Monday, January 16, 2017

The Myth of Progress

This was progress to some people
Over at his wonderfully iconoclastic Archdruid Report, David Michael Greer last week posted a lengthy piece on The Embarrassments of Chronocentrism. In it, he basically makes the case that merely because things are different today than they were in the past, that does not make them quantitatively "better," nor does it imply some sort of evolutionary imperative towards a given social or moral order that just so happens to be the one that predominates among a particular political subculture today. It's well worth reading the whole thing (including the several delicious examples he gives of early 20th century "progressives" taking away rights for certain minorities that are now sacred cows among today's left), but here are a few choice bits:
Those of my readers who followed the late US presidential election may remember Hillary Clinton’s furious response to a heckler at one of her few speaking gigs:  “We aren’t going back. We’re going forward.” Underlying that outburst is the belief system I’ve just sketched out: the claim that history has a direction, that it moves in a linear fashion from worse to better, and that any given political choice—for example, which of the two most detested people in American public life is going to become the nominal head of a nation in freefall ten days from now—not only can but must be flattened out into a rigidly binary decision between “forward” and “back.” ...
Chronocentrism is pandemic in our time. Historians have a concept called “Whig history;” it got that moniker from a long line of English historians who belonged to the Whig, i.e., Liberal Party, and who wrote as though all of human history was to be judged according to how well it measured up to the current Liberal Party platform. ...
It needs to be remembered in this context that the word “evolution” does not mean “progress.” Evolution is adaptation to changing circumstances, and that’s all it is. When people throw around the phrases “more evolved” and “less evolved,” they’re talking nonsense, or at best engaging in a pseudoscientific way of saying “I like this” and “I don’t like that.” 
We see this constantly and consistently in the bleating of the alt-left within neopaganism, especially within the Marxist crowd, that their political or social beliefs are somehow inherently better because they are newer than older political or social beliefs. The trajectory of history is of course part and parcel of the Marxist philosophy these pro-genocidal authoritarian losers embrace, but it sees full flower in discussions about folkishness, democracy, nationalism, and the like.

Bringers of progress
Stuck as they are in 1930's and 40's historical models, these Marxists (and anarchists, and whateverthefuckelse they want to call themselves) usually apply the blanket label "fascist" to such things. Even though, ironically, fascism (including, dare I say, National Socialism) is more properly a phenomenon of the left. But they generally mean traditionalism, which is by definition the antithesis of progressivism, which is the philosophy of "if it's newer, it must be better," that, also ironically, fuels the modern consumerist culture which so many of them claim to abhor.

That flies in the face of the traditionalist view, which enjoys a definite overlap with modern folkishness, in terms of preferring local to global as a general rule, family structures that promote reproduction are preferable to family structures that intentionally thwart reproduction, acknowledging the fact that biological differences between men and women (both psychological and physical) are real and not something to be ignored or suppressed, democracy isn't necessarily the most preferable form of government, representative art is preferable to abstract art, and most certainly that individualism is preferable to collectivism.

It might not be 100% optimally efficient,
but does that make it "wrong"?
But note always my use of the word "prefer" rather than "require." It's the left that is always trying to force other people to conform to some idealistic vision. And Utopia is always just one execution away.

I'm not by any stretch of the imagination claiming that all of those things are necessarily inherent in folkishness, which by my definition is simply the acknowledgement that race and ancestry is relevant to religion, and some religious faiths are inherently folkish in nature (although there are of course specific exceptions), just as some are inherently universalist in nature. Asatru, most forms of Hinduism, Judaism, and Amerindian religion fall into the former category, while Christianity, Islam, Scientology, Wicca, and neopaganism fall into the latter category. Unsurprisingly, claims of absolute truth generally come from the latter half as well.

However, there is a bit of confusion between, and a distinct need and opportunity to explore, traditions that are Christian in nature (due to Christianity's hegemony over Europe over the last millenia and a half or so, depending on the locale), rather than, as I might have it, truly traditional Germanic views that predate Christianity.

Of course, this isn't to mean that older is always better. That's just as wrong as newer is always better. But there are a lot of older things that don't deserve to be discarded just because they're old, just as there are newer things that deserve to be embraced. Just because I approve of flush toilets, vaccinations, and space colonies doesn't mean I have to also approve of the destruction of human biological diversity, Socialism, mass production, and the suppression of individual liberty to prevent someone else being offended.


  1. In trying to move toward a non-binary worldview of far more richness and nuance, and because the terms "left/right," "liberal/conservative," and others just don't suffice, I'm adopting the following adjectives: traditionalist, as opposed to progressive, conservative, or reactionary; and culturist, as opposed to globalist, nationalist, and racist ... let's see if they work better ...

  2. You are the first (as far as I know) to call them the alt-left. I like that. It says it all perfectly.