A Capital Idea Part 126: What Kind of World Do You Want?
It occurs to me that the differing world views of progressives and conservatives is not only about what kind of world we have, but also, how the world has been, and how we see its future. Conservatives seem to see world history as a series of conflicts, a manly place in which only the strongest survive, or something like that. It is a world which has been, and still is, fraught with dangers and things to fear, a hierarchically structured place in which the only good place to be, is on top. Progressives, on the other hand, view wars throughout history as spectacular failings of humanity, and as aberrations in an otherwise mostly peaceful ascendance of human culture brought about by cooperation, rule of law and intelligent, coordinated action.
This opposing world views map directly onto our future. The conservative vision is what we are seeing played out now, especially with financial capitalism and corporatism in government. Them that's got, they's keepin' theirs and gittin' sommore. Ta hell with "you people," as Ann Romney referred to people who quite reasonably, want to see the Romney's financial and tax records, as Willard's (his real name, which apparently is the name of a prominant early Mormon after whom Willard Bay on the Great Salt Lake is named) father George pioneered. The results of this "greed is good," "trickle down" mindset are disastrous in the long run, as we are seeing play out now. However, the important point is that this is not just an economic philosophy; it is a world view and way of life that we are talking about.
Consider this: The strongest predictor of the future is the past. Thus, what we are doing now, is the biggest influence on what our future will be like. If we allow our world to be a place where the conservative mindset dominates, or for that matter men dominate women , or privilege trumps merit, we are most likely looking at a future in which these destructive trends continue -- trends which are antithetical to proper human cultural evolution, as I see it. If we, on the other hand, as a people insist on equal opportunity, meritocracy, cooperation, education, expanding knowledge, progress, and fairness, then the future for us looks great despite the daunting challenges we will surely face -- challenges such as global warming and environmental destruction, learning to humanely control our population and keep in balance with nature, and overcoming our inevitable disagreements and differences. It really comes down to what kind of world we want our future to look like, even if we, the current generation, cannot be there to see it take shape in the distant future. We owe it to ourselves, if not to future generations, to leave the best legacy we can -- a progressive world.
From my perspective, the history of the world clearly shows a progressive trend. This is true, whether we consider the biological evolution of life on earth, the particular biological evolution of Homo Sapiens, or our cultural and spiritual evolution. However, there have been great failures of evolution before, most famously, the extinction of the dinosaurs, although there have been others. There have also been disastrous failures of cultures, including at least 2 that I can think of which resulted in human populations completely dying out. One was Easter Island; the other, Greenland's colonization by Nordic peoples. (The Nordic people of Greenland brought their pastoral culture with them and failed to adapt when the weather was too cold for their animals to survive. They also failed to learn from the Eskimo people of Greenland, who knew how to fish the oceans to survive. I saw a documentary about this a few years ago. What happened on Easter Island remains more of a mystery, but most likely, power struggles and war had a lot to do with it.) I suppose humanity's greed ultimately could be its own undoing, but only if the conservative world view prevails over the progressive one. We must continually insist on the progressive vision of the future so that the kind of world we want, eventually can become a reality.
Next time, I plan to write more on the relation between cultural evolution and the economy.