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View Diary: A Second Enlightenment (17 comments)

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  •  History had an arrow? (9+ / 0-)

    In the words of the immortal Groucho Marx, "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana."

    It's a mistake to think we're any smarter or better than our forbears.  We just have more information at our fingertips, and that is the sum total of what progress brings.

    The seventeenth century shipbuilder who designed and rigged The Mayflower built a ship instead of a jet airliner, not because he was any less clever than a modern aerospace engineer,  but because he has less codified knowledge of physics and engineering. There is such a thing as progress, but it doesn't amount to changing people's natures; human potential is just realized to a greater degree in a more competent society.  That can take on a double-edged aspect; for example the tools and institutions that spread information also spread ignorance and propaganda.

    Since people remain more or less the same. we tend to have the same struggles, only in a more technologically advanced context. Hitler scared gullible Germans with the Jews; Stalin scared Russians with the kulaks (wealthy peasants) in a bid to drive a wedge in the working people that is startlingly modern.  Republicans scare Americans with the socialist Obama bogeyman and his 47% legion of takers.

    This won't ever change because there'll always be a certain fraction of humanity which yearns for authoritarian leadership, and somewhat smaller fraction that yearns to be that leadership.  So every generation has to be prepared to have this fight between those who want leadership that exploits them and those who want progress.

    Understanding this is what sets a liberal apart: progress isn't handed to a generation on a silver platter, people in that generation have to fight for progress.

    I've lost my faith in nihilism

    by grumpynerd on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 01:39:43 PM PST

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