The whole "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" thing has been coming up a lot for me lately. Probably my favorite example of this is the existence of high heels. Through all of our "modern wisdom" and self-awareness, it's still a popular and accepted part of our culture to cause long term damage to one's health and body in the sole name of aesthetic beauty. It's not even like, "just old people" or whatever, either. I know young, intelligent, relatively "cutting edge" women who wear high heels, and while I'm not suggesting that they do it purely because of some patriarchal conspiracy (that's only part of the reason!), it's nonetheless very comparable to outmoded fashions like corsets (whose closest descendent is the extant cultural obsession with female thinness) and footbinding--both of which we openly laugh about today.
So high heels are a legitimately important issue, and I don't want to say anything that diminishes the fact that I want them eradicated from this earth. But there's a bigger picture here: never has it been more apparent to me that the cultural "advancements" we make are largely illusory. High heels are probably one of the tamer illustrations of this; compare them to the apologetics we saw in times of slavery, which are, with minor twists here and there, now being used to restrict the rights of gay people.
For centuries, we've seen that every time the reigning dogmatists are forced to concede that violent video games are probably about as big a deal as comic books used to be, or that stem cell research is really really super important and good, they simply find a new (awful and indefensible) pet cause to hole up with for a few years, decades, centuries. Alarmist nonsense will not end with the final legalization of marijuana. In coming decades, there will certainly be massive technological paradigm shifts that current denizens of the "information age" will be every bit as out-of-touch with and ill-equipped to responsibly maintain as today's old, white, SOPA-supporting morons are of the Internet.
Don't misunderstand: cultural advancements in and of themselves are real! And they're pretty awesome! But it's hard not to feel that the long-term fairness and openness of people has changed very little throughout history. Slavery being abolished was a great thing, but it didn't fundamentally change bigots, apologists, or the apathetic. Neither will federally-recognized same-sex marriage.
Of course, the legitimately loving, clever, understanding people of the world aren't going anywhere, either. I simply no longer believe that those types of people have historically increased in number or proportion merely because we have a black president, or that society so happened to eventually allow women the right to vote. There's a sort of "stupidity equilibrium" in place here, and nothing less than a fundamental rewrite of "human nature," or--if we're lucky-- unprecedented institutional change could possibly upset.
High heels are silly.