progressivism and cynicism
Posted by Kate on November 12, 1997 at 09:21:09:
In response to Change, written by Jane Elizabeth on November 11, 1997 at 16:04:39
] I read an article recently that showed how the late 19th century really was the most change-ridden period of history. We look at the twentieth century and see telephones, TV, computers, cars and think that this is the era of momentous change. But the article showed that, pound for pound, the Victorian era really had it in spades. The technological changes (railroads, mechanization etc.) resulted in enormous changes in people's lives in a very short period (as the Luddites realized) Yet the intellectuals embraced this and the cerebral shifts that accompanied it not with suspicion but with brio. Darwin was a dilletantish nobody who stumbled onto the Beagle and emerged with ideas that shook the world. He and his peers, like Ash, saw the natural world as their oyster, even as they were forced to question their ideas about religion and morality.
] Today, we eye the changes around us with cynicism. Is it because we've seen the misery that can be wrought by rapid change? The legacy of the industrial revolution has been pollution, displacement, and major shifts in the way we live, eat and work. It remains to be seen if the information revolution will be able to untangle the legacy. Or bring its own forms of misery.
Well, for a start, they had a sense that everything was getting better: progressivism. Every change that was made would make life easier and more worthwhile.
We, on the other hand, know that change does not necessarily move us closer to utopia... since them we have had both world wars, the holocaust, nuclear weapons, holes in the ozone, famine on a massive scale, the failure of antibiotics, AIDs etc etc. We no longer have faith that change will do us good.
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