Nature’s Unfair, Progressives Hate It 

August 30, 2021 Updated: September 6, 2021


It’s easy for conservatives to believe that progressives leading the woke revolution have put targets on their backs. It certainly seems that way sometimes, especially when progressives react to conservatives as if they were abominable characters who must be shunned and ousted from society, canceled forever. That overreaction was fully displayed in the horror registered by leftists at the very sight of Trump rallies and in the hysteria of the four-year RESIST that followed the election.

But the irrationality only shows that progressives have a deeper antagonism, a conflict that precedes or transcends politics. In truth, the real enemy that progressives face is not another group of human beings who value different things. It’s nature itself.

The reason is simple: Nature is unfair. Think of nature in terms of progressive ideals. Nature doesn’t create equality; it creates inequality. It doesn’t produce just outcomes, endowing and rewarding everyone in proper measure. It sends tornadoes and floods to the good and bad alike. Worse, it throws tender souls into the world with unequal talents and resources. Some are beautiful, some homely; some are smart, some dull; some are strong, some weak.

That’s not right, the progressive says; that’s not fair. Why should anyone pass through his mortal career at a disadvantage? Why should he be given inferior traits and not be able to overcome them? Nobody should suffer because of the accidents of birth. He didn’t choose them, yet he’s a victim of them. Thomas Jefferson spoke of a “natural aristocracy,” which he accepted as a fact of life. Political aristocracies could be eliminated through concerted democratic action, but the truth that this man is tall and swift, that man short and slow, is not a political concoction.

The progressive cannot accept this. He wants to end all political, social, and economic inequalities, of course, but those are not enough. Natural inequalities must go, too, or at least be neutralized. Every inequality is an insult to their moral sense—except, perhaps, the moral inequality that raises them well above libertarians and conservatives in their dedication to altering the natural wrongs. Progressives have a pat solution to this political disagreement: Individuals on the right must come over to the left. No compromise, no negotiation, just the bad guys surrendering to the good guys.

Nature, though, isn’t so pliable. We have a natural injustice done to females, for instance. Nature has burdened them with childbearing, which changes their bodies for many months and sometimes endangers them, while men can have their momentary pleasure and go their merry way. It’s not enough, then, for progressives to eliminate patriarchal practices and notions from society. Patriarchy is a social creation, powerful men subjugating women (so the feminist argument goes). To stop it, women must go to college, delay childbearing, build a career, vote pro-choice, break the glass ceiling, fill the ranks of the elite … all of which, of course, will never fully fix the problem. Women earn many more bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees than men, and have for many years, but nature still has its way.

This is the frustration that leads to progressivist hysteria over “fat-shaming” and “body-shaming,” the evidence-free assertions of “systemic racism,” and the maniacal unwillingness of progressives even to consider the notion of there being a genetic component to average differences in intelligence among racial/ethnic groups (though cognitive psychologists and psychometricians generally admit some degree of “heritability” in IQ, they disagree over how strong it is). It’s why they hate beauty pageants and want every child to earn a trophy. When we find that progressives don’t like free speech and open debate, when they respond to a conservative who asserts that single-parentage is terribly hard on children as if the conservative has uttered a belief worthy of a 17th-century Puritan who likes to burn witches, we should pin that excess on a deep and troubling conviction of natural blockage.

No wonder, then, that no matter how many major battles progressives win in the legislatures, through school boards, and in popular culture, they conclude with the truism, “There’s so much more to do, still a long way to go.” That will always be the case, because nature will never stop getting in the way. This is a neverending reform, one that leaves progressives ever unsatisfied. They are unhappy people, uncomfortable with comedy and irritated by tragedy (suffering should never happen!), without wit and leery of irony, earnest to a fault. The most fervent anti-nature crusade at the present time is the trans movement, where we have an enterprise out to undo the structures of a person’s own body. It’s a denial that can’t endure no matter how aggressively Federal regulations back it up. Deep in their hearts, they know they can’t win, that in the battle of Progress versus Nature, the wrong end is already ordained.

The woke revolution is merely the current expression of the anti-nature impulse, the most audacious one in our history, I would say. It demands equal representation of all identity groups in elite spaces, from expensive boarding schools to boardrooms to symphony orchestras. The more competitive the habitats, the more the wokesters insist on proportionality—which runs squarely against the way nature works. You can sense in their urgency the exasperation of delay. Why, they ask, a half-century after women’s liberation, are women still underrepresented at the top levels of business? (Female work preferences have much to do with it, but progressives don’t want to admit that.) Why is it that, more than 50 years after the Civil Rights Act, more African Americans don’t get doctorates? (Single-parentage, which is extremely high among African American households, is a strong factor in low academic performance in early grades.)

The proportions may improve a bit in the coming years, but not by much, certainly not sufficiently to please the progressive personality. His desires are utopian; he will not get realistic. That would be to give up on one of progressivism’s key attractions, the prospect of heaven on earth, perfect happiness all around. To be sure, there are many canny fellows in the ranks of the left, people who use the movement solely for their own advancement. But those inauthentic idealists couldn’t work their game if they didn’t have the backing of genuine idealists, who are impatient and easily activated. Conservatives are less impatient, less discomfited by the world as it is, but this gives them no advantage in the current war. The restlessness of the left fatigues those on the right. From what I’ve seen, conservatives can’t stop them. Only a superhuman force, nature itself, can bring the progressive movement to defeat.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Mark Bauerlein
Mark Bauerlein
Mark Bauerlein is an emeritus professor of English at Emory University. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Post, the TLS, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.