An interesting if tongue-in-cheek hypothesis from one of my favorite writers, Martin Regnen:
In the “not as wacky as it sounds” department, I propose that the primary driving force of the the successes of progressive liberal ideology over the past 100+ years is not philosophy or politics, but an unknown pathogen picked up by Europeans from the native tribes of North America.
It’s not entirely implausible, but more important symbologically: when the West reached the height of its expansion, it faced guilt — brought on by both Christianity and enlightenment-era humanism — for exterminating that which had already failed. Instead of making a clear decision, its bloated democracies backed up into their choice, making a messy horrible end instead of a decisive battle victory.
From that, we’ve gotten a primal guilt which has underscored all of our actions since. We need to throw out the past, guilt, shame, fear and all other gross things about humanity, and reach toward new heights instead. I know it’s what motivates me to write and cook and do all of the things I like doing: I want to advance what I and we know. I and I have a bright future, if we are willing to discard our fear and walk the path of fire.