Saturday, 28 November 2015
Complacency and progress
My valuing of modern society over past society is influenced by Steven Pinker's 'The Better Angels of Our Nature' and a dislike of sloppy nostalgia and closet reactionarism. I get accused of being complacent but my thinking comes from an appreciation of the efforts of workers and reformers down the ages - the Quakers who worked against slavery, for prison reform or who pioneered peace-building; and the politicians and ordinary folk who founded and continue to serve the NHS. I am also influenced by the thought which comes from the Buddhist practice of meditating on the kindness of others. As I sip my morning tea I think less of the way that tea-workers on distant plantations may have been exploited but more of how kind it is of them to contribute to my comfort and, tea-drinking being a factor in my spiritual life, my religious wellbeing. If tea-workers are being exploited, then I give thanks for those who have developed the fair-trade brand, which enables me to act ethically in the market place and protects the interests of producers. I know that progress is possible - to put this in religious terms, it's God's plan. That is not to say the human race is not doomed. For all I know, it may get destroyed by climate change, nuclear catastrophe or a solar event - but it will have been worthwhile.