Those who are against the optimistic ideology of progress are considered by those who have bought into that ideology to be not only pessimists, but almost hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race. How can we really be against a project that has improved the human lot by so much? Would we prefer people to die on beds of bug-ridden straw of preventable diseases, rather than living to old-age in clean and air-conditioned houses? One of the writers at The Josias, a new website devoted to “unzeitgemäße Betrachtungen” on the common good, meets that objection head-on:
Society is complex enough, and integrated enough, that what we rightly love about our civilization cannot be neatly untangled from what we rightly condemn in it. But if we are right in our condemnation, and right in our advocacy of alternatives, then of course it’s our obligation not only as Christians but as human beings to willingly part from some of the things we love. I am no kind of Luddite, but if a juster world were also a Facebookless world, I hope I would find a way of reconciling myself to it. And given that I am at least in principle committed to hating father and mother, this seems like an easy case. And well-crafted propaganda can make it still easier. Even if many of the conveniences we enjoy — even the conveniences we take advantage of to formulate and advance our criticism — are neutral or good in themselves, it may nevertheless be a good idea for us to learn to dislike them for their origins. We are all products of our civilization: if there are errors integral to that civilization that need correction, then it is time for us to learn to bite the hand that feeds us.
If it hadn’t taken its name from Josias, our website (I too will be posting there soon) could have taken its name from Jeremiah. As (then Cardinal) Ratzinger once pointed out, Jeremiah was condemned and imprisoned because of his pessimism. He refused to adopt the official optimism of the powers of his time:
The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet. (Jer 28:8-9)