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Sunday, July 03, 2011

More "Progressive" versus Progress 

In a post last year, I link to a Michael Barone column defining the difference between the "progressive" agenda and authentic progress. In a recent column, Keith Fournier zeroes in on how this dichotomy is reflected in fantasy vs. objective reality views of some of the most fundamental issues of human existence.
What is really happening is a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, which involves competing definitions of human freedom, human flourishing and truly human progress. The positions being espoused and lifestyles being affirmed as "progressive" by those using the term as a political label are anything but. They turn the clock back.

It is the promotion of faithful, monogamous marriage, family, authentic human freedom, the dignity of every human person - and the insistence that there are objective truths that can be known and unalienable rights that are endowed on all men and women - which have guided true progress in human history and always pave the future of real progress.

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"The Gods of the Copybook Headings" is a poem published by Rudyard Kipling in 1919, that foresaw the decline of his country's empire and attributed it to a loss of the old virtues, and to a general complacency entailing that "all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins". The central message of the poem is that basic and unvarying aspects of human nature will always re-emerge in every society that gets complacent and self-indulging.

The "copybook headings" to which the title refers were proverbs or maxims, extolling virtues like honesty or fair dealing, that were printed at the top of the pages of 19th century British students' special notebook pages, called "copybooks". The schoolchildren had to write them by hand repeatedly down the page. - WIKIPEDIA



As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
 
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