact same buildings. Although I imagine the millionaires weren’t living 5 to a room in them…

      • nisakiman says:

        Yes, I lived there in the late 60s / early 70s. I had a tatty bedsit just off the Portobello Road which I paid four quid a week for. Those houses are now worth squillions.

        • Frank Davis says:

          I think the documentary I saw was about how it – one single street – was some time before the 60s. It might even have been the 30s. The people living there were very poor. One of them took part in the documentary, and described what it had been like. All the houses were now owned by millionaires.

    • garyk30 says:

      I wonder if there are, anymore, craftsmen available to build ‘interesting looking’ home.

      Pre-fab seems to be all that is available.

  9. magnetic01 says:

    ….In this way they might gain some idea from which direction an attack on Tobacco Control might come, and get their tanks deployed in defensive positions before the blow landed. The Jacob Grier article would be followed up by masterly refutations from a variety of Tobacco Control luminaries, perhaps including Stanton Glantz.


    On cue:
    Smokefree Laws Cut Heart Attacks (and other bad things): Look At All The Evidence

    Don’t know about “masterly”.

  10. slugbop007 says:

    I would dearly love to hear one day that Stanton Glantz had been abducted and disappeared without a trace. What a crooked, slimy, phony that man is. A closet Nazi who would have fit in well with Adolf and company. Or Mao, for that matter. Any studies that come from UCSF should not be taken seriously, they get their operating funds from disreputable sources.


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