Everything old is new again — at least when it comes to the Progressive desire to recreate a utopian past

The past was never as good as it now looks.  Just as we forget, as we age, the emotional pains childhood (only to revisit them as we watch our children suffer through the same experience), history tends to take on a romantic patina.

Sure, in the pre-industrial age, the countryside was a thing of exquisite, green beauty.  Who cares that the vast majority of the world’s citizens lived a marginal existence on the land, dependent for their survival on the success of each annual harvest?

Ooh!  Ooh!  And what about horses?  They are, like, sooo organic.  Who cares, therefore, that the big cities were ankle deep in horse urine and fecal matter, with all the attendant stench and disease?

Also, who can forget that, in the old days, before America’s evil medicine establishment appeared, medicine was affordable and doctors made house calls.  Let’s just ignore the fact that the pre-modern childhood mortality rate was 50%, that a significant number of women died in childbirth, or that few people reach old age.

In our short, ill-educated memories, the anguish of the past has vanished, and all that remains are images of a quieter, greener age, untainted by colonialism, corporatism, and all the other ills of the modern era.

Although the environmentalists, especially, cling to an unreal, rural, Utopian past, the Left generally looks backwards. All wars are the Vietnam War, all political movements see their side blessed with the halo of the Civil Rights movement. I wrote about the Regressives at length a few years ago for American Thinker:

The word “progressive” means to advocate beneficial change and progress, and that’s certainly what Progressives would have the American people believe they offer.

By giving themselves this label, however, the Progressives have proven yet again that there’s no delusion quite as powerful as self-delusion. The fact is that, if you pick apart each of the Progressives’ stands on any major issue of the day, you’ll see that either they have staked out positions that were either proven false or ineffective decades ago, or they’re still fighting battles that were long ago won, making their efforts redundant (yet still, somehow, harmful to the modern political process).

I was reminded of this old article when I read a post Ed Driscoll did yesterday at Pajamas Media.  What he had noticed is that the Left is now explicitly advocating a walk into the WayBack machine.  Whether they want to revisit the 1930s, the Oughts, or the pre-light bulb era, they keep serenading the past.

Ed expounded upon this theme today (with a nice nod to my old American Thinker article), by noting the fact that Sarah Palin is wreaking havoc with the Leftists’ obsession with a Utopian past.  I urge you to read both his articles.  Once you do, you’ll never again be flim-flammed by the futurist language the Left attempts to employ.  (And just for your own amusement, consider that the title “Progressive” is itself borrowed from the socialist politics of the pre-WWI era.)

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  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Because the Left is evil, they cannot create anything of lasting value. They can only steal, destroy, or attempt to con people into believing a fantasy from the past can exist if the requisite “sacrifices” are made.
    Creation takes more energy than destruction. And the Left is not strong enough to be considered good.

  • Mike Devx

    Ithink there are quite a few liberals who honestly believe in their ideology, and they do want to create.  Their problem is, of course, that it always fails.  It leaves them in an untenable psychological situation – acceept the truth and face the facts, or retreat in denial?
    We have our own problems on our side.  What evidence do we have that the GOP is ready to engage in reducing the size and power of our national government?  We *know* that the national government must be reined in, reduced in power, reduced in size.  But the GOP is almost entirely silent, preferring to let the Democrats simply hang themselves this election cycle.  If the GOP wins control of both houses… having been so silent… how WILL they govern?
    The American people are moving in the direction of believing “the government is too big”.  But they seem awfully weak on the details.  What do they want to see cut?  No one knows.  Put them to the test and they may retreat.  Not my program!  Not this program! Not that program!
    All I’ve heard so far in the arena of specifics is the old canard, “Eliminate waste and corruption.”  Sheesh.  Give me a break.  The big problem with big government IS waste and corruption! You can’t get rid of it without reducing its size, scope and power.  But reducing its size, scope and power appears to be what the GOP is afraid to do.  So, I’m worried.  So what if we “win” in 2010, only to fail in the long run?  That dooms us just as surely as the Democrats winning in 2010.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Wow, several pieces just came together for me in a great way, thanks to this post.
    First, I need to add the inimitable Thomas Wolfe’s phrase “status-sphere” to my lexicon.
    Second, Shannon Love’s post on our friend David Foster’s blog, ChicagoBoyz, exactly nails for me the reason why Sarah Palin is so hated…because she threatens Liberals’ entire value and status construct [see Bookworm’s link to Ed Driscoll’s Pajamas Media piece]. Here’s the money quote:
    They feel a sincere, visceral sense of danger about her because she attacks the very core of their egos. They feel the same hatred towards Palin that the European upper classes felt towards the upstart middle-class. They feel the same hatred that poor whites felt towards non-whites. They feel that way for the same reasons. If she succeeds, worse, if she is right, then they become nobodies.

    Yup! I think it also applies to why so many white women hate Sarah Palin.
    Finally, what was said about Palin and Progressives with regard to the Liberal/Left “status-sphere” also neatly encapsulates the link between the ultra-rich (Pelosi, Kennedy, Kerry) and Progressives in their shared disdain of the middle class. A healthy, wealthy thriving middle class threatens the status sphere of the rich. Good Lord, some of them may even become Rush Limbaughs. What kind of fun is it to have your own mega-million-$ sailing yacht moored in Rhode Island when any member of the riff-raff middle class can rent a yacht to cruise the Virgin Islands for the week? On the other hand, the ultra-rich can make common cause with inner-city blacks because they know that the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons will always keep “their” people trapped in poverty and resentment so that they can easily be manipulated without ever, ever threatening ultra-rich white Liberal-Progressive status-sphere.

  • suek

    In other words, America was the land of opportunity because it eliminated class as a determinant of success and allowed any individual to succeed by his/her own efforts.  The Libs have succeeded in re-instituting a class structure with themselves as the top echelon.  The middle class – even though they tout it mightily – endangers them – they want the structure to be upper class and lower class.  Some middle class is necessary – like NCOs are necessary –  to facilitate communication and transactions between the upper class and lower class (they wouldn’t want to deal with the lower class _directly_, you know) but they don’t want to actually mingle with them.  One of the problems they have is that there is no real identifier – in Europe, you were upper class by birth or favor of the king – so they have established the criteria of the acceptable university as their qualifier.  If you haven’t attended or graduated from the proper university, you don’t count.
    Interesting.  Like the impoverished nobility of the past, they need to be thrown out on their tucas and find out how to use their opposable thumbs to get something done.  They have too much and lack the grace of appreciation.

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  • Texan99

    The doctors of 75 years ago were cheap in large part because your chances of living to a healthy old age were roughly the same whether you hired them to do a lot of expensive stuff for you or not.  They just didn’t have very many tools that weren’t easily accessible to anyone willing to do a bit of studying.
    Anyone willing to return to the kind of medical care available in 1935 could cut way down on medical bills even today.  The problem is, as hard as it was to die of the kind of thing people died of in 1935, it’s practically impossible to reconcile oneself to it now, when the alternative is just a pile of money away.  And why shouldn’t someone else come up with that pile of money, anyway?  I’m already unlucky enough to be sick; now I should impoverish myself, too?  You heartless SOBs!

  • Mike Devx

    suek said (#4)
    > In other words, America was the land of opportunity because it eliminated class as a determinant of success and allowed any individual to succeed by his/her own efforts.  The Libs have succeeded in re-instituting a class structure with themselves as the top echelon.

    And isn’t America as She used to be – the land of opportunity for individuals – what most of here love so much about Her?  What the liberals are in the process of doing – inventing American Class structures, with themselves at the top of the power heap – is so dreadfully sad that as soon as I read what suek wrote, I recognized it for its truth.

    It’s not so much that class *distinctions* didn’t exist.  Of course they did, and they have often been enforced with some social ruthlessness.  But what the liberals are now about is TRAPPING people helplessly within the social class in which they were born.  Rules upon rules upon rules.  Stifling bureaucracies.  No innovations allowed; no entrepreneurships allowed.  Only zero-sum gamers need apply.  It is a dystopian view that brings about deep despair.

  • Jose

    Ah yes.  The wonderful agrarian past, when doctors were cheap and my ancestors were living in rural paradise.

    I have a letter my Grandfather wrote from the hospital in 1938 (before penicillin) where he spent a couple months recuperating from a ruptured appendix.  After the local doctor had diagnosed him, it took all day by train to reach the hospital.  Following the surgery, when the doctor made his daily rounds, he would stick a finger into the partly open incision, and make sure the wound was open so that the infection would drain.  Yep, those were the days.