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Retro-Progressives

As if deliberately setting out to taunt me, Kate Tennier of Toronto wants to coin retro-progressive as a political neologism. Lloyd Alter, also of Toronto, has come up with an accompanying survey, Are You a Retro-Progressive? With all due respect to deliberate primitivism and trend-story thinking person’s terms, I don’t think they’ve quite gotten it. So, I offer my own survey, below.

Are you a retrogressive retro-progressive?

Do you agree or disagree with the following quotations? For each that you agree with, give yourself one point.

We know enough about agriculture so that the agricultural production of the country could be doubled if the knowledge were applied. We know enough about disease so that if the knowledge were utilized, infectious and contagious diseases would be substantially destroyed in the United States within a score of years; we know enough about eugenics so that if the knowledge were applied, the defective classes would disappear within a generation.

(That’s Progressive academic Charles R. Van Hise, quoted in Paul (1995), p. 78.)

… the way of Nature has always been to slay the hindmost, and there is still no other way, unless we can prevent those who would become the hindmost being born.

(That’s notable Fabian H.G. Wells, in 1905, quoted in Paul (1995), p. 75.)

A rigid system of selection through the elimination of those who are weak or unfit — in other words social failures — would solve the whole question in one hundred years, as well as enable us to get rid of the undesirables who crowd our jails, hospitals, and insane asylums. The individual himself can be nourished, educated and protected by the community during his lifetime, but the state through sterilization must see to it that his line stops with him, or else future generations will be cursed with an ever increasing load of misguided sentimentalism. This is a practical, merciful, and inevitable solution of the whole problem, and can be applied to an ever widening circle of social discards, beginning always with the criminal, the diseased, and the insane, and extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings rather than defectives, and perhaps ultimately to worthless race types.

(That’s the noted environmentalist lawyer and author Madison Grant in his eugenicist magnum opus, The Passing of the Great Race (1916), pp. 50–51.)

Bonus question. When you see the following picture…

from a 1950s advertisement, featuring a housewife attentively mixing ingredients for baking

… do you think (a) Quaint, anti-consumerist, and ecologically responsible, or (b) an ad-man’s glossy idealization of an underlying reality of unpaid labor, soul-killing drudgery, and patriarchal control? If (a), give yourself one point. If (b), your second-wave feminism isn’t trendily retro enough for a movement that rhetorically identifies itself with the leading white male technocrats of the 1900s-1930s.

If you scored three or more, congratulations. Your beliefs are closely in line with those of the retro Progressive movement. Now that’s some of that old time religion!

Further reading:

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2 replies to Retro-Progressives Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. D. Zell

    I thought “you can’t make an omlette without breaking a few eggs”, which I guess has been the unofficial Progressive motto ever since the Debs-jailing days.

· November 2007 ·

  1. Discussed at tinychoices.com

    New Lingo: Retro-Progressive | Tiny Choices:

    […] the other hand, there is a pretty scathing rebuttal of the concept of retro-progressive over here.The page asks Bonus question. When you see the following picture… [[click here for photo – […]

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