Opinion: Progress is Overrated

We don’t need progress. At least not the popular definition as the bulk of us know it

Opinion: Progress is Overrated

Progress, I’ve decided, is overrated. Oh sure, if you’re firmly in the hole, living under a military dictatorship in a hollowed-out ball of mud and tomorrow’s breakfast is about as likely as a North Korean political cartoonist, then yep, progress probably ain’t a bad idea.

But if, like most Australians, for whom breakfast is not only a dead cert but will also contain your entire sugar allowance for the next 12 months, politics is about dickheads, not dictators, and progress is not only overrated, but a waste of time.

We don’t need progress. At least not the popular definition of progress as the bulk of us know it. Yes, stuff like renewable energy is a worthy pursuit. But when you break it down, solar and wind power and the rest of it isn’t about making our lives better or even different.

In fact, especially not different; it’s about maintaining the status quo and making sure our living standards don’t go to hell. It’s about trying to fix the damage caused by the numbnuts climate-change deniers and politicians who confuse rubber-stamping their mates’ housing developments with doing their job that has dragged society down.

I have solar panels on my roof at home. I don’t consider them progress. Nope, what they actually do is firewall me from the inevitable electricity price hikes made possible by those same shinybums who privatised a company that I, as a citizen, once owned and who then attempted to sell the shares back to me to call it a profit.

I’ll tell you how I know this. It’s because when I settle down to a precious couple of hours of garage session – my chosen luxury; my Me Time – nothing has changed in 35 years. If progress makes any sense, it’s surely to effect change, right? Well I can tell you, hand on heart, that the things that make me happy – the experiences, tastes and sensations that make it worth getting up each morning – haven’t changed in those three-and-a-half decades.

Back when I was a lad in my teens, we used to fool around with Holden six-bangers. Not just because they were cheap (although that certainly came into it) but because they were simple, easy to understand and, provided you had a set of AF spanners, lovely old things to work on. The hot ticket items were bolting on a set of extractors from the wrecking yard and, if you had the folding that week, fitting a second-hand Holley carburettor in order to make an extra 20 per cent power while consuming an extra 50 per cent more fuel.

Meanwhile, this week – this very week! – I switched off my computer, walked next door to my workshop, opened the bonnet of my current project and there it was: a dead-set, honest-to-God Holden six. And after unbolting the old gear, I spannered up a set of extractors and a Holley carb.

Okay, so the extractors were new, not second-hand, and the Holley is now a vacuum-secondary four-barrel and not a 350 two-barrel, but beyond that, not a damn thing had changed in all those years.

Just like I did back in the early 1980s, I was too eager to fire it up, so I stuck a bit of duct tape over the port in the inlet manifold where the brake-booster hose will go when I fit it all back up. Just as it did back then, the first time I gave the throttle a blip, the damn engine sucked in and swallowed the damn tape. Clearly me and duct tape are as lame as we were back then. Progress? No use for that rubbish here, mate.

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