Why I’m not a progressive

In 2000, The Guardian in a profile reported the event that prompted the junior Roger Scruton to be a conservative with the help of the philosopher’s own words:

Sir Roger Scruton

For Roger Scruton, as for so many of his generation, the Paris riots of May 1968 were the defining political moment of his life. He was in the Latin Quarter when students tore up the cobblestones to hurl at the riot police. His friends overturned cars and uprooted lamp-posts to erect the barricades. Representatives of his own discipline, old philosophers like Marx and new ones like Foucault, were providing the intellectual fuel for the fire raging on the ground.

As he watched the events unfold from his apartment window, and listened to his friends, drunk on revolutionary hope and excitement, Scruton found his own emotions and opinions crystallising. “I suddenly realised that I was on the other side,” he says. “What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilisation against these things. That’s when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down.”

Sir Roger’s reason is as good and lucid of an illustration as to why one should oppose the Left. Not that I have such a experience that so encapsulates the nature of Leftism, but I would like to detail a recent epiphany as to why I reject the synonymous progressivism.

Consider the term “progressive.” People who are progressives identify by being for progress. Duh, I know, but note that to identify by something suggests strong emotions for and fervent belief in it. To identify by progress is to advertise robust attachment for progression. Such strident convictions compel action toward their actualization, nurturing an agent for progress. Being for progress, change, by default, is being against the status quo. Hence, a progressive is someone who actively works to abolish the current state of affairs.

Now, change, in it of itself, is not a terrible thing. There are times when it’s justified. Rather, the fetishization of change as a good in it of itself is what’s grossly insidious. Identifying as progressive makes change a fetish; the act extols it. Then what constitutes progress for a progressive, someone, who as a matter of self-realization, is against the way things are? Simply what isn’t — what ought to be, his moral convictions regardless if they’re rational or possible. Taken together, the contrarian nature that inheres in progressive identity and the notion of change as intrinsically good, we have a potent and toxic recipe for radicalism.

Then there’s the problem that not everyone shares moral values and convictions. Disagreement is an obvious feature of the world. So, what then? If progress demands legalized abortion but others maintain abortion is infanticide, then what gives? Well, whoever’s convictions represent the de facto status quo, of course!

The moral stench is now becoming ever more pungent, I think. Behold its foulness: As agents radically pursuant to their own moral dogmas, progressives must impose their change as a matter of righteousness. If other people’s morals hinder it, they have a holy mandate to neutralize them, thus the eagerness to socially engineer. Nor is this crusade content with redefining a society’s morals. The cultural web of films, art, traditions, language, institutions that disseminate information — mass media, schools, churches, etc. — reaffirming these norms must also be dealt with. Every facet of society must be altered. Thusly, we see progressivism entails and justifies totalitarianism in theory, engenders it in practice.

When one examines Hegelian-influenced Marxism, which maintains that change occurs as a matter of dialectic — a clash of contradictions or polar opposites, where Aughebung is the negation or overcoming of the status quo, and with it, its assimilation into the greater totality and higher reality — one finds an intellectual penchant for such all-consuming tyrannical aspirations. Accordingly, everything is interconnected with mediated relationships between one another. As per this progressivism, totalitarian aggression is normalized as well as ennobled. And make no mistake, progressives are the aggressors, and they are motivated to act aggressively.

The point I’m making in a very roundabout way is, no matter how crude or refined, progressivism is totalitarianism. Period.

Like Scruton, it disgusts me,

Modus Pownens