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The cult of progress

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Steven Tucker has an interesting Mercatornet piece on John Stuart Mill and what has now become a curiously oppressive pursuit of liberty.

The cult of progress: John Stuart Mill’s prison of compulsory eccentricity

150 years on from the death of JS Mill, has the philosopher really just beamed humanity up forcibly into a new, alien world of infinite ‘freedom’?

I used to like John Stuart Mill. Then I actually read him…

What I did not realise when I cited Mill approvingly in my book was that, enamoured as he was by “experiments in living”, Mill dreamed of a world in which everyone was now an eccentric – or, to put it another way, a complete and utter freak. Ironically, in such a world, compulsory eccentricity actually becomes a new form of oppression of the constitutionally normal.

Mill famously castigated “the despotism of custom” and the received mass opinion of non-progressive proles. Yet, if the new received opinion becomes the contemporary liberal denigration of custom instead, then this becomes a new “despotism of custom” in its turn, the new “custom” being a kind of “anti-custom” and celebratory repudiation of previously prevailing social norms – i.e. State-enforced deviance-worship and mandatory cults of diversity.

Mill’s key text may have been called On Liberty, but it really should have been called On Compulsory Liberty – and compulsory liberty is no true liberty at all.



The whole piece is well worth reading because we do seem to have a problem with prejudice. We could view at least some prejudice as a rational defence of the familiar against the risks of the unfamiliar. Yet for decades we have been encouraged to be generally prejudiced against prejudice. Where we end up with that is merely another, more risky form of prejudice.

Identity-politics ideologues today speak of dismantling oppressive norms of white, cisheteropatriarchal normativity, which, by judging people against a standard template, fit minorities into neat little boxes and so drive them towards despair. Mill likewise complains of the painful impossibility of eccentric geniuses like him successfully “fitting themselves, without hurtful compression, into any of the small number of moulds which society provides in order to save its [ordinary] members the trouble of forming their own character.” Well, such moulds have indeed by now been well and truly broken: gender is now a spectrum with approximately 12,697 or more separate entries on it, rather than a mere two as in bigoted Victorian times, for instance.


It’s a strange world indeed where reality itself is prejudiced.


Source: https://akhaart.blogspot.com/2023/05/the-cult-of-progress.html



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