Sunday, 28 October 2018

Turning Back the Clock

Are there lessons to be learned from having to turn the clock back as we did last night? G.K Chesterton, writing in “What’s Wrong with the World?”, tells us that there can be. He is not writing against technological progress but against ideology that sometimes purports to be "progress", while in fact being anything but that. Progress in itself was not an end, he always said, unless you had an end in sight, clearly articulated, and which could be judged.

The mantras of our modern times are economic growth, consumption, upgrades to the next technological fix, but all these come with a price, and some are not sustainable on a finite planet with finite resources. These are the tyrannies of our day, and perhaps too little challenged.

Turning back the Clock
by G.K. Chesterton

We often read nowadays of the valour or audacity with which some rebel attacks a hoary tyranny or an antiquated superstition. There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one's grandmother.

The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past. He cares as little for what will be as for what has been; he cares only for what ought to be.

And for my present purpose I specially insist on this abstract independence. If I am to discuss what is wrong, one of the first things that are wrong is this: the deep and silent modern assumption that past things have become impossible.

There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, "You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed.

There is another proverb, "As you have made your bed, so you must lie on it"; which again is simply a lie. If I have made my bed uncomfortable, please God I will make it again.

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