Progressive : WORDS
Sunday 05 February 1995
Not so many radical thinkers, in and out of school, would call themselves "progressive" today. For the Victorians it was an earnest word, as it had nearly always been since its coinage in the 17th century. ("Forward, forward let us range," cried Tennyson.) J S Mill wrote of "the progress of human affairs" as a Good Thing, which had brought nations out of tyranny. Later the United States was to spawn a succession of political parties labelling themselves "progressive", an obvious hurrah-word; and it has served well for a number of reforming movements in South Africa.
But progress can be bad as well as good. Now that many of us are getting more cynical by the week, people who declare that they believe in progress begin to sound naive. Ask someone to think of the noun they first associate with progressive and they might well answer "disease".
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