What is the philosophy behind today’s idea of progress? – Progress Concept Series: Part 4

This article is the fourth part of our Progress Concept Series. This series is our attempt to assist our readers in attaining a clearer perspective on the contemporary concepts and issues regarding the nature of progress. You can read the rest of the series through these links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

How could the same thing signify progress for one group of people, while the exact opposite for another? Urbanization, for instance, is often referred to as a sign of progress by most of the world’s mainstream media outlets and judging by the trend where millions of residents are choosing to reside in urbanized spaces, this view probably is indeed getting even more prominence lately. But again, it’s not too hard to observe masses that choose to leave their urban properties for better living conditions in less populated areas in search for a healthier alternative. Based on several instances like the above, the philosophy surrounding most concepts of progress could actually be considered pretty subjective.

Homogeneity and dominance in ideas of progress
Economic prosperity and socio-political stability are presented  as the two central pillars upon which the current ideologies surrounding progress are set upon. The dawn of colonialism in the around 1500AD is considered to have ensured the dominance of a particular set of economic agendas over many other competing ideas of progress. Until people from different regions could interact with each other with the progression and expansion of the colonies, communities either had their own set of ideas regarding progress or they subscribed to a static concept that would be feasible for their community’s sustenance. However, with European colonialism reaching most corners of the globe with their highly sophisticated military power, the communities in the colonies would come to have no other option but to directly or indirectly participate in the ideas promoted by their colony leaders. This point in history is often put as the period when different philosophies of progress converged and presented societies across the world with relatively homogenous aspirations and concepts regarding development and progress.

Over the past five centuries, European ideas have dominated the major discourses regarding progress throughout the world. For example, the concepts of modern democracy firstly emerged in Europe and North America. These values later were adopted in many cases and forced in some cases to a lot of societies throughout the world. Yet, while the concept is thriving and bettering the lives of many in the Western world, the very concept had even led to corruption and civil wars in several economically less privileged nations across different continent. With different societies in the world being more connected than ever before, the Western concepts that dominated the discourses for the past two centuries of progress are popularly subscribed in the majority of the communities in the world. Following the devastating two World Wars in the 20th century, the emphasis on socio-political stability also found its place in the dominant doctrine of progress, although the dominance of the winning parties in those wars was also acknowledged in the same. Ultimately, the homogeneity in the ideas of progress could thus be considered to be a consequence of the dominance of specific social systems that were economically and militarily more powerful than others.

Is there enough room to accommodate other concepts regarding progress?
While the dominance of certain ideas of progress was imposed primarily by the use of violent methods on noncomplying communities, the concepts have evolved sufficiently in the modern era to incorporate other ideas that are beneficial to certain local contexts and hence are now willingly adopted by communities in the world. Yet, what also is true is that any concept that is not compliant with the principles and goals of the dominant discourses of progress ultimately will be opposed or even overthrown. The end of the communist government in East-European nations in the 1990s and the radical transformation in the economic governance principles around countries in East Asia was representative of this fact as well.

Industrialization is now considered to be synonymous with progress in the modern era throughout the world. The challenges brought forward by rapid industrial growth in the past five decades also has become a serious global issue and thus the principles regarding the modification of industrial practices to minimize the negative impact is also being discussed in global forums. Yet, challenges such as these can only be addressed when local contexts find their balance with global contexts. However, history has taught us that global contexts will ultimately dominate local contexts or to put it more clearly, local interests certainly will need to align with global interests, as per the philosophy that’s guides today’s idea of progress.

Estimating the impact
The above debate thus may incite readers to ponder primarily upon two questions:

1. Is a homogeneous global philosophical concept dominating the discourses on progress?
2. Is the application of the dominant philosophies of progress actually generating fair results globally?

The answer to the first question is a cautious yes! Globalization and global technological networks are the direct result of the dominant global philosophies guiding progress over the period of decades and even centuries. Yet, we should also not ignore the competing regional concepts that are constantly clashing with each other to synthesize a common concept of global progress. However, it can also be considered that most societies of today agree upon more points and have more common aspirations than ever before. This has only been possible because of the common interactions between societies, and if the current trends of inter-connectivity will persist, it won’t be hard to imagine that the future philosophies governing progress will come out to be ever more homogenous and globally accepted.

On to the second question, perhaps the answer is an unmistakable no. The current philosophies guiding progress began with the premise of dominance (often violent) over competing principles and despite many modifications over the past decades, the current political and economic systems clearly exert their dominance over other emerging philosophies. Although democratic systems and liberal principles have indeed added some tolerance and accomodation of competing ideas, the real world results indeed show that the dominance of these philosophies massively benefited certain minority segments while alienating a significant majority from the actual process of progress. It’s indeed true that the process of social mobility from low-economic strata to the middle-economic strata has simplified, yet what also is true is the influence and power of the upper-economy strata is globally more powerful than ever before and with it the wealth gaps are becoming alarmingly wide. Many consider that the current system has actually facilitated global elitism instead of global progress.

It’s indeed true that the dominating ideologies regarding progress have brought some positive developments to the lives of billions of people throughout the world. However, the results certainly haven’t been fair, indicating that maybe the philosophical elements behind the idea of progress may need to be rethought and modified globally, in order to make it really beneficial for people who haven’t been able to feel the effects of progress in their lives to this day.

The progress of not smoking

Making progress with something as serious as smoking is sometimes terrifyingly difficult. Smoking can be extremely difficult to stop. Considering it has been calculated that every cigarette you smoke can reduce your lifespan on average by as much as eleven minutes it is no wonder that a person can get extremely worried if they are not able to give up the habit. The cost of smoking is also crippling for some people the average person in the United States spends between $1500 and $3300 dollar a year on cigarettes. Even the exposure to second-hand smoke is a dramatic killer, second-hand smoke in the United States alone kills nearly 50,000 people a year. Therefore smokers can feel very guilty that their smoking is having a terrible effect on their loved ones around them. The problem is massive, roughly fifteen billion cigarettes are smoked worldwide everyday. The desire to quit is there, sixty nine percent of smokers say they would like to quit. Many feel trapped by this horrendous habit, living with both the psychological guilt of smoking or the horrendous physical symptoms caused by smoking.

On a personal level I have struggled to quit smoking for nearly eight years, the longest time I have been able to quit smoking for was three months. Other attempts have lasted around a month. For myself without cigarettes I seem to have miserable moods, I have previously been overcome this by  substituting the smoking with exercise. This is usually effect, as the exercise levels my mood. The craving for cigarettes however does not seem to pass. I am aiming to try quitting again tomorrow Thursday 25th of May. I hope I am able to master it this time. I do not smoke in front of my family. This is because smoking to me is almost like death itself.

My Dad used to smoke though he was able to quit around twenty two years old as he found something else he loved to do more than smoking, he took up gliding. I have been unable to as yet find such a substitute. The coughing in a morning is awful, sometimes it is that bad that I am physically sick. I find it horrible, but I can’t seem to break away from it completely, I sometimes take half a day away from cigarettes but then find myself smoking again. Smoking also killed both of my grandfather’s one with heart conditions and the other with emphysema.

Smoking also can make it difficult to lose weight as when you smoke you don’t always feel like exercising. Smoking and exercising are not complementary. It limits you breathing ability and makes exercise seem a burden. I have run the Great North Run before in north east England though I had a cigar after it. To quit smoking for me would be a great feeling, to be smoke free would be brilliant. I look forward to the day’s I am smoke free as I know I can do it, it just for how long I will be able to keep it up I don’t know as I cannot comprehend yet that I would not have another cigarette.

My brother recently stopped smoking which is frankly inspirational to me. He is a few years my senior, thirteen to be precise. He just finished a pack one day and didn’t pick up another cigarette after that. He must of had it firmly in his mind that he didn’t want to touch a cigarette again. Perhaps it was his new family that gave him this strength. It shows to me that it can be done and that is encouraging.