What should we say now about moral progress?

In her wonderful recent talk at Rice University, Kate Norlock expressed pessimism at the idea we have – or can – achieved genuine moral progress of any general kind. Her words were vividly in my mind when I had read Eve Ensler’s piece in a recent Nation.

This part below seemed less distressing to me than ISIS’s pricelist for female infants/girls/women.  Or the manual for how to treat sex slaves

I am thinking about the inertia, silence, paralysis that has stalled and prevented investigation and prosecution into sexual crimes against Muslim, Croat, and Serb women raped in camps in the former Yugoslavia; African-American women and girls raped on plantations in the South; Jewish women and girls raped in German concentration camps; Native American women and girls raped on reservations in the United States. I am hearing the cries of the permanently unsettled ghosts of violated women and girls in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Guatemala, the Philippines, Sudan, Chechnya, Nigeria, Colombia, Nepal, the list goes on. I am thinking of the last eight years I spent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a similar conflagration of predatory capitalism, centuries of colonialism, endless war and violence in the name of mineral theft has left thousands of women and girls without organs, sanity, families or a future. And how terms like re-raped have now become re-re-re-re-raped.I am thinking that I have been writing this same piece for 20 years. I have tried it with data and detachment, passion and pleading, and existential despair. Even now as I write, I wonder if we have evolved a language to meet this century that would trump a piercing wail.

I am thinking about the failure of every patriarchal institution to intervene in any meaningful way and how structures like the UN amplify the problem as peacekeepers, meant to protect the women and girls, are rapists themselves.

“The Shock Doctrine”

What follows is not news, but it is still quite difficult to see it quite so plainly.  Paul Krugman describes Naomi Klein’s analysis to the Wisconsin situation and, by implication, beyond:

Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine” …argued that [there was] a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display …

What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside..

That this is happening in my country and others closely allied to it makes me feel heartsick. It is bad to think the country is in the grip of incompetents who cannot make good choices, but much worse, I think, to think that the suffering of so many living with the consequences is actually a foreseen consequence of a fully intended plan.

With what confidence would you apply this to the UK?