One of the more famous stories in sports originates in Berkeley, California. The 1929 U.C. Berkeley football team had made its way to the famed Rose Bowl, playing for the championship against Georgia Tech. In the second quarter, while the game was still scoreless, Berkeley center Roy Riegels scooped up a fumble, bounced off a blocker, and ran 66 yards towards his own end zone. He would have crossed the goal line if it hadn't been for his teammate Benny Lom who chased after him and got him to change direction on the one yard line.1 The incident would become one of the most famous in Rose Bowl history.
When Reigels was running with the ball, he obviously thought he was going to be a hero. "Wrong Way" Riegels did become the stuff of legends, but not for the reason he had in mind. Today, I see a similar pattern with the Leftist movement in the United States. Especially in the last decade, the Left have been gaining ground on the cultural gridiron, scoring again and again what they believe are victories for human progress. They even have favored the label Progressives over the earlier Liberals as descriptive of their desires. However, I think th label is completely wrong. What they advocate does not advance the progress and dignity of humanity at all.
Rationality as the Essence of ManWhat is the essence of man? Aristotle held that rationality is essential to being human. In his Metaphysics he explains rationality is something different than a skill, such as the ability to be musical. Some people have musical talent and some don't. But rational deliberation—the ability to take some set of facts and draw a proper conclusion from them—is a uniquely human capacity. Animals work off of their biological urges and appetites, not reason. That's why if you are visiting a friend's home and his dog tries to become intimate with your leg, you don't wonder why the dog didn't figure out that the mechanics of procreation wouldn't work that way; they must include the participation of a female dog. Animals cannot reason abstractly. The dog simply is seeking to satisfy his appetites.
It is enough that the animal feels the urge in order for it to act upon that urge. Humans recognize the need to train their pets to act differently, so they can associate a different action in the animal for the urge it feels. However, humans are not supposed to be slaves to our urges. We are not to react to our appetites without regard to consequences. It is our rationality that governs our actions and even if the feeling is new, we expect one to not simply act upon it without reflecting on what the result of those actions would be.
Arguing for Our AppetitesFor centuries the concept of strengthening our rationality to govern our appetites has been the hallmark of civil society. Today the progressive agenda turns that idea on its head. For example, the LGBT community advanced by the Left today claims we should identify an entire segment of humanity by their sexual predilections. But certainly this is encouraging human beings to be defined by their appetites and not their rationality. Why should we label people by how they receive sexual pleasure as if that's the primary component of what makes them human? Sexual urges are in the appetites category. It seems to assume that such appetites are uncontrollable and must be satiated.
When one considers transgenderism, the case becomes worse. Not only do the self-identified progressives demand we believe a person who is suffering from gender dysphoria has no recourse but to live as the opposite sex, but they ask us against all reason to believe that biology is so malleable that some outward surgical changes are all that's necessary for that biology to be erased and replaced. Worse, there is sufficient data to show such reassignment surgeries are not medically efficacious as suicide rates for post-transition patients equal those of patients who hadn't had the surgery.
Where's the Reason?Other examples from the Left can be brought to bear. There is no reason in the pro-abortion movement ever more desperately denying the established fact that a fetus is an unborn human being. Progressive college students now seek to silence any views that oppose their own in the name of tolerance. And universities that long ago threw away any restrictions on sexual promiscuity now are scratching their heads about what they themselves describe as a culture of rape on campuses.
In all these areas and more, any dispassionate observer should see the result of these movements isn't less appetite and more reason, but the reverse. Instead of progress we are getting regress. We are sliding back into a more animalistic approach where anyone's particular feeling must be met, sanctioned, and even cheered without regard to consequence.
How will humanity fare when all of this is said and done? Wrong Way Reigels was stopped before he crossed the goal line. However, he brought the ball close enough that Georgia Tech blocked a punt for a safety on the next play, ultimately allowing them to win the game 8-7. If we don't turn around soon, we may revert to a barbarism not seen since before the Christian era. That would really be a loss for the ages.