Monday, May 26, 2008

What is a "Progressive" ?

I suspect that many people who characterize themselves as 'liberals' tend to have a more positive sense of humanity than others. Perhaps they believe that there is an innate sense of good in most people that will surely come out if it can only be nurtured. That's why they are always proposing legislation based in a deep compassion for the disadvantaged. Hungry people should be fed. Ignorant folks should be educated. The sick should be healed. If nothing else, it's a tremendously noble perspective. Life is not only about personal prosperity, but also about the well-being of the least among us. To suggest that one should only act to advance his/her own self-interest is anathema to liberals.

I'll confess to having the tiniest bit of vulnerability to this way of thinking. It's like the merest hint of conscience gnawing away at me from the back of my brain. I don't feel it in my heart or in my stomach. But I am aware of its existence. Truth be told I actively submerge it in day-to-day life, and it's not that difficult to do. When a stranger asks me for something, it's not hard for me to blow them off and justify the snub in one manner or another. When I was in college I was a bit of a 'bleeding heart' for a month or two, and I felt taken advantage of pretty regularly by the manipulative and duplicitous. So I don't lose very much sleep over denying beggars in the street. I don't actively contemplate the diseased and the weary.

It's true. No matter what some may think, I am assuredly not a 'liberal'. I'm pro death-penalty and against a welfare system that encourages its recipients to procreate. I'm ok with gun ownership and private property. However, don't insult me by calling me a 'Conservative'. In this day and age, there's not a lot worse you can say to me. As far as I'm concerned, that whole lot is exceedingly selfish, reactionary, and close-minded. They want to legislate morality, yet they refuse to assume personal responsibility for the problems of society. They fight abortion and birth control, yet have no plan to counter overpopulation. They stumble about, puking out phrases like "laissez faire capitalism" and "free markets", as if they were vital components of a new American religion. Quite simply I am sickened by all of that nonsense.

Where does this leave me? If I'm not 'red' or 'blue', then what exactly am I? Despite the inherent problems with the phraseology, I guess I'd have to classify myself as a "progressive". And I hate that word almost as much as the other labels. I reject the fundamental notion of 'progress'. Many of the things classified under this banner have been manifestly bad for life on Earth. Suburban developments, agribusiness, SUV's, expansion, sprawl, aggressive militarism, rampant consumerism, working overtime, corporate welfare, etc.- I question the classification of these 'advancements'. It's a tricky notion to precisely describe my politics. When I call myself a "progressive", I'm speaking in the old sense of the word.

Progressives reject ideology and dogma. They recognize these forces as antithetical to civil discourse. They solve problems by studying the environment in which they occur, identifying root causes, and attempting to develop plans to correct their root causes. This isn't a theoretical approach to society. It's essentially pragmatic. Progressive priorities include minimizing government corruption, regulating corporations, protecting the environment, and improving health care and education. This means that, while I don't want to see the government spending inefficiently, I do not bitch about having to pay my taxes. I recognize myself as an individual, as a member of the human race, and as a partner in the stewardship of the planet. Finding the balance between these affiliations is often difficult, but it's ultimately necessary.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Diane said...

Nicely put. I prefer no label whatsoever unless you want to say "free thinker". Labels serve only the ego. Divesting oneself of ego is a challenge, but a worthwhile challenge. It may sound too simplistic to say "live in the now", but "now" is where the problems are and where the solutions ultimately live. So whatever you may call yourself, continue to think the way you do.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

I really don't have any other viable option.

1:20 PM  

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