On the most recent Peacing It All Together (episode 34: Progress) I talked about why I don’t identify as a progressive.

  • Progress is not inevitable
  • What we call progress is not always progress
  • There is a shadow side to the light of ‘progress’
  • Progress often has unintended side-effects that a create greater capacity for tragedy and devastation.  This can be economic, environmental, or societal.

I talked to Randy about Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History. He says:

His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back his turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. The storm is what we call progress.
 
On the wiki page critic British critic Terry Eagleton, a sophisticated and politically engaged interpreter of Benjamin , for instance, wrote: “In one of his shrewdest sayings, Benjamin remarked that what drives men and women to revolt against injustice is not dreams of liberated grandchildren, but memories of enslaved ancestors. It is by turning our gaze to the horrors of the past, in the hope that we will not thereby be turned to stone, that we are impelled to move forward.” 
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My friend John E wrote me:
I was ponding how one might respond to the Angel of History. One might decide that life is futile or that since the world sucks one should just grab what they can for themselves and to hell with the rest, neither of which I believe. Last night Jeff Goldblum was on Late Night with Steven Colbert. Steven reminded him that when Jeff was last on his show (November 8,2016) Jeff had said that he would not let the election dis-inspire him. So he asked, “How does Jeff Goldblum stay inspired?” Jeff shared this quote:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

That sounded like a pretty good response to the Angel of History. -John
I would love your thoughts.