I have been thinking a lot about progressivism since I read a quote a while back and I will get to that later. First, I want to break down the definition of progressivism, outside of politics.
Progressivism is the principles and practices of progressives. (Dictionary.com)
Progressives are characterized by continuous improvement or progress. (Dictionary.com)
Progress is growth or development; continuous improvement; the development of an individual or society in a direction considered more beneficial than and superior to the previous level. (Dictionary.com)
And yes, I did pick and choose the definitions I wanted for the purposes of this exercise, but I did say I would define it outside of politics.
Progressivism, unfortunately, has become synonymous with liberals. Thus, since the liberals are “progressive” it is the unspoken understanding that conservatives are not, which is ridiculous. Thomas Edison said, “Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress.” Those who are restless and discontent are striving to make the world a better place, but what is the motivation of their restlessness and discontent? Are they driven by ego, money, power, or more altruistically, to help others live a better life in its various capacities. In this consideration of motives I often think of the Seven Social Evils. Normally attributed to Mohandas Gandhi, however, Frederick Lewis Donaldson gave them in a sermon six months before Mohandas publishing them in his weekly newspaper. Regardless, of this Mohandas’ nephew, Arun Gandhi did give us an eighth social evil (Wikipedia.com).
1. Wealth without work.
2. Pleasure without conscience.
3. Knowledge without character.
4. Commerce without morality.
5. Science without humanity.
6. Religion without sacrifice.
7. Politics without principle.
8. Rights without responsibilities.
If you are honest with yourself and society you will know that all of these social evils are true. They were given by both Donaldson and Gandhi in 1925, almost a hundred years ago! (I will discuss these more in another article.) It seems that the Progressives/Left wants to have and legislate all the social sins. You can only have true progress when you have wealth with work, pleasure with conscience, knowledge with character, commerce with morality, science with humanity, religion with sacrifice, politics with principle, and rights with responsibilities.
Below is my view of what has happened in society and politics in the US. I started the graph with the left slightly left of center and the right slightly right of center with guide lines to help see the progression of each scenario. In the left graph is our current state of affairs with Progressives continuing to move to the left and the right moving to the left. If this is progress, then we must ask for whom and to what end? Progressives will always keep moving to the left, in the idea that we have to tear down the old system and build a new one. To them, the solution to the failure of government is more government and looks a lot like socialism. Current Progressivism is a cancer and a decay to freedoms and liberties to America and hope to the world. The middle graph is what it should be the left and the right compromising on things to better America, but staying left or right of center on average. The right graph is what needs to happen. Progress isn’t forging ahead in the wrong direction it is going back and getting on the right path. That brings me to the quote I mentioned earlier.
In Mere Christianity (first published in 1952), C.S. Lewis said, “We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. …I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”
Think about it this way, an inventor or a scientist wouldn’t keep continuing down the path of a failed invention or experiment, that’s not very smart or progressive. They would go back to where it went wrong and work on a different path forward until it works. The one who turns back soonest is the most progressive. Those who are the most nimble and understand this principle of progressivism are the most successful in most, if not all, aspects of their lives.
We are off track in society. To list some examples, although not all-inclusive: government welfare programs instead of charities, fatherless homes, sex without conscience, education not teaching our children about life skills, do what feels good mentality, your truth, transgenderism, and the claim of systemic racism. “If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
I think that we all want progress in our nation, in our community, in our families, and most importantly in ourselves. However, not all of us are willing to put in the effort to see a change or progress. To make a change in something bigger than ourselves — family, society, etc — we need to start with ourselves. The individual is the most nimble and able to apply the progressive principle from C.S. Lewis. Strive, work, progress to be a better person and by so doing you will change the things around you. Let us be real progressives and go back and get on the right road when we are off track and continue to move forward in personal and societal growth, development, and improvement.