Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reflexive Progressivism

It happens three, four times a week, usually in TV interviews about some drastic (or would-be drastic) innovation. The person interviewed imagines the world radically changing because of the what’s-it that he is reporting on;  yes; they’re almost exclusively males, these discoverers of the future. The interviewer wryly nods. The unspoken assumption behind these marvelings at changing times is that What-Has-Been shall always be—only more so. The What-Has-Been refers to trends in the last fifty years. These people are so deeply embedded in modern urban culture, their time horizons are so narrow, their grasp of the total system of our current times is focused on so tiny a point (usually New York or Silicon Valley), they reflect so small a population (just the well-off and the young) they’re literally blind to the great movement already devouring the recent past. The gadgets, devices, trends, arrangements, initiatives that they ooh and ahh invariably depend on wealth, social order, and above all on energy. At the same time it is precisely these people who’re on the tube. Viewing the world in a comprehensive fashion requires time, advanced capacities, and attention. Reflexive progressivism therefore rules by its sound bytes while a great, roaring, but mysteriously unseen, unheard surf eats away at the foundations of modernity.


  1. Is that the surf that Sophocles heard, on the Aegean?

  2. Must be, Paul -- although at the moment when I typed it, I was echoing a mental image of a wave crashing into a concrete wall, its bottom edges crumbling. But who knows. Dover Beach ranks very high with me, up there with Xanadu and certain lines of Yeats'.

  3. Good point: we gaze at nonce futures and maybe trends while the real work of History is being done far away from the view of the "trendy" media.

    (And the "real work" of History nowadays resembles the Machine Moloch of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" feasting on those who have worked for it.)

  4. SciFi tends to be always more or less on target, Montag!


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