I followed (and briefly participated in) a prolonged Twitter ‘dialogue’ yesterday afternoon revolving around whether there were any card carrying ‘progressivists’, and therefore whether arguments against progressivism were actually valid.
Now, I agree that it is rarely the most fruitful way forward in a debate to jab the finger and label our opponents, and I can sympathise with those rejecting the label ‘Progressivist’. Firstly – in debates, nobody EVER likes being labelled unless they have openly adopted that label themselves.
Secondly – in complete truth, rarely do many of us purely identify ourselves with one identity or another… and even less would we say that in our actions do we purely adhere to a particular philosophy. I believe that the vast majority of us live in some or other state of ‘cognitive dissonance’ – holding quite contrary beliefs which seem to act separately on different levels within us. This can result in varying degrees of discomfort and confusion, but we normally believe that there is coherence at some level or other.
Thirdly – what does it take to really be a progressivist? To act in certain ways…? To proclaim certain things…? Just to privately believe certain things…?
“Do unto others as others would do…” – How many of us would say that this should be identified with what we actually do…? Most Christians would say that they don’t actually do this very well in practice. Many might even say that sometimes they think it perhaps isn’t the best thing to do. And yet pretty much all of them would suggest that it nevertheless informs how they think about things.
This is why it is perfectly acceptable to debate and critique the ideas of progressivism (as I have done on this blog), even if we can’t point to a single person who would admit to embodying it. It is because it provides a template – a guiding set of ‘shoulds’ – at the back of many people’s minds influencing, energising or undermining how and where they focus their energies.
I know this to be true because I’ve been one of those people who cradled progressive ideals and assumptions at the back of my own mind…even though the practicalities of my situation and competing thoughts within me never made them particularly well realised, and I never would have described myself as a ‘progressivist’. I nevertheless aspired to them and kept trying to ‘square the circle’.
I still cradle some now..