Wednesday, September 05, 2007

look at the scoreboard, baby

VERY quickly, because I need to shop at Souths and get to Joe's @ LB for Wed night dinner and bouncy mashed spud.

Reading Dawkins's comments about the direction of the global Zeitgeist (the spirit of the time, another great German word), it occurred to me that this is pretty good evidence that the progressive left (if we have to give a label, and I'd count myself as fitting in that box) IS right, and the conservative right is wrong. Why? Because the Zeitgeist moves in a progressive direction. When you compare our moral and ethical standards NOW with those of 50, 100, 1000 years ago, we are clearly more accepting, less prejudiced, less violent, less divisive, etc. Yes, there's still a lot of improvement to be made, and, no, not all the ills that were accepted in the past can be said to belong exclusively to the likes of Howard and Bush. But it can't be denied that things have moved in progressive, liberal (in the general, not Australian-politics specific, sense) direction.

The runs are on the board, people. If you think in a progressive way, you think in the way things have played out. You're right. We're right. Despite temporary setbacks (Howard, Bush), we WIN.

So there.

8 Comments:

Blogger susanna said...

right on. this week i have felt exhausted trying to argue 'why' i hold my views. this hypothesis works for me - mind if i borrow it?

7:46 pm  
Blogger secret wombat said...

Absolutely, you can HAVE it. Please use if and when necessary.

8:38 pm  
Anonymous digby mcfunt said...

U suk pee-pee

11:53 am  
Blogger secret wombat said...

Carn Digs, you can do better'n that.

2:31 pm  
Anonymous Digby McFunt said...

:) What, you want me to dumb it down a little?

Your post is a little simplistic, Womby.

What are some of the directions the world has taken, and which of these were supported or opposed by the progressive left?

- The struggle against communism and the millions it killed. Who still lionises the likes of Che Guevara? It's not the Conservatives.

- The shift towards labour market flexibility, high employment and individual ownership. Opposed by the progressive Left all the way. The reason that Britain didn't erupt into the kind of race-riots we saw in the 80s, after 7/7 2005 was because of its low unemployment rate. This is due principally to one person: Margaret Thatcher, and her labour market reforms.

- The at-long-last overdue sea-change in Aboriginal Australia being given the dignity and self-esteem of individual ownership and responsibility instead of a forced collectivism and victim mentality that has held it down for so long. Who has brought in the former, and who kept the yoke of the latter in place for so long? Read some of Noel Pearson's stuff if you think I'm kidding on this one.

- The currently most virulent form of totalitarianism globally, Political Islam. Who supports it, who are its greatest apologists in the West? No, it's not the Conservatives. It's the Progressive Left.

Global Warming. Who were the most loud decriers of nuclear power in the 70s? The progressive Left. Uh oh, look what's going to save our planet's bacon. Nuclear power. Thanks to all those 'greedy' (actually brave) people who nonetheless went ahead and developed, implemented and improved nuclear technology, we have our strongest means of tackling this problem (a problem the Progressive Left is doing its best to undermine by holier-than-thou fear-mongering incidentally).

-The millions being lifted out of poverty by globalisation of capital and free trade. Who's opposing this?

I look around and I see the zeitgeist being one of individual ownership, wealth, and responsibility. I see the Progressive Left left behind yet again. No wonder there's so much shrillness and 'persecution envy' from some quarters (David Marr) that 'We're being gagged!!!'

12:48 pm  
Anonymous secret wombat said...

Digs, that's much better!

As usual, work has me bogged down, so I'll defer a full response until later (and I've not forgotten the climate change response I promised). (Also - The Euston Manifesto is interesting - I hadn't heard of that before, cheers.)

First: I probably erred by not specifically defining the Zeitgeist I was discussing as the moral Zeitgeist. Your response included moral considerations, but was more political. I know they're not mutually exclusive, but you talked about political ideologies and policies; moral standpoints were implied therein. When I wrote my post, I was thinking more in terms of fundamental morals (I also should have excluded fundamentalist regimes etc).

For example,though we've seen general move from a norm of ethnicism/racism/etc --i.e. intolerance and hatred of people we define as different -- to a norm of acceptance. As I implied in the original post, we still have a long way to go, but nobody can deny the move has been in that direction. This (as one example) I would say fits more snugly with "left" versus "right" principles.

Second: you make the mistake of tarring all on the "progressive left" with the brush of cultural relativism. I think conservative commentators have done a clever job of marketing the progressive left as people who would rather let hateful fundamentalists have their way than criticise them because "we should tolerate/celebrate all parts of all cultures" etc etc. There are two crocks of shit in that:

Crock 1: That all on the progressive left think that way.

Crock 2: That all aspects of all cultures are just dandy and we should applaud them. To give a personal example, I was extremely relieved to see that Uni of Technology, Sydney, refused a request for a mosque to be built on its grounds, for its (quite large) Muslim student body. I'm sure that's something the Janet Albrechtsons and Miranda Devines of the world would assume would be supported by the progressive left. I think it's a load of crap - the Uni already has prayer rooms and has no church/synagogue/temple for any other religion. As far as I'm concerned, religion (beyond anyone's own private beliefs) has no place in a secular university.

I think I would concede that I erred in saying the the moral Zeitgeist has moved from right to left. I should probably have said that it was moving towards a humanist destination that has more in common with a left/progressive outlook than a right/conservative outlook. I would argue the former is, in general, a more caring, less selfish, more humanist way of looking at things. Also note that I'd never argue that the progressive left is perfect or doesn't get things wrong. But I'd take it over an ideology that seems to me more driven by greed and personal gain.

3:16 pm  
Anonymous digby mcfunt said...

Okay then, let's talk morality.

You say:

"a humanist destination [has ] more in common with a left/progressive outlook than a right/conservative outlook. I would argue the former is, in general, a more caring, less selfish, more humanist way of looking at things."

That's a rather glib assumption.

It's easy to ascribe moral superiority to those who most loudly claim it. Yet those who unquestioningly accept the prescriptions of the Left fail to grasp that the 'Conservative' position can have morally superior results. There is a failure, on the Left, to appreciate what one could describe (for lack of better terms) "being cruel to be kind".

Let's look at some examples from recent history. Your classic example of the Left being morally superior to Conservatives in Australia recently is the Tampa, and the Pacific Solution. After so much moral indignation, what has been the outcome? Arrivals by boat have declined from 10s of thousands per year, to practically zero. Oxfam recently issued a report which stated that the numbers of people 'seeking asylum' (ie engaging people smugglers) have declined due to off-shore detention. Yet who is morally superior here? We know from the Siev-X disaster that boat migration *kills innocent lives*. Yet why do the Left wish to support people smuggling (one of the most sordid practices in the world)? The conservative policy here has saved lives. We don't know just how many because deaths at sea from such boats are undocumented.

Then there's labour market reform, as Britain experienced. Thatcher is still roundly villified by practically *all* of the 'Progressive' Left. Yet Thatcher is the reason so many Brits now enjoy the dignity having jobs. Removing gross distortions in the labour market put in place by over-indulgence of union self-interest has meant that more people are in work. The same with removal of tarrifs and protectionism.

I recall the Labor Party, the Democrats and the Greens all roundly condemning the work-for-the-dole scheme. Yet this scheme has been an outright success, helping people get out of their torpor, socialising again, and I have seen people get work from it (at the legal centre I volunteered at for example, others were there only because of WFTD, and I saw them subsequently get proper employment from it)

Aboriginal Australia represents one of the greatest moral failures of the progressive Left, again read Noel Pearson on this.

Another example - the progressive Left condemns anti-terror laws. Yet those laws have helped thwart bombing attempts in the UK. You talk about acceptance and tolerance. The single biggest threat to race relations in the West is not evil Johnny or Blair or their anti-terror legislation. It is successful bombings by militant Islamists. It is the conservatives who are doing more to protect race relations and tolerance in this regard, by far and away, than the progressive Left.

10:35 pm  
Anonymous digby mcfunt said...

Oh, and just a quick follow-up, you've said the following:

"we've seen general move from a norm of ethnicism/racism/etc --i.e. intolerance and hatred of people we define as different -- to a norm of acceptance."

And then you say:

"you make the mistake of tarring all on the "progressive left" with the brush of cultural relativism." and also:

"Crock 1: That all on the progressive left think that way."

See the problem here? You've essentially done the same thing yourself - you've tarred the entire Conservative position with the brush of "ethnicism, racism, intolerance, hatred"

Are you sure that all those of a conservative disposition really carry these values?

It's very, very thin ice to proclaim that one's personal ideology is morally superior to another's, without giving concrete examples and considering the alternative properly and in its entirety. Are you sure that the Progressive Left hasn't been motivated by self-interest? I can give you examples that suggest otherwise. Similarly, are you sure that it is *only* the Left that is:

"in general, a more caring, less selfish, more humanist way of looking at things."?

11:33 am  

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