We tend to think its postmoderns who woke up to the myth of endless progress promised by modernism – with maybe Nietzsche an early forerunner of postmodern cynicism.
Which is why I find this from John Mitchel interesting. Never one to express a moderate opinion when an extreme one will do, here’s his take on the great hopes that the 19th Century would deliver a better future for humanity
its future will be very much like its past: that is, pretty mean ….
He found ridiculous
this triumphant glorification of a current century upon being the century it is. No former age, before Christ or after, ever took any pride in itself and sneered at the wisdom of its ancestors; and the new phenomenon indicates, I believe, not higher wisdom but deeper stupidity.
He was also deeply sceptical of technology and industrialisation ushering in a new age of prosperity and instant communication.
What about this for a quote today’s Ireland awash with injustice?
If a man tell a lie at one end of a wire, it will not come out truth at the other end. The railroad carries men very quickly upon their business, such as it is, be their errands good or evil, be their intents wicked or charitable…. The true life of nations, the only well-being of human society, consists not in commerce, not in gas, steam, or electricity, but in simple justice. Where justice is denied or dead …, the printing press will vomit forth only rubbish …, the telegraphic wires will whisper more falsehood than truth and make electricity itself an instrument of wrong.