Sunday, January 21, 2018

On the wrong side of history

Reviewing the posts on this site tagged "G.K. Chesterton" I found several GKC quotations on the question of "Progress":
This is the only period in all human history when people are proud of being modern. For though today is always today and the moment is always modern, we are the only men in all history who fall back upon bragging about the mere fact that today is not yesterday. I fear that some one in the future will explain that we had precious little else to brag about. (Illustrated London News, 3/12/32)
All the thinkers who really think, and all the theorists whose theories seriously count, are growing more and more skeptical about the very existence of progress, and certainly about the desirability of this sort of self-swallowing and suicidal kind of progress. The notion that every generation proves worthless the last generation, and is in its turn proved worthless by the next generation, is an everlasting vista and vision of worthlessness which is fortunately itself worthless.” (“Are the Artists Going Mad?”)
WE often read nowadays of the valor or audacity with which some rebel attacks a hoary tyranny or an antiquated superstition. There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one's grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past. He cares as little for what will be as for what has been; he cares only for what ought to be.

And for my present purpose I specially insist on this abstract independence. If I am to discuss what is wrong, one of the first things that are wrong is this: the deep and silent modern assumption that past things have become impossible. There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, "You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed. ("What's Wrong with the World)