Reshaping Society

Don’t call them liberals, because they are not liberal. Instead term them ‘progressives.’ It is of course just as much a misnomer as liberal as they are no more progressive than they are liberal, but at least from Obama to Milliband, from Polly Toynbee to Germaine Greer, from Bob Crow to Tommy Sheridan, from John Spong to Richard Holloway it is a self-applied designation. It is the appellation of choice for those theological and secular activists who consciously or not are in effect conducting a moral crusade to refashion western culture by cutting it off from its biblical Christian roots.

I suspect that the use of progressive is mainly because it implies that if you don’t accept their premises and agenda then you are regressive and some kind of intellectual knuckledragger.

I find it amusing that I, the Calvinist who believes in total depravity, should argue for the freedom of the individual whilst contemporary ‘progressives’ who believe in the perfectibility of mankind should campaign for ever greater governmental regulation of social activity and relationships. But then logical conclusions are not high on the priority list of progressives.

One of the great paradoxes of progressivism is the number of contradictions within its programme. Why is it proper for the government to restrict access to harmful foodstuffs whilst allowing free access to harmful films? Is there not a contradiction between spending billions to prevent the pollution of the physical environment but allowing or even abetting the pollution of the moral environment?

One answer often trotted out is that you cannot legislate morality. But that is precisely what legislation does and what progressives use it for. Every law approves some aspect of behaviour and disapproves another, society designates some actions as right and therefore good and others wrong and therefore bad. This is society, through its legislators, making moral judgements. Right and wrong, good and bad are moral terms whether they apply to insider trading or drunk driving.

Perhaps the progressive believes that there is a dichotomy of values with the physical and material on one side of the ledger and the moral and cultural on the other. Or it could be that they think that individuals are competent to understand and protect their moral values but not their material interests which necessitate strong governmental action. Whatever answer we get we must wonder what this tells us of their conception of humanity.

When progressives do directly legislate morality there is a curious imbalance of emphasis, amounting to social control and restrictions on individual liberty which follow a very clear moral and cultural agenda. Activities such as speaking disparagingly of minorities are labelled hate speech and are prosecuted by law and our most fundamental liberty, that of free speech, is suspended. Meanwhile pornography of the most graphic and degrading type is freely published because we have the right of free speech. Openly saying homosexuality is a sin is prosecuted as a hate crime, whilst blasphemy against Christ is allowed and even encouraged by the taxpayer funded Arts Council. The right to life is held to be the fundamental right protected by society, except at the beginning and end of life when the unwanted can be discarded by those who find them inconvenient.

I am not saying that we should speak disparagingly of minorities or asking that blasphemers be prosecuted, I wish neither of those to occur. I am merely pointing out a few of the distortions in progressive thought and action.

There is a clear intent to change not just the outward structure of our society but to fundamentally alter its morality. Progressives allow of no balancing influence to shape our social liberties other than their prejudices. By rejecting principles like history, custom and above all faith, which have undergirded particular liberties the absolutist progressive destroys the validity of the particular liberties which do not fall within his or her favoured group.

Thus progressives not only are not liberals, they are dangerous opponents of actual liberty.

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About Campbell

Now retired but once upon a time a parish minister in Glasgow, before that the South West and initially the Black Isle. Been a prison chaplain and lecturer. Still am constantly bemused by the weird world around me.
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4 Responses to Reshaping Society

  1. Jennifer Clark says:

    Your penultimate paragraph illustrates one of the major difficulties I have with this way of thinking, in the sense that there seem to be no real absolute principles; that the choice of “favoured group” will vary over time according to fashion and whim.

    If one is to believe the more right wing oriented organs of the press, it would appear that what you describe above is part of the Frankfurt School’s campaign to undermine Western society. I haven’t read anything balanced about this though, so would not like to comment. Is this something you have come across at all?

  2. Campbell says:

    It is certainly true that the intellectual heirs of Marcuse and Adorno dominate our universities today and there are very few books on arts, literature or language published in the West today which do not acknowledge their debt to Frankfurt.

    A good book on the whole subject is Alan Bloom’s ‘The Closing of the American Mind.’ Published as long ago as 1987, and hugely controversial but still useful and well worth reading.

  3. Jennifer Clark says:

    Thanks for the recommendation Campbell, I’ve ordered a copy. Have you read anything by Theodore Dalrymple? He would appear to explore similar angles, although from a different perspective.

  4. Campbell says:

    I used to read Theodore Dalrymple when he wrote in the Times. At that time in addition to my parish I was a part-time prison chaplain and he was a prison doctor and I found much of what he wrote insightful and clear headed.

    I was not aware that he had written any books. I shall look out for them.

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