That 'How Progressive Are You?' Quiz
I just finished taking the quiz, and I have a few uncharitable words to say about a couple of the instrument's presumptions and impertinent indeed, fresh questions. I should predicate this by suggesting that readers might want to survey some of my earlier writings wherein I set forth in no uncertain terms my political/social leanings: most recently, I wrote and published, "A Paleo-Conservative Message to Republicans"; prior to that, among many other articles are "An Open Letter to Bill O'Reilly" and "Conservatism My Way, Blunt and Hard."
Let me get down to business. This "How Progressive Are You?" quiz annoyed me to more than a small extent; but in all fairness, most quizzes annoy me. That's why I am a college teacher: I write and administer quizzes; I do not take them. My personal history taking IQ tests, personality inventories, and assorted other instruments purporting to sort and classify me has been on the less than fruitful side. My first IQ test got me rated a "moron." Back in that time, "moron" was better than "imbecile," as I recall, but the designation still got me a one-way ticket to the class for stupid kids. I'm not talking future Republicans, here; these youngsters were destined for Sarah Palin's advisory council. The upside was that I had me a ticket to ride the short bus, but my mother intervened before I got the fun ride, and I was back in the "normal" class, where I could be miserable with the kids who were dumb only to the extent of mediocrity.
Thank God, I almost got out of high school before "gifted" classes started popping up in small-town American schools. Unfortunately, I got caught in the early experiments, and that's where I took my own initiative to extricate myself from a special program where the kids did "enrichment" nonsense while the teachers avoided like the Plague anything having to do with instruction in serious, fundamental principles of subject matter like English or math. As time would go on and I would learn about the political dynamics of education from family members who were teachers, I would come to find out that "gifted" classes are political footballs that often start with decent intentions but then get hijacked by the important, if incompetent, teachers and administrators of the school in alliance with the important, if useless, parents of the community who want their little precious darlings to be part of the feather-in-the-cap programs.
I quit high school at the end of my Junior year. That was one of the best decision I ever made.
But I digress, but just long enough to address my disdain for tests that try to assess and evaluate. As yet another aside, "assessment and evaluation" is the huge fad now, especially in higher education, where the whole No Child Left Behind rot is taking new root with a vengeance. Try to question this freight train of nonsense in a department or college-wide meeting, and watch how fast you get shut down by the activist faculty members exceeded in their teaching and discipline-specific incompetence only by that of the cadre of administrators who have latched onto this as their very reason for existence as inertial mass occupying office space in the nicest buildings on campus.
But, again, I digress.
It's time to hit a few of the specifics of this "How Progressive Are You?" test that really twisted my colon.
I knew trouble was brewing when I saw the questions about "free markets" and "free trade." Both the Right and the Left are tossing those terms around like toys about which they know nothing and about which they wish to know even less. Don't make me write a long-winded, pedagogic rant on basic principles of economics. No one wants to see the situation get that ugly. (And, yes, there would be a quiz after the lecture, by God.)
And what was that "traditional family values" thing in the "How Progressive Are You?" quiz? Why does every living soul on Earth let the crazy fundamentalists hijack words and terms without even so much as a fight?
Do I believe in "traditional family values"?
If, by "traditional family values," you mean I don't want kids whoring the streets and malls instead of staying at home and doing homework and housework, then call me a traditional family values kind of guy; and if, by "traditional family values," you mean I'm calling you a bad parent if you just throw up your hands, sit on your fat ass, and say, "Well, kids will hump each other, so I might as well just show the boys how to Saran-wrap their weiners and tell the girls to insist on the packaged product," then call me a traditional family values kind of guy.
If, by "traditional family values," you mean I want criminals like George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, Dick Cheney, Jane Harman, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Mueller, Eric Holder, Robert Gates and a whole lot of other Acceptably Important Persons (AIPs) thrown in prison for a long, long time, then call me a traditional family values kind of guy.
If, by "traditional family values," you mean I want my religion for myself in my home and church, and I want your religion out of my face, then call me a traditional family values kind of guy. And that means I want you to get your politically correct science and your eternal life-promising healthcare and meds out of my face, too. (And don't ask me to pay for your membership dues at the Cult of Medicine: I don't tithe at the Church of Cthulhu, and your medical establishment's collection basket isn't nearly as cool in a pre-Gothic sort of way.)
If, by "traditional family values," you mean I want to work hard and earn a decent living and not support welfare queens at corporations who take tax breaks and bailouts, and not support welfare queens at municipalities that beg themselves silly for the latest prison to be built in their neck of the woods, then call me a traditional family values kind of guy. I'll support government efforts to help people who have hit the skids, especially if children are going hungry or needing stuff, and I'll support government efforts to throw serious money at long-term problems of inter-generational poverty arising from our history of racial and ethnic injustices; but tell me my tax dollars are going to some welfare queen corporation that axes workers, makes unsafe working conditions and dangerous products, or tell me that my tax dollars are going to some prison building program, and I'll tell you what real traditional family values are all about. I don't know about your family, but my family doesn't have any corporations, agencies, institutions, municipalities, states, mutual funds, or other non-human things in it.
Enough with the traditional family values theme.
Moving on with that "How Progressive Are You?" quiz, what was that question about whether or not I think unions are a good thing? Are they talking about what unions have become in the past couple of decades? Call me old fashioned, but I remember the days when unions went to strikes without much of a dance beforehand with the pretty boys in management. After Reagan and his cowering courts did the number on PATCO, it was like all the unions in this country folded up shop and became nothing but dues-collecting repositories for guys and gals who couldn't actually work for a living. Back in my day, union guys cracked heads: there wasn't a whole lot not to like about going knuckles-to-knuckles with company-hired head-bangers and their on-the-take cop supporters. Peaceful co-existence with profit maximizers is achieved only when the profit maximizers have a little pain on the cost side of the cost-benefit analysis of how far to screw the union people. These days, it isn't that way at all; so, no, I most certainly do not think unions are a "good" thing. Show me a few old-time guys from Cleveland and Chicago running the unions again, and show me the scars on their knuckles, and then maybe I'll tell you that unions have once again become a good thing.
Finally and by no means have I given an exhaustive list of my beefs with the "How Progressive Are You?" quiz let me put in a word for military readiness and force. The Bush Administration wrecked the former and gave the latter a really bad name. The quiz seems to imply that progressivism has something to do with using diplomacy, peaceful means, and international institutions as the exclusive solution set for any and all problems the world might have with some of its less-than-desirable leaders. I would agree that all kinds of means are available short of and as alternatives to the use of force on bad people running nations; however, that is not always the case.
Unfortunately, in the pantheon of monsters running nations, Saddam Hussein was way down on the list, and a whole lot of the claims of his purported misdeeds cannot be separated from years of propaganda pumped out by interests that wanted him gone and his country open for plunder. That means Saddam most decidedly should never have been on the "To Kill Today" schedule, and events subsequent to his ouster magnificently succeeded in showing why, exactly, "Iraq" existed as a stable, if rather artificial, nation only because its factions were permanently kept at bay by a brute-in-charge.
Sometimes, though, monsters do need to be dealt with, and that means killing them. No, that does not mean "talking" to them; no, that does not mean "giving them incentives" to behave like civilized human beings; and no, that does not mean "imposing international sanctions" upon them.
It means killing them.
When I see all the liberals holding hands and singing silly, sappy songs for the ungodly human suffering in Darfur, or when I see pathetic international aid attempts to feed countless starving kids in other parts of Africa, or when I see useless "diplomatic engagement" to somehow alleviate the utter misery suffered by the North Koreans laboring under the inter-generational whacko dynasty of the Kim Jong Il bloodline, I cannot help but determine that, sometimes, it is far better to either knock it off with the phony rhetoric about caring or just deal with the monsters once and for all.
I stipulate immediately, though, that killing them might not be easy: bad guys can be pretty darned slippery (notwithstanding the sheer stupidity of trying to off Castro with an exploding cigar); however, we seem to be darned good these days at wasting lots and lots of innocent bystanders with our drones, our fire-and-forget weapons, and our special ops jockeys, so what's the problem with using the assets in our inventory to slaughter some people who really need it instead of wasting our firepower only on people whose last words are, "Is it really safe to have a wedding party outside in this weather?"
And, of course, on the other hand we must conclude that some places are simply where God meant no civilized person to meddle. Afghanistan comes to mind. So do suburban areas of Alaska. Ditto for the south of France during the Cannes Film Festival.
Again, I digress.
How progressive are you? Take the quiz and find out not only how progressive you are, but also how annoyed you get when complex matters of your relationship to society, your sentiments about politics, and your philosophical underpinnings get packaged into a 40-question instrument that reduces you to a series of knee-jerk Right-Left talking points, buzz words, and over-simplifications.
Who knows? By the end you might be so annoyed that, whether or not you get labeled a progressive, you can tell for yourself that you are old, impatient, and downright curmudgeonly.
Just like me.
By the way, if you want to know what I scored, listen to my Internet radio talk show this coming Thursday night, March 19, 2009, at 10:30 p.m. EDT: it's called Dark Voices Radio, broadcast on BlogTalkRadio.
Enjoy your week, fellow progressives on a scale of zero to 400.
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