Friday 7 September 2012

On the Other Hand...

I noticed that the old slogan 'Forward not back' (a Labour favourite in the Blair days) was being bandied about on a grand scale at the Democrats' shindig in Charlotte. Naturally, as a dyed-in-the wool reactionary, I flinch from this kind of thing, but does anybody - even in progressive circles - take such a notion seriously? If it means anything (which is debatable), its message must rest on an unspoken presumption that going forward is a good in itself, forward is always into the light, 'things can only get better', etc. But what sane person would not rather go back from here 100 years, to a world that knew nothing of the industrialised slaughter of two world wars, the murderous oppression of communism and fascism, the Holocaust, 9/11, etc, etc? Going forward from 1912 was really not such a brilliant deal, was it? That progressive ideas are still alive and apparently flourishing after the unfolding horrors of the 20th century never ceases to amaze me. Maybe we're just natural born optimists.


  1. Don't think it is optimism so much as curiosity that keeps driving us forward but, as Churchill warned, in unusually concise language, 'The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see'

  2. ...the industrialised slaughter of two world wars, the murderous oppression of communism and fascism, the Holocaust, 9/11, etc, etc

    I had the experience of listening to a bit of conservative talk radio in America earlier this year and this turns out to be, I was surprised to learn, exactly what Obama means by 'forward not back.'

    The Simpsons have the best line on the subject, from back during the '96 election, when alien Kang (as Clinton) announces in the Halloween episode, We must move forward, not backward! Upward, not forward! And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

  3. "The Whiggish assumption in contemporary politics that today must be better than yesterday, this year more advanced than last year, this century wiser than the one that preceded it is held most dogmatically by so-called progressives. For them history is a vehicle with no reverse gear, and the engine that powers it is nothing more or less than the State. This is the hardened, metaphysical, dogmatic cliché that makes it possible for journalists to glibly describe any expansion of the government into our lives as a “step forward” or an “advancement” and any retrenchment of government as a step “backward.”"

  4. The irony is that so many Dems and Labourites who indulge in this rhetoric have actually become rather reactionary and are trying to freeze politics and government in the seventies. Most of their energies are devoted to fending off efforts to reform government spending, union privileges, healthcare decrepitiude, etc. Plus the environmental movement in their midst has completely supplanted the old building-a-New-Jerusalem ethos that drove the left until the fifties. "Forward Back to the Middle Ages" sums up their thinking pretty well, I think.