Is a vote to leave backward looking?
That’s a question that was put to the English conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton shortly before the vote. He was being interviewed on a Dutch television program.
“If you vote leave in June, could you say that it’s backward-looking – it’s not a progressive vote?”
It’s not a suggestion Scruton was ever going to have much time for:
“People say that, but what does the word ‘backward’ mean and what does the word ‘progress’ mean?
We were fed up with that language which the Soviet Union tried to stuff down our throats. You know, the bourgeois’s democracy is reactionary; the people’s democracy is progressive.
My view is that anyone who uses the word “progress” as a term of commendation needs his head examined.”
The word “progress” is used as a term of commendation by those who believe in inevitable moral progress (which happens to support all of their views).
According to self-described “progressives” you’re on “the right side of history” if you agree with them, while you’re “on the wrong side of history” if you don’t. If you agree you join them in the realm of the morally superior. If you disagree, perish you unenlightened person, you bigot.
But, it’s unclear what the right ride of history means. In fact, it rather sounds like gibberish.
A better idea
If one wants to convince someone that something is a good or bad idea, better to argue one’s case than to make bold, speculative claims about the verdict of a future age. Preferably, one would employ words that have a meaning.
Arguing one’s case gives the other person a better prospect of knowing whether or not to support the idea and why.
By contrast, simply claiming to be morally superior for holding for one’s opinion is unlikely to appeal to others who have yet to be convinced.
When someone feels the need to employs meaningless words of praise or condemnation it suggests they don’t know how to argue their case. They might not say anything, but they remain unconvinced.
It doesn’t work anymore
There are lessons to be learn by the “progressives”, particularly after two serious electoral defeats this year.
The Remain Campaign liked to style itself as “progressive”.
Remainers would often characterise the campaign as being one the forces of love (as represented by themselves), and the forces of hate (as represented by their opponents). Their opponents were stupid, ignorant, hateful people and Remainers would often said as much.
That didn’t work out too well…
Meanwhile in America, Hillary Clinton based her campaign on progressiveness. She styled herself as the candidate for women, African Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, LGBT, and of course all right-minded people. Her opponent was the candidate for nasty, privileged white men (who were nevertheless struggling) who held bigoted views. They were the “deplorables”.
That didn’t work out either…
The lessons should be very easy to grasp:
A) Don’t insult people because they have the temerity to think differently from you. Instead, re-examine your case and theirs before returning to debate- or indeed, entering into it for the first time
B) Don’t insult people because they’ve won and you’ve lost. It’s unpleasant and it further diminishes your chance of winning again.
Learn to argue again, and let the best arguments win.