January 8, 2010

Progress & Progressives

Note: This entry is designed to gather into one place the aphorisms in which Gómez Dávila mentions progress, progressives, and other reformers. Moreover, other aphorisms relevant to the topic of progress might be found under the heading of history and Marx & Marxists.


Progress is the scourge God has chosen for us. (#405)

The failure of progress has not consisted in the non-fulfillment but in the fulfillment of its promises. (#2,280)

The cost of progress is calculated in fools. (#1,760)

The horror of progress can only be measured by someone who has known a landscape before and after progress has transformed it. (#2,317)

In the end, what does modern man call “Progress”?
Whatever seems convenient to the fool. (#1,901)

Denigrating progress is too easy. I aspire to the professorship in methodical regression. (#465)

A progressive defends Progress by saying that it exists.
The murderer also exists, and the judge condemns him. (#729)

A greater capacity for killing is the criterion of “progress” between two peoples or two epochs. (#2,662)

Mankind does not need Christianity so it can construct the future, but so it can confront it. (#1,023)

Resistance is futile when everything in the world is conspiring to destroy what we admire.
We are always left, however, with an incorruptible soul, so that we might contemplate, judge, and disdain. (#510)

An “ideal society” would be the graveyard of human greatness. (#19)

"Renouncing the world" ceases to be an achievement and becomes a temptation as Progress progresses. (#1,132)

“Progress,” “Democracy,” the “classless Society,” excite the crowd, but leave the Muses cold and disagreeable. (#637)

The past is the source of poetry; the future is the arsenal of rhetoric. (#1,487)

Falsifying the past is how the left has sought to elaborate the future. (#2,750)

It is indecent, and even obscene, to speak to man of “progress,” when every path winds its way up between funerary cypresses. (#1,861)

The only possible progress is the internal progress of each individual.
A process that concludes with the end of each life. (#2,381)

We can only hope for a reform of society to come from the contradictions between human follies. (#2,706)

In order to avoid a manly confrontation with nothingness, man erects altars to progress. (#578)

What is called progress are preparations for a catastrophe. (#1,966)

The left’s theses are trains of thought that are carefully stopped before they reach the argument that demolishes them. (#1,842)

For the fool, obsolete opinion and erroneous opinion are synonymous expressions. (#2,847)

Progress is the offspring of knowledge of nature.
Faith in progress is the offspring of ignorance of history. (#1,214)

It is easier to forgive the progressive for progress than for his faith. (#935)

As a criterion of what is best, modern man knows nothing but posteriority. (#1,094)

Unable to achieve what it desires, “progress” christens what it achieves desire. (#28)

The progressive’s cardinal syllogism is simply beautiful: the best always triumphs, because what triumphs is called the best. (#1,327)

More repulsive than the future which progressives involuntarily prepare is the future they dream of. (#52)

Chance will always rule history, because it is not possible to organize the state in such a way that it does not matter who rules. (#63)

Whoever does not turn his back on the contemporary world dishonors himself. (#76)

In order to renew, it is not necessary to contradict; it is enough to make profounder. (#2,608)

Courtesy is an obstacle to progress. (#1,717)

History shows not the inefficacy of actions but the futility of intentions. (#94)

None of the high points of history has been planned.
The reformer can only be credited with errors. (#2,897)

Unlimited gullibility is required to be able to believe that any social condition can be improved in any other way than slowly, gradually, and involuntarily. (#2,962)

Social improvements do not come from powerful shake-ups, but from light nudges. (#1,410)

The golden rule of politics is to make only minimal changes and to make them as slowly as possible. (#2,917)

It does not appear that the humanities, in contrast to the natural sciences, reach a state of maturity where anything idiotic is automatically obvious. (#1,936)

Religious thought does not go forward, like scientific thought, but rather goes deeper. (#2,545)

Modern man destroys more when he constructs than when he destroys. (#493)

The prejudices of other ages are incomprehensible to us when our own blind us. (#115)

It is possible to inculcate in the contemporary bourgeois any stupid idea in the name of progress and to sell him any grotesque object in the name of art. (#1,520)

The modern tragedy is not the vanquishing of reason, but the triumph of reason. (#603)

Reason, Progress, and Justice are the three theological virtues of the fool. (#1,180)

Asking the state to do what only society should do is the error of the left. (#2,698)

The names of famous leftists end up as insulting adjectives in the mouths of leftists. (#1,097)

The left claims that the guilty party in a conflict is not the one who covets another’s goods but the one who defends his own. (#2,927)

The leftist, like the polemicist of yesteryear, believes he refutes an opinion by accusing the holder of that opinion of immorality. (#1,303)

The vice which afflicts the right is cynicism, and that which afflicts the left is deceit. (#2,730)

Civilization is what old men manage to salvage from the onslaught of young idealists. (#119)

The progressive believes that everything soon becomes obsolete, except his ideas. (#419)

The periodic reflowering of what he decrees obsolete makes life bitter for the progressive. (#1,814)

Progress ages badly.
Each generation brings a new model of progressivism and discards with contempt the previous model.
Nothing is more grotesque than yesterday’s progressive. (#601)

The frightened progressive has neither compassion nor dignity. (#2,419)

The aged progressive is nostalgic, like an old flirt. (#1,261)

We who are sedentary and indifferent to fashion enjoy nothing more than the panting gallop of straggling progressives. (#1,882)

The intelligent leftist admits that his generation will not construct the perfect society, but trusts in a future generation.
His intelligence discovers his personal impotence, but his leftism prevents him from discovering man’s impotence. (#1,070)

Nothing is more dangerous than to solve ephemeral problems with permanent solutions. (#136)

To reform everyone else is an ambition which all mock yet which all nurse. (#186)

Social problems are the favorite refuge of those fleeing their own problems. (#1,137)

The left is a collection of those who blame society for nature’s shabby treatment of them. (#2,168)

The progressive dreams of the scientific stabling of humanity. (#1,944)

Reforms are the entrance ramps to revolutions. (#1,993)

Knowing which reforms the world needs is the only unequivocal symptom of stupidity. (#909)

The problems of an “underdeveloped” country are the favorite pretext for leftist escapism.
Lacking new merchandise to offer to the European market, the leftist intellectual peddles his faded wares in the third world. (#1,048)

When a longing for purity persuades him to condemn “social hypocrisy,” man does not recover his lost integrity, but loses his shame. (#260)

The left does not condemn violence until it hears it pounding on its door. (#2,290)

The individual today rebels against immutable human nature so that he might refrain from amending his own correctable nature. (#210)

The preaching of progressives has so corrupted us that nobody believes that he is what he is, but only what he did not succeed in being. (#425)

Modern man already knows that political solutions are ludicrous and suspects that economic solutions are too. (#230)

The left never attributes its failure to a mistaken diagnosis but to the perversity of events. (#2,030)

Transforming the world: the occupation of a convict resigned to his punishment. (#234)

They speak emphatically of “transforming the world,” when the most to which they can aspire is to certain secondary remodelings of society. (#2,797)

Two hundred years ago it was permissible to trust in the future without being totally stupid.
But today, who can believe in the current prophecies, since we are yesterday’s splendid future? (#253)

To criticize a present in the name of a past can be futile, but to have criticized it in the name of a future can turn out to be risible when that future arrives. (#2,663)

Each new generation, in the last two centuries, ends up looking with nostalgia on that which appeared abominable to the previous generation. (#1,977)

The left no longer dares proclaim itself a hope, but at the most fate. (#2,247)

The leftist emulates the devout who continue venerating the relic after the miracle has been proved to be a hoax. (#1,696)

The enemies of the modern world, in the 19th century, could trust in the future.
In this century there only remains bare nostalgia for the past. (#614)

Rather than an ideological strategy, the Left is a lexicographical tactic. (#1,498)

The new left gathers together those who acknowledge the ineffectiveness of the cure without ceasing to believe in the prescription. (#1,343)

Those who are who active in the new left today are disoriented and helpless reactionaries. (#1,416)

If the left continues adopting, one after another, the objections that we reactionaries have raised against the modern world, we will have to become leftists. (#2,310)

Anguish over the decline of civilization is the affliction of a reactionary.
The democrat cannot lament the disappearance of something of which he is ignorant. (#303)

Nothing cures the progressive.
Not even the frequent panic attacks administered to him by progress. (#1,833)

The progressive’s enthusiasm, the democrat’s arguments, the materialist’s demonstrations are the reactionary’s delicious and succulent food. (#1,467)

History erects and topples, incessantly, the statues of different virtues on top of the unmoving pedestal of the same vices. (#276)

The leftist writer never writes a history, but rather illustrates an outline with examples. (#2,244)

Tolerance consists of a firm decision to allow them to insult everything we seek to love and respect, as long as they do not threaten our material comforts.
Modern, liberal, democratic, progressive man, as long as they do not step on his calluses, will let them degrade his soul. (#979)

Industrial society is condemned to forced perpetual progress. (#257)

Consumption, for the progressive, is justified only as a means of production. (#399)

One speaks of a “consumer society” in order to conceal—since production is the progressive ideal—that one is dealing with a production society. (#2,133)

Progress in the end comes down to stealing from man what ennobles him, in order to sell to him at a cheap price what degrades him. (#890)

Science’s greatest triumph appears to lie in the increasing speed with which an idiot can transport his idiocy from one place to another. (#293)

Progressivist hope does not swell up except in speeches. (#362)

The new catechists profess that Progress is the modern incarnation of hope.
But Progress is not hope emerging, but the dying echo of hope already vanished. (#657)

In the intelligent man faith is the only remedy for anguish.
The fool is cured by “reason,” “progress,” alcohol, work. (#2,813)

The progressive’s intelligence is never more than the accomplice of his career. (#387)

The most persuasive reason to renounce daring progressive opinions is the inevitability with which sooner or later the fool finally adopts them. (#2,798)

Modern education delivers intact minds to propaganda. (#538)

Man is an animal that can be educated, provided he does not fall into the hands of progressive pedagogues. (#2,714)

The pessimists prophesy a future of rubble, but the optimistic prophets are even more horrifying when they proclaim the future city where baseness and boredom dwell, in intact beehives. (#369)

When it finishes its “ascent,” humanity will find tedium waiting for it, seated on the highest peak. (#2,642)

Yesterday progressivism captured the unwary by offering them freedom; today all it needs to do is offer them food. (#437)

Under the pretext of giving work to the hungry, the progressive sells the useless artifacts he produces.
The poor are industrialism’s pretext for enriching the rich man. (#486)

The leftist is so worried about the problems of the 19th century that he does not worry about the problems of the 20th century.
The problems raised by the industrialization of society prevent him from seeing the problems raised by industrialized society. (#600)

Leftists and rightists merely argue about who is to have possession of industrial society.
The reactionary longs for its death. (#2,179)

The leftist obviously refuses to understand that the conclusions of bourgeois thought are the principles of leftist thought. (#2,231)

The reformers of contemporary society persist in decorating the cabins of a ship that is going under. (#492)

Bourgeois reformers prepare legal precedents for their future despoilers. (#1,105)

Revolution is progressivist and seeks the strengthening of the state; rebellion is reactionary and seeks its disappearance.
The revolutionary is a potential government official; the rebel is a reactionary in action. (#1,439)

The Christian knows with certainty what his personal behavior should be, but he can never state for certain that he is not making a mistake by adopting this or that social reform. (#2,923)

The progressive clergyman excoriates the “ghetto mentality” of the old Christian today.
Those clerics prefer the commercial and financial activity of the modern Jew to the ghetto where Israel’s faithfulness flourished. (#682)

Unless circumstances constrain him, there is no radically leftist Jew.
The people that discovered divine absolutism does not make deals with the absolutism of man. (#2,653)

Atop the bell tower of the modern church the progressive clergyman, instead of a cross, places a weathervane. (#898)

If it is merely a matter of organizing an earthly paradise, curates are more than enough.
The devil will do. (#1,168)

In the bosom of the Church today, “integralists” are those who do not understand that Christianity needs a new theology, and “progressives” are those who do not understand that the new theology must be Christian. (#692)

In their childish and vain attempt to attract the people, the modern clergy give socialist programs the function of being schemes for putting the Beatitudes into effect.
The trick behind it consists in reducing to a collective structure external to the individual an ethical behavior that, unless it is individual and internal, is nothing.
The modern clergy preach, in other words, that there is a social reform capable of wiping out the consequences of sin.
From which one can deduce the pointlessness of redemption through Christ. (#2,982)

Three persons in our age make it their profession to detest the bourgeoisie:
the intellectual—that typical representative of the bourgeoisie;
the communist—that faithful executor of bourgeois intentions and ideals;
the progressive clergyman—that final triumph of the bourgeois mind over the Christian soul. (#706)

The progressive clergyman, in revolutionary periods, ends up dead, but not as a martyr. (#1,251)

The crisis of Christianity today has been provoked not by science, nor by history, but by the new means of communication.
Religious progressivism is the task of adapting Christian doctrines to the opinions sponsored by news agencies and publicity agents. (#753)

Progressive Christians painstakingly search through sociology manuals for material with which to fill lacunae in the Gospel. (#1,455)

The modern Christian feels professionally obligated to act jovially and jokingly, to show his teeth in a cheerful grin, to profess a slavering friendliness, in order to prove to the unbeliever that Christianity is not a “somber” religion, a “pessimistic” doctrine, an “ascetic” morality.
The progressive Christian shakes our hand with the wide grin of a politician running for office. (#711)

The progressive cleric never disappoints an aficionado of the ridiculous. (#934)

When it comes to knowledge of man, there is no Christian (provided he is not a progressive Christian) whom anybody has anything to teach. (#2,867)

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