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The end of progress

Is the idea of progress dead? Alain Finkielkraut, the French philosopher, says that as we approach the millennium, our faith in progress remains undimmed, while progress itself has died.

Warsaw, in the 1920s. The young Isaac Bashevis Singer walks by a butcher’s stall. Struck by the display in the window, he finds himself gazing at the beef sausages on their hooks, and offers them this silent oration: “There was a time when you were living creatures; you have suffered and now you know no pain. The tortures that were inflicted upon you and your desperate efforts to escape them have left no trace. Is there a tombstone somewhere in the universe on which it is written that a cow named Kvyatule allowed itself to be milked for eleven years?…

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