It's time John Gray got over the idea that the only way to believe in progress is as an inexorable march towards some more or less untroubled condition in which all human strife has been pacified. He's at it again here, writing about 'a myth of progress in which humanity is converging on a universal set of institutions and values', and in which 'an end to conflict' is presupposed. Even 'believers in gradual progress... assume that fundamental conflicts will wither away'; human beings 'tend to look forward to a future state of fulfilment in which all turmoil has ceased'. Gray, for his part, would prefer it if we all focused on the present instead. For 'when we look to the future to give meaning to our lives, we lose the meaning we can make for ourselves here and now'.
I could argue against this by saying that one can 'believe' in progress in a different way: that is, simply by thinking it might be possible to make changes for the better, improving the world as we know it now, but without imagining that all conflicts can be brought to an end or all serious human problems solved. However, as Gray is evidently resistant to this notion, perhaps I'll just leave it at this: even if we were to listen to him and fasten our attention on the present, take meaning from the here and now, human beings seem to have an impulse to do things better - better next time than last time, avoiding that mistake, introducing this modification, and so on. They also, many of them, want good things for their children, sometimes better things than they had themselves or perceived they had. For these kinds of reason, living in the present already contains something of thinking about the future; the present can't entirely shut the future out.