Friday, May 23, 2008

The Progressive Century

This blog has become my place to take notes on the emergence of collective self-consciousness about the political choices Americans make. Some political choices -- policy choices, strategic choices -- are really, really bad, and have bad consequences. Whether, collectively, a body politic learns anything from its mistakes, however, depends on whether it learns any moral lessons. The Body Politic learns moral lessons from the narrative fables it tells itself about what happens.

A political storm is a drama, enacted for the purpose of telling a story about what has happened. It is a political society talking to itself, and drawing a moral lesson from its own past storytelling and conduct.

That George W. Bush was a moron, "leading" a basically malign coalition in the pursuit of a conglomeration of bad policies -- political, economic and military -- has been obvious since before he was first put into office as President. But, the institutions the country has for telling itself stories -- aka the Media -- had grown seriously dysfunctional, and lots of People did not get the Memo on what an incompetent Moron George W. Bush is, and what a disreputable political coalition he was leading.

The Country has had to teach itself some moral lessons, that no civilized nation should have to teach itself after it becomes civilized: torture is bad, national bankruptcy is bad, aggressive war is bad, political and business corruption is bad. That a political faction or Party should be able to maintain itself for any length of time in Power, while advocating and implementing such clearly evil policies is evidence of serious degeneracy.

Stirling Newberry writes on the nearly ineffable Really Big Picture in an article, titled, The Progressive Century. He identifies both the Big Choices, we are faced with as a nation and as a civilization (and, maybe, as a Species), and the source of the degeneracy in how we are approaching and framing those Big Choices.

I especially agree with him about one particular point: a good outcome depends on the productiveness of the Progressive Imagination. We have to be able to imagine a better society, a better politics and a better economy, and a path to get there. There's a role, certainly, for some Utopian Idealism in imagining a destination, but even more critical is the Whiggish ability to digest ideals into reforms, which at least some of those vested with elite privilege, can support.

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