Candide, the character in the homonymous book attributed to Voltaire (who never acknowledged his authorship), is a cultured character with an optimistic view of reality. He thought that, according to the precept of the Liebniz’s philosophy“everything happens for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.”
According to the German philosopher, it could not be otherwise because that world was thus by the will of God. Then, as he was experiencing the reality of the outside world -to the bubble of his formation-, Candide verified the horrors of that world, despite which stubbornly continued to cling to his optimism.
Until, after most of his life, he finally recognizes that the world is as it is, and the optimistic patina with which his vision was distorted, he could not withstand the harsh test that reality faced him.
Faced with this, he has no choice but to take care of what he has around him and ensure that he improves his situation, which is the only thing truly within his reach, which is masterfully summarized in the final sentence of the book: “we have to cultivate our garden”.
Today, more than two hundred and fifty years after the book was written, the world seems to be more populated by “naive” than ever. Although today they practice their candor by following a philosophical, political and legal-economic version, updated with an optimism reality denier and that presumes to be progressive.
Based on a biased reading of numbers and statistics, progressive candor consists of the obstinacy of a significant percentage of the population making an effort to maintain that everything is fine, and that the world we live in is the best of all, even when the reality shows us the opposite, bombards us with events that deny this cultural fallacy that falls into the misleading observation that we live better than before and that this is enough, without realizing that statistics show averages only and hide the ends.
What the statistics subtly deny is that there is a vast number of people below the minimum threshold necessary to subsist, and another large amount that barely exceeds that threshold, but without the slightest possibility of reversing the precarious situation in which it finds itself. This reality is on which the optimism of the naive of progress. Something inadmissible for those who maintain that they do not stop fighting for social progress.
For there to be a statistical average there must necessarily be two extremes that balance each other. We already described one of those extremes, the other is made up of the small group that promotes and sustains the status quo, because what is found there is a great accumulation of wealth by a very small percentage of the population. Obviously they do not want to change too much of that world that benefits them. For them, as for Candido’s teacher, reality is perfectly fine like this, and it’s the best possible world.
Even so –or perhaps for this very reason– millions of people, the naive of progress, maintain that this world is fine, although they do not belong to it either. small group that accumulates a large amount of wealthbut that does not prevent them from being part of the immense group of those who survive, so conformism and vertigo in the face of the possibility of change are sufficient incentives to become naive progressives and continue to uphold, from an individual comfort zone, the belief optimistic about “statistical” progress.
Today’s world shows us that this “progressive candor” or, if you prefer, these candors of progress are very present and rooted among the ruling class. not just enter government authorities and officialsbut also among those in charge of international, public and private organizations, non-governmental organizations, large companies and even social and ecological movements.
Lots of them fall into the most supine progressive candor, because they do not stop stubbornly expressing their optimism in the current social, economic and legal system, as a way to achieve progress for all, which someday will come, they say. And they subject that progress to everyone doing the corresponding merits (according to their own doctrines) to be within the average.
Governments, presidents, political movements, social movements, preachers, scientists, environmentalists, TV stars and influencers, they all want to hold up the banner of social progress, they all promote speeches about the need for social progress, and everyone struggles so that the structure of the system does not suffer the slightest changeand confirm their conviction that “the status quo is an acquired capital”, in this case for all those who can benefit from it.
To think of achieving different results while maintaining the same structural social system, the same ideas and ideologies over and over again, is to be a naive progressive at best (as long as we choose to assert the presumption of innocence). Criticism of progressives does not target their values (when they are honest) but to their practices, to the incoherence between the ideas they claim to hold and the practices that lead to reality.
Perhaps it is easier to understand what it is about with an example of what “is not” progressivism. Uphold the “status quo” openly or defending current economic and legal models is not progressive, or at least it shouldn’t be in countries and regions where poverty and exclusion rates remain very high.
But this does not mean that it is not a valid and even profoundly honest position, despite the fact that we may disagree to a greater or lesser extent given the results of the economic and legal models supported by these positions. It is part of the essential freedom of thought in any democratic society and part of the political freedoms in any country that uphold values of equality and freedom.
Criticizing these positions is at least “immodest” since it is an easy exercise, repeated ad nauseam, and in a certain weak way, because it cannot be ignored that they are coherent since they stem from certain permanent values and the idea that the development of individuals depends on their merits or efforts . There is a certain internal coherence between what they claim to uphold, their values, and the outcomes of the systems they uphold. Criticism of progressivism, of the naive of progress, is more difficult and less sympathetic.
But it is still unavoidable because progressives support, by action or omission, the economic and legal systems that threaten the possibilities of concrete well-being of the population whose representation and defense they claim. This is what deserves analysis –and criticism if necessary–, to redirect that social role of being those who seek to balance reality promoting the necessary changes for social progress.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way the world works, some changes are open and tangibleothers are underground and invisible, at least for the moment, but like in a game of dominoes once the first tile is triggered, all the following ones fall one after another.
* Lawyer and former Chief of Advisors to the Provincial Executive of Misiones.
by Enrique Gross Sibona