"Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon." ~ Gloria Steinem

Monday, November 1, 2010

On "Progress" And "Progressives" And, Apparently, Evolution

Here's the thing: I do not like the "progressive" label. I disagree with the use of the term "progress" in any generalized fashion; by that, I mean that it's perfectly acceptable to say that you're making progress toward a substantiated goal, but ridiculous when you speak of a general political ideology as progress, or of technological changes as progress, etc.

I will now digress in order to illustrate my point.

I disagree with the term because it carries an inherent value judgment; it's like when people who don't understand evolution treat it like more = better--that a higher quantity of evolutionary steps is, by definition, synonymous with a higher quality of resultant organism.

Except, cockroaches have remained essentially the same for millions of years; so have sharks. It's not because these organisms have stalled in the evolutionary world, like they're stuck in some sort of useless limbo. To the contrary, it's because further evolution is unnecessary. In their current context (which has either not changed in millions of years, or has changed in such a way that their arrangement of traits didn't require alteration), they survive. It's pretty damn simple, so I don't understand why it's so difficult for some people to comprehend. They're already as fit as they need to be; there's nothing "good" or "bad" about it.

Survival, and evolution, and fitness; all of these are, as always, deeply contextual. ("context" is a very broad term; it encompasses everything from physical environment to societal structure to who you're competing with for resources.) Humans have gone through quite a few more evolutionary steps than either cockroaches or sharks, but rather than endowing on us some sort of Evolution Trophy or something, this actually means that our context has changed more times throughout our history. See? Simple. We evolved because we needed to; cockroaches and sharks didn't evolve because they didn't need to. When you look at it that way, you could make the argument that humans have never hit on an arrangement of traits that allowed them to survive as well as either cockroaches or sharks. Who's inferior now?

Back to "progress."

As explained by Liss at Shakesville, I very much agree with the progressive viewpoint. Do I think these substantiated goals would be an improvement over the current situation? Absolutely. But changing things, and calling it progress, just because the change is for the better--contextually--implies that any past situations of your society, or any situations of other societies, are, by definition, lesser. But, of course, this ignores context. In 1776, did we need laws governing fossil fuel emissions, corporations, interstate highways, reproductive rights, blah blah blah etc.? Of course not.

Now, we do need laws regarding those things. But how, exactly, does acknowledging reality and attempting to deal with it automatically confer superiority, high-ness, right-ness, "more than"?

Seriously. I'm asking you.

As Liss is fond of saying, words mean things. You call yourself progressive, you mean that your ideals are superior and if you meet your goals, society will be better, higher, righter, "more than". All I'm saying is that if the "progressive" goals are met, society will be equipped for its current context.

That's it.

1 comment:

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