The Progressive Imperative and Hypocrisy


If life is the point, then for every human alive, our original sin is opting to continue to benefit from a system rigged to disadvantage other lives, human or otherwise, even after learning that this is the only way to sustain our survival.

Most sinners are ignorant of their sins, but of those who are not, there are the progressives & conservatives. Progressives are aware that, for survival, they must reap the benefits of an unfair society. So, in their desire to improve it, they become, at best, hypocrites.

(Image credit: Matt Bors)

There’s a reason that the clamour for a good society is called progressivism, not goodism. Embedded in the progressive ideology is an admission of our imperfection. An admission that, though elusive, our best possible state is an ideal worthy of pursuit.

What progressives are saying is that if society can be improved, it should be improved, somewhat. Yet, to partake in a society that is inherently flawed, to make use of the benefits offered by the modern order, means we can never be good. We can only strive to be better.

(Image credit: Matt Bors)

The conservative sinners are the most fortunate (or aspiring) beneficiaries of this rigged society. Though also aware of its imbalances, they lack any desire to change it for fear of losing parts of the advantage they wield. They thus become cynical about progress.

Though the conservative may resort to lying and deception to protect their advantage, they don’t actually have to. It is usually more effective for them to deflate progressive movements by pointing out, correctly, the progressive’s hypocrisy.

The goal is to demoralize the self-unaware progressive who basks in the righteousness of their cause, and perhaps, recruit them into cynicism. But the tactical trick lies in the ‘unanchoring’ of actions from their material consequences so that false equivalencies are drawn.

For example, western countries get their wealth from imperializing and exploiting the global south. So, a self-reflective progressive might acknowledge that it is indeed hypocritical to exist in the imperial core (the west) and earn a decent living there while holding progressive views, including that imperialism must be eliminated. Obviously, benefitting from the proceeds of imperialism, no matter how small, places some responsibility of harm on the beneficiary. But agitating and organizing to stop imperialism is materially more meaningful than not doing anything in order to avoid the accusation of hypocrisy.

The conservative argument would simply be: “See? You’re a hypocrite who also benefits from imperialism by existing in the imperial core. Just suck it up, admit we all need imperialism and give up on this petulant posturing!”.

Notice the trick? They are calling on you to prize moral idealism (your individual need to not want to be a hypocrite) over the material deprivation which hundreds of millions face due to imperialism. In their idealist formulations, the harm of hungry people eating from the leftovers of well-fed armed thieves is basically the same as the harm of the same well-fed armed thieves stealing from other hungry people. They wish not engage with the reality that the latter type of harm has a far more devastating effect than the former. Rather, they would abstractify ‘harm’ from the material reality within which it exists so that, in their final analysis, they may confidently declare: “harm is harm”. Their message? “Change nothing”.

While the progressive appreciates the usefulness of metaphysical ideals (for instance, the need not to commit harm, or that hypocrisy may indeed constitute harm), they are not so much governed by these ideals as they are governed by materialist ones. So, if the progressive must be a hypocrite to survive in this fucked up world, so be it! Their task, however, is to make sure that, while at it, they fight for a world where future generations will have no need to exist as hypocrites.

Progressives should inoculate themselves from the corrupting influence of conservative cynicism in two ways:

  1. Embed in our theories, the fact of our hypocrisy. For it is far better to be a progress-seeking hypocrite than to be a cynic who nurtures their worst impulses.
  2. Never allow conservatives get away with making the body of concepts that inform social discourse nothing but jumbles of abstractions. Every discourse must be anchored upon material consequences, else, they’ll run circles around us with false equivalencies.

For instance, eating stolen food is not bad just because stealing is a bad ideal. It is bad because stealing the food results in the deprivation of those who labored for the food. So, while the progressive can acknowledge that eating the left-over of stolen food still results in the deprivation of the real laborers, they can also recognize that it is objectively better to fight for a world where labor and wealth is fairly distributed. They know that this will result in a world where food thieves no longer need to exist.

If there’s any one thing to take away from this, it is for the progressive to wear their progressive hypocrisy like a badge of honour!

by Idris AJIA



Previous article“No Work No Pay”: Stand With ASUU
Next articleStudent Loans Will Enslave Us: Resist It!