The Progressivist-Triumphalist View of History

One of the easiest ways to “take the red pill” is to get exposed to history and philosophy that is not covered in the usual American curriculum. American schools and universities teach the “progressivist-triumphalist” view of history, according to which, history has been one long climb to Utopia. Technology increases, freedom spreads, diversity enriches. Those who accept the premises of the progressivist-triumphalist curriculum are called liberals. While they may not agree on how close we are to Utopia, they all believe that we are closer than at any point in the past. We are “advanced.” We have come so far. We have learned from history.

Anyone educated in the US could be forgiven for believing the progressivist-triumphalist view. The curriculum presents all past societies as patriarchal, politically repressive, and un-diverse, and if diverse, then dominated by a single ethnic or racial group. All this started to change with the American Revolution, which laid the philosophical groundwork for the last 240 years of progress. Then the Civil War ended slavery and freed the blacks (partially). The 20th century saw movements to spread freedom and progress further–the feminist movement procured rights for women, the civil rights movement for blacks. Immigration brought diversity, which drove America’s industrial rise. When presented with such a view of history, it is only logical to conclude that American success is the result of these movements and events. The US is the world’s strongest economic and military power, and it is generally reckoned to stand at the forefront of social progress.

American History
The Usual Story

Few ever question the progressivist-triumphalist view. Is American success the result of the spread of social equality, or despite it? Even if he does wonder, the typically educated American does not have the intellectual apparatus or background knowledge to answer this question. For all he knows, America (and now perhaps Western Europe) is the only example of a society that has even tried to do away with patriarchy, racism and authoritarianism.

If he knows of a counter-example, like Athenian democracy, he minimizes its importance by imagining that it arose and disappeared because, tragically, it “came before its time.” He assumes that historical conditions were not right for a feminist or multiculturalist movement. Something about past people being closed minded. Or he imagines that the counter-example was merely an anomaly, that it emerged “despite” the prevailing racism, sexism and authoritarianism of its era.

He never considers that maybe, just maybe, people of different cultures and eras were not so different from us. They aimed at goals. They wanted safe families, economic prosperity, perhaps riches and power. They wanted happiness. If they thought they could achieve the good life through multiculturalism, feminism and democracy they most certainly would have tried.

And they did–we have experimented with feminism, multiculturalism, democracy. Their record is one of abysmal failure. Aristotle for example, dismissed democracy, because women and slaves end up gaining power at the expense of the natural aristocracy. And he was by no means alone in his bleak assessment. Plato, Augustine, Kant… name pretty much any great mind of the past, and you will find an anti-democratic, anti-feminist racist. Were these geniuses, on these particular issues, simply delusional? Or did they draw their conclusions from history?

Stay tuned for AI’s new series: “We’ve Tried this Before.” We will have examples of all varieties of freakery throughout the ages, and the stories of how they failed. We will refute the progressivist-triumphalist view with a “shower of authentic truths.” Only the most pozzed will be unable to grasp them.

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