Evelyn Waugh on Progress

Waugh typscript radio talk 1932

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin has the typescript of a radio talk by Evelyn Waugh “To an Unknown Old Man.” The following is a wonderfully dismissive passage on progress. (If only the notion were as passé as Waugh suggests).

I should like to ask you what it must have felt like to live in an age of Progress. But that is now a word that must be dismissed from our conversation before anything of real interest can be said. I daresay this comes less easily to you than to me because belief in Progress – that is to in a proves of inarrestible, beneficial change, was an essential part, as I understand it, of your education. You were told that man was a perfectible being already well set on the last phase of his ascent from ape to angel, that he would yearly become healthier, wealthier and wiser until, somewhere about the period in which we are now living, he would have attained a condition of unimpaired knowledge and dignity and habitual, ecstatic self esteem.

By the time I went to school in the last years of the war, people were less confident and the idea was on its way to the United States of America, from which last refuge of threadbare heresies it has been finally dislodged by recent economic realities. […] nowadays most of us have realized that man’s capacity for suffering keeps pretty regular pace with the discoveries that ameliorate it and that for every new thing found there is one good use and uncounted misuses. […] I do not think that the elaboration of mechanical devices is of any more significance than a change in the fashion of hats, save in so far as both reflect a change of outlook in the users.

 

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2 thoughts on “Evelyn Waugh on Progress

  1. Pingback: The Papacy Against the False Gospel of Progress | Sancrucensis

  2. Pingback: And Still They Come to Be Catholic

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