A Skeptical Progressive
Norman Mailer takes the long view:
Let’s say that in my lifetime, certain things have gotten better and other things have grown worse, so much so that latter-day events would stagger the imagination of the nineteenth century. If, for example, the flush toilet is an improvement in existence, and if the automobile is an improvement, if technological progress is an improvement, then look at the price that was paid. It’s not too hard to argue that the gulags, the concentration camps, the atom bomb, came out of technological improvement. For the average person in the average developed country, life, if seen in terms of comfort, is better than it was in the middle of the nineteenth century, but by the measure of our human development as ethical, spiritual, responsible, and creative human beings, it may be worse. Reason, ultimately, looks to strip us of the notion that there is a Creator. The moment you have a society built on reason alone, then individual power begins to substitute for the concept of a Creator.
Progressivism has yet to prove itself. We live in a more diffuse state of general anxiety than people did in 1900. I don’t want to be a bore about this, but nuclear warfare also came along. The argument: Did we really improve anything spiritually? For instance, were people better off when they had to squat over a hole in the ground and so could smell their own product? Maybe they were a little closer to themselves than they are now.