One of the most insidious lies of the progressive left is the one about “the arc of history.” Whenever anyone uses that phrase, the unspoken premise they’re trying to push on you is that the course of history is set, and its end point is already determined. Any time the culture changes in a liberal direction, it’s because such change was simply inevitable, like the changing of the seasons or the mysterious need for me to keep buying larger and larger pants.
All sensible people know that eventually everything’s going to be just exactly what liberals want it to be, and you can either get with the program or be on “the wrong side of history.”
Of course, this is utter balderdash. Culture doesn’t move by itself. It moves because people move it.
People — determined, relentless people who have their own visions for what the culture should be — each, for their own reasons, spend their lifetimes trying to impose their visions on reality.
For example, our culture didn’t just decide out of the blue that adults, with all their adult rules, were stupid, and the kids were really the cool, wise ones that we should all listen to. That message was pushed on us a million times in a million different ways — through books and magazines and movies and TV shows (when was the last time you saw a story of a plucky youngster with a crazy idea where the adults who told him it was crazy were the heroes and not the villains?) — until it was just ingrained as truth in our collective consciousness. So now we consider it a great achievement when a politician wins the “youth vote,” when really all that shows is that he’s supported by the people who know the least about politics, or government, or anything else.
That’s how the culture changes. People take ideas that were formerly unacceptable and keep advancing them until they’re acceptable.
Hugh Hefner was one of those people. He set out to change the culture, and change it he did. Sex is more public now, and more profitable.
Before Playboy, “adult” meant someone who knew how to wear a hat and hold a job and fulfill his responsibilities to his fellow man. Now “adult” means the movies that are made to appeal to the absolute lowest common denominator, including the titles, which all sound like they were brainstormed by 13-year-old boys (“Ordinary Peepholes!” “Forrest Hump!” Ha! Get it?).
Bodies matter more now, and souls matter less. And that’s not by accident, but by design. It’s not like Hefner invented lust; he didn’t even invent girlie magazines. Rather, he was the Lewis & Clark who led the popular culture into a subculture that had previously been carefully cordoned off. Maybe he really thought this would be liberating, or maybe he just thought it would make him rich, or some combination of the two. Either way, on the other side of the Playboy era, we’re in a culture that’s more comfortable treating people like meat.
But I say that to say this: we’re not here because of “the arc of history.” We’re here because people led us here.
And if people led us here, that means that other people can lead us somewhere else. Nothing is inevitable. The world changes because people change it.