Progress is the Enemy
Got the following comment to Anarchic Punk Questionnaire in which I said :
"There is no such thing as progress, only change. The idea of progress is the enemy, it justifies all manner of idiocies."
[Note - pic of open cast coal mine near Dalmellington about 30 miles from here. ]
Would you care to expand on that one or possibly to discuss it? For one, if both progression & regression are imaginary constructs/ideologies, and only change exists, doesn't that necessarily arrive at a complete relativism of values? And relativism, in this day and age more than ever, justifies as many idiocies as the dominant views of progress do. Plus understanding nuclear war as a threat that was superceded or defeated seems to assume a belief in progress at some level.
Good question I.e. “You got me bang to rights gov. I was rushing to finish the list of questions and not taking the time to check answers for internal logical coherence.”
What I was thinking of was cyclical vs. linear time - rather than relativism of values. I had a look at the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy entry on relativism
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/ but was confused rather than enlightened.
I suppose what I should have done first is ask the commentator for an example of an idiocy caused by the relativism of values before bashing out the following 1600 words since I suspect they will not answer the question.
So it goes. And here is my non-answer…
Now 09.25 am 16 April 2008 e.v. and already been for a healthy walk round Carlingwark Loch where a wildlife observation hide is under construction. Since I suggested building something similar 9 years ago as a Millenium Project (but in form of a crannog see http://www.crannog.co.uk/ ) I guess this could be described as ‘progress…’[Even got it included -as ‘crannog style observation post’ in Stewartry Local Area Plan but Scottish Natural Heritage got the ‘crannog’ bit struck out- so on land not in water].
So here we go….
1. Mary Boyce - see obit here http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2006/apr/11/guardianobituaries.religion
Mary Boyce suggested that Zoroaster lived around 3500 years ago and developed his religious insights through a series of visions provoked by a conflict . This conflict was between the pastoral, possibly still stone tool using, community he lived in and a metal/ bronze using and chariot driving community.
Harsh experience had evidently convinced the prophet that wisdowm, justice and goodness were utterly separate by nature from wickedness and cruelty;and in vision he beheld, co-existing with Ahura Mazda [the uncreated creator of the world] , an adversary, the ‘Hostile Spririt’, Angra Mainyu, equally uncreated, but ignorant and wholly malign. [Boyce:1984:20]
Ahura Mazda accomplished the act of creation in two stages. First he brought all things into being in a disembodied stage, called in Pahlavi ‘menog’, that is ‘spiritual, immaterial’. Then he gave it ‘material’ or getig existence’ The getig existence is better than the previous menog one, for in it Ahura Mazda’s perfect creation received the added good of solid and sentient form. Together, the fashioning of these two states constituted the act of Creation, called in Pahlavi ‘Bundahishn’. The achievement of the getig state set the field for the battle with evil, for unlike the menog one it was vulnerable to assault; and Angra Mainyu straightaway attacked. According to the myth as set out in the Pahlavi books, he broke violently through the lower bowl of the stone sky [think meteorites as in stones which fall from the sky], thus marring its perfection. Then he plunged through the water, turning much of it to salt, and then attacked the earth, creating deserts. Next he withered the plant, and slew the Uniquely -created Bull and the First Man. Finally he fell upon the seventh creation, fire, and sullied it with smoke, so that he had physically blighted all the good creation. [Boyce:1984:25]
‘Creation’ was the first of the three times into which the drama of cosmic history is divided. Angra Mainyu’s attack inaugurated the second time, that of ‘Mixture’ (Pahlavi ‘Gumezisn’), during which the world is no longer wholly good, but is a blend of good and evil; for the cycle of being having been set in motion, Angra Mainyu continues to attack with the Daevas and all the other legions of darkness…According to Zoroaster’s new revelation, mankind thus shared with the spenta divinities the great common purpose of gradually overcoming evil and restoring the world to its original perfect state. The glorious moment when this will be achieved is called ‘Frashokereti’ (Pahlavi ‘Frashegird’) [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eschatology ] a term which probably means ‘Healing’ or ‘Renovation’. Therewith history will cease [think Hegel, end of history] since the third time, that of ‘Separation’ (Pahlavi ’Wizarishn’) will be ushered in. This the time when good will be separated from evil; and since evil will then be utterly destroyed, the period of Separation is eternal, and in it Ahura Mazda and all the Yazatas and men and women will live together in perfect, untroubled goodness and peace.
In thus postulating not only a beginning but also and end to human history, Zoroaster made a profound break with earlier ideas, according to which the process of life, once started, was expected to continue forever, if men and gods both bore their part. [Boyce: 1984 :25/6]
Mary Boyce describes this process of Creation >Mixture > Separation as ‘cyclic’, but it is a cycle which operates over many hundreds, even thousands, of years. It is also a one-off cycle which will never be repeated so it implies an irreversible and one- directional arrow of time which moves from Creation through Mixture ( the age we are in) to a final Separation when history ends and Eternity is renewed.
Although historically obscure, Zoroaster’s revolutionary ideas have influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Zoroaster’s religious innovations became the state religion of Persia/ Iran. About 2500 years ago, the Persian/ Iranian ruler Cyrus who invaded and occupied the city of Babylon in Iraq. The Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar had about 50 years previously captured and carried off members of the Jewish community into captivity. Cyrus allowed surviving members to return home, and encouraged them to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. [Some stayed, so Babylon became a major centre of Judaism for at least 1500 years].
For his efforts, Cyrus is described as a ‘messiah’ (liberator) in the Old Testament http://www.hope.edu/bandstra/RTOT/CH10/CH10_2D.HTM and it seems likely [Boyce:1984: 51] that Zoroastrian ideas were absorbed into Judaism - and then Christianity.
2. A Missing Link/ Idea of Progress
In Bruce Rich : Mortgaging the Earth: The World Bank, Environmental Impoverishment and the Crisis of Development: Earthscan : 1994 I thought there was a link but can’t find it. It is that in the 17th century thinkers like Descartes and Bacon had the idea that through science the original divine blueprint - the ‘menog’ stage of Zoroastianism- of the created world could be recovered; and then applied through technology to the world as it is in its current ‘getig’ stage and thus restore its perfection. [As a way to immanentize the eschaton - which I have discussed in posts below]
Bruce Rich [1994: 214] located the origins of the World Bank/ International Bank of Reconstruction and Development idea of ‘progress through development’ in the work of Claude-Henri Saint-Simon.
The danger of this idea of progress is that it treats ‘traditional’ knowledge and practice as flawed and irrational. This ignores the possibility that traditions become established through trial and error, that they evolve to adapt geographic communities to their particular environments. The ‘inefficiencies’ of such traditions are the checks and balances necessary for them to be sustainable over time.
The end result of ‘progress’ is not a finally perfected world, but a world which can only be sustained through constant modernisation, an unsustainable world.
“So that this so solid-seeming World, after all, were but an air-image…” as Thomas Carlyle put itin Sartor Resartus or “All that is solid melts to air” as Marx had it.
3. Some Debord, to illustrate his take on shift from cyclical to irreversible linear time.
Cyclical time is already dominant among the nomadic peoples because they find the same conditions repeated at each stage of their journey. As Hegel notes, “the wandering of nomads is only nominal because it is limited to uniform spaces.” When a society settles in a particular location and gives space a content by developing distinctive areas within it, it finds itself confined within that locality. The periodic return to similar places now becomes the pure return of time in the same place, the repetition of a sequence of activities. The transition from pastoral nomadism to sedentary agriculture marks the end of an idle and contentless freedom and the beginning of labor. The agrarian mode of production, governed by the rhythm of the seasons, is the basis for fully developed cyclical time. Eternity is within this time, it is the return of the same here on earth. Myth is the unitary mental construct which guarantees that the cosmic order conforms with the order that this society has in fact already established within its frontiers.
The victory of the bourgeoisie is the victory of a profoundly historical time, because it is the time corresponding to an economic production that continuously transforms society from top to bottom. So long as agrarian production remains the predominant form of labor, the cyclical time that remains at the base of society reinforces the joint forces of tradition, which tend to hold back any historical movement. But the irreversible time of the bourgeois economy eradicates those vestiges throughout the world. History, which until then had seemed to involve only the actions of individual members of the ruling class, and which had thus been recorded as a mere chronology of events, is now understood as a general movement — a relentless movement that crushes any individuals in its path. By discovering its basis in political economy, history becomes aware of what had previously been unconscious; but this basis remains unconscious because it cannot be brought to light. This blind prehistory, this new fate that no one controls, is the only thing that the commodity economy has democratized.
With the development of capitalism, irreversible time has become globally unified. Universal history becomes a reality because the entire world is brought under the sway of this time’s development. But this history that is everywhere simultaneously the same is as yet nothing but an intrahistorical rejection of history. What appears the world over as the same day is merely the time of economic production, time cut up into equal abstract fragments. This unified irreversible time belongs to the global market, and thus also to the global spectacle.