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The Last Years of Progress

The Last Years of Progress

No, I’m not going to put much time here into discussing the last few weeks of political gyrations in the US. I grant that it was highly entertaining to watch politicians who spent most of 2020 insisting that rioting is a perfectly acceptable form of political activity throwing a fine tantrum when the other side took them at their word.  It was just as entertaining to watch the social-media barons shoot themselves through all four cheeks at once, by way of a frantic mass purge of dissidents that gave competing venues a boost no amount of advertising could have brought them—and then there was the enticing spectacle of Wall Street melting down right out there in public because a bunch of day traders on Reddit carried out the kind of market scheme that, according to the official narratives, only the obscenely rich are supposed to do. Still, there are plenty of other places online and off where those ironies can be savored, and plenty of other things we need to talk about as America’s ancien régime enters its twilight.

It’s been pointed out that politics is downstream from culture—in less gnomic terms, that changes in culture come first and shifts in politics echo them later on.  This is true, but the same insight can be taken further. Culture, in exactly the same sense, is downstream from imagination.  Trace out any of the convulsive political changes that have shaped history and you can follow them back through cultural shifts to the thoughts and dreams of visionaries on the fringe. It’s in this sense that, as Shelley claimed, poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world:  before the political turmoil comes the cultural shifts that make it inescapable; before the cultural shifts comes the whispering in the collective imagination that makes them thinkable.

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ecosophia, john michael greer, progress,

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