To those of you who know me and my views well, I assure you that there is no mistake in the title, nor have I had a sudden and drastic change in worldview over the summer. But I am still a progressive so now I must prove my case. To progress is to move forward and there is only one ideology that has progressed humanity further than any other: Classical liberalism.
Classical liberalism can basically be defined as the ideology of the individual with its staunch protection of civil liberties such as freedom of speech, the press and assembly coupled with a strong adherence to economic freedom and a defence of private property rights. Much of these ideas were developed and embraced by what we now know as ‘the West’ where the focus on the individual took hold, paving the way for the abolition of slavery; the introduction of racial and gender equality; and a tolerance towards those who have different beliefs, lifestyles and attitudes to ourselves. What accompanied the rise of the West along the way was innovation brought about by free market principles, raising living standards above that of the absolutist monarchs which classical liberalism successfully challenged and supplanted.
The feudal economies of old (and most of human history for that matter) experienced stagnant innovation as there was no incentive unlike in a free market, where one must appease the demands of consumers. Since the invention of farming over 10,000 years ago, humanity suddenly found itself with time on its hands to invent and experiment for the first time in its history. But innovation was still incredibly slow; under free market capitalism, innovation has exploded. This innovation brings both a mass production of goods and services as well as the introduction of new goods and services onto the market, enabling ordinary people to have a comfortable standard of living, rather than just the wealthy. The commencement of free market capitalism has also crushed the global rate of extreme poverty, slicing it in half between 1990 and 2010, with much of this achievement originating in India and China after they had liberalised their markets.
Capitalism also allows for a welfare state; a safety net to protect the most vulnerable in society because, in order to utilise tax revenue, wealth must be created in the first place. Socialist economic systems are unable to provide for the very poor because there is no wealth (or at the very least no more wealth) to seize and siphon off as no one wants to produce. Staying on topic, the classical liberal West eventually defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War, in part by forcing the USSR to become less dictatorial and slowly shift to more classically liberal policies to help sustain the whole system. Human rights, rising living standards, equality before the law, fending off totalitarianism… is this not progress? Surely if we define progress as the improvement of the conditions of humanity, classical liberalism is inherently progressive.
But the word ‘progressive’ is not linked to classical liberalism: it is linked to its arch-nemesis. Nowadays, those that call themselves progressive believe that their ideology is progressive because it is called progressive, so the cause must be righteous and the destination beneficial. The contemporary progressives may believe that their ideas are going to propel humanity to a brighter future but they are against freedom of speech, individual choice and possess a strong disregard for free market economics in favour of a bureaucratic-collectivist system where everyone thinks the same and does as they are told.
Now here is the main focus of the article: the progressive’s war on language. The contemporary progressives use the literal definition/appeal to definition fallacy (where the meaning of the name must convey to what it actually is) to justify their ideology. Of course, by doing this they must explain the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Congo Free State under Leopold II and how could we forget… The National Socialist German Worker’s Party. I’m sure they’ll get around to it as soon as possible. Antifa is another example: the group claims to be against fascism but uses violence against any of its ideological opponents (who are almost always not fascist in any way) when they exercise their free speech rights, making them seem less like the soldiers who stormed the Normandy beaches and more like Hitler’s Brownshirts.
Going with the literal definition is Orwellian, with Orwell writing both Animal Farm and 1984 to show that tyrants would try to use this tactic to mask their true intentions. But it is not just the literal definition where they are fighting battles; they are fighting the definition of words entirely with an example being the phrase ‘speech is violence.’ Now equating speech you disagree with to violence is peak snowflake mentality but it also shows that the word speech is losing its meaning, as violence means the use of physical force. The contemporary progressives also enjoy broadening the definition of words beyond any logical meaning. ‘Hate speech’ is a popular example as rather than meaning speech which incites violence or is necessarily intended to generate hate, a more accurate definition would be ‘anything which the arbiter of what hate speech is disagrees with.’
This is not to mention that their language is constantly evolving – just look at the post-modernist definition(s) for patriarchy. Patriarchy usually means an inherent and systemic male-dominated society, hell-bent on elevating the socio-economic, social and political status of men at the expense of women who are exploited. But when you bring up the fact that men are more likely to be in prison, commit suicide, do worse in school and so forth, they say that this is also a fault of patriarchy despite men being disadvantaged through their own system. If this is the case, it is not a male-dominated system working for the benefit of men. Then when they find themselves cornered, the definition changes again. But why is this so concerning? Words allow people to communicate with one another and exchange ideas, so it is vital that words have rational and universally accepted definitions otherwise effective discourse becomes impossible.
When writing an essay in school or for an assignment, the definitions must be both accepted as well as explicitly stated in the introductory paragraph before any sort of discussion can begin. How is this possible now when the word ‘socialism’ means state control of the economy one day but spending more money on the NHS the day after? Those that are trying to modify the English language have exploited this to perfection for their main aim: control. As stated before, the progressives want power and are attempting to modify language to silence dissent. Another glance at the phrases ‘speech is violence’ and ‘hate speech’ will show you that if someone offends another by what they say, they are liable to have their free speech rights removed and be attacked with physical force if necessary.
In Orwell’s 1984, the newspeak dictionary simply combined words or purged them altogether, ensuring that an eloquent and independent thought, one being outside of Big Brother orthodoxy, was unachievable; now the current butchering of language is having a similar effect. If speech can be considered hateful or violent, some may accept this definition and will stop speaking their minds thus there would be no need for censorship in the first place. Similarly, some people may take the name at face value and accept the literal definition of anti-fascist and believe that the group is genuinely anti-fascist. It can be used as a form of mind-control because thoughts dictate actions so as a result, words have power and the progressives are at the control panel.
But it is not all doom and gloom as it appears that they have overstepped their mark. No one is denying that the meaning of words does not evolve over time but what the progressives have done is that they have wedged the accelerator to the floor, forgetting that society is yet to catch up with them. Although they have also tried to use this to their advantage with the labelling of many centre-right individuals as fascist, intending to use the fear of fascism to discredit their opponents. But words are like currency: they are a medium of exchange (of ideas regarding speech), must be accepted to hold any value and are devalued with overuse. The famous progressive buzzwords of racist, misogynist, transphobe and so on, like the German Mark in the early 1920s, have been overused to the point of worthlessness. As such, people have refused to accept these shifting definitions, putting a dent in the progressive agenda. Being called any of these buzzwords is seen as a badge of honour by some because it shows they have won an argument against the political opposition and not because racists are patting the backs of other racists.
Whilst this is necessary to stop the misuse of language in its tracks, the overuse of these words have become somewhat dangerous by creating a Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf scenario, as there is no way of distinguishing between someone who is genuinely racist to someone who has the logical edge over a progressive. Nevertheless, to avoid bowing down to the new progressive vocabulary is certainly a strong tactic. I wrote the above section on classical liberalism to show how easy it is to attach certain words to a political cause even when the opposing side is using the same word to describe theirs. Classical liberalism and contemporary “progressivism” are both contradictory ideologies therefore both can’t be ‘progressive’ if the definition remains ‘to move humanity forward’; so, with some explanation, I have attempted to take the progressive title for myself in a little fighting fire with fire exercise. It also reveals that the word ‘progressive’ itself has lost its meaning anyway as those of differing ideologies may still refer to their opponents as progressive even if they believe that their own ideology is the one to move humanity forward. This shows that the word progressive simply refers to a set of ideas, not what is believed to be genuinely progressive. This is promising because in a game where your opponent makes the rules, the winning strategy is not to play.
Photo by Sergio on Flickr.