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Boredom and progress



The problem of progress is not the lag or gap between the so-called developed and developing countries. The problem of progress is boredom.

I love modern society. Loving it is the condition of my participation in it. Modern society shines with possibilities in the fight against boredom. Reactionism or, more generally conservatism, is also fun. Reactionism is in that sense more of a discipline, a form of training, a punishment to the senses, pour mieux sauter. Reactionism is more stable if you find your interest in the contemplation of the rhythms of life. Gardeners are good at reactionism and conservatism, because they do not really wish to participate in anything anyway, they feel, as they say "at one with nature", and that fits: they order nature to their own model and are quite oblivious to the absurdities they commit in the name of their naturalism. But, and this is their secret, they are not bored, or rather their boredom is their entertainment; they are absorbed by their caution, their wisdom, the recognition of pattern and they are religiously delighted by their dirty hands and the sacrifice of their back to the cause.
Conservatism is a very organic approach to the world; it takes its role as husband very seriously. Burke used gardening analogies in his definition of conservatism. Its counterpoint, the progressive is more reckless, and in that sense also very natural, in that it does not think of consequences. Progressivism is the attitude that makes up the first part of the cycle of any evolutionary process: the blind accident, the change induced by chance or at best the vague view of possibilities.

Evolution is a process that behaves much as the cloud in an atom-bomb. Everything is pushed up and out by moving in spirals and circles, turning in upon itself as it grows and then dissipating completely. Conservatism requires the look back. It tends to invoke wisdom as its guide in ignorance and walks in well-trodden circles.  Modernism or progressivism requires a quick intelligence and logic, a wild jump into possibility.

If all this is true, then it does not really matter where you stand within the rhizome of evolution, you always inhabit the centre of your universe anyway. The process of evolution is merely a shape distinguishable within that rhizome, the reward of looking hard. 

The gap in development between the various nations, has nothing to do with progress in itself but simply with envy and a competition for scarcities, which are only scarcities because people want them. The acquisition of scarcities does not give the answer to our problems. Nor do methods of production. In a society where we all work together there does not need to be any scarcity. The real problem is our propensity to boredom, our inertia. Work is odious and frequently boring, doing nothing is odious and frequently boring. That is our problem. And to get around it we have created a fantastic but fragile metaphysical landscape with a real emotional topography of vales and peaks and gods and angels with names like growth, and 3 % and flexibility. Some countries have shown themselves to be rather good at this game and are the envy of the world. And this is the problem.

Working together is not to God's liking (genesis 11) All we end up doing is tower-building and trying to find short-cuts to heaven without having to work or do nothing. And beautiful towers throw out a challenge to those who like to make things and merely cause resentment with people who don't. And if people would believe that the actual level of progress they have attained is completely unimportant, except in so far as it prevents them from being bored, they would fade away and become "one with nature" and happily cease to exist as striving creatures and they would all die and live happily ever after.



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