Friday, 15 April 2011

Parsing Progressives

Everything moves forward.

From a progressive blogger:
“I don't identify myself as a liberal because the word makes very little sense to me. It has been used in such a wide variety of contexts that its meaning has been diluted to the point where the term means everything and nothing. ... You go far enough to the left; you will arrive at the far right and vice versa.

This is why I'm neither a liberal nor a leftist. I define my political views as progressive. I prefer this term because it is the most obvious antonym to the opposing political position, which is conservative. As a progressive, I believe that change, transformation and innovation are inherent to human beings. Even as I'm writing this post, I am not the same person that I was when I started writing it. This is why I believe the conservative position to be untenable. You cannot "conserve" anything because everything changes. It just does. We cannot stop the flow of time just like we cannot hope to preserve any state of affairs indefinitely. Everything moves forward, and a political movement that disregards the nature of things to the extent that it believes in moving backwards or standing still is illogical and unreasonable.”
Your post seems to indicate that you view the political spectrum is a type of Moebius strip with the conservative and revolutionary ends forming a circular continuum. To parse your idea of a “progressive” believing in change versus a “conservative”, I would submit that “progressive” implies a gradual or incremental change while a “leftist” or revolutionary believes in sudden or catastrophic change. This doesn’t seem to fit the metaphor of circularity.
I think that we have to separate the substance of the political stance from the method used to achieve it. Since you’re channelling Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 – 475 BC) in your analysis of time and change, let’s use Aristotle’s three branches of rhetoric - deliberative, forensic, epideictic -  as a corollary to Liberal, Progressive and Conservative. The Liberal uses societal and moral ethics to persuade his audience; a Progressive uses systemic analysis for his argument; a Conservative uses epideictic or “praise and blame” rhetoric.  I find it amusing to observe Sarah Palin’s Alaska program on television as a form of progymnasmata in which to hone her skills for the future.

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