Activism · My humble opinions

The one on radicalism

Do you think being a radical or an extremist is necessary, or is it rather dangerous ? Do you think moderating your speech is the best way for making a change ? I have been called a radical in my opinions and an extremist in my acts. Putting aside the pejorative meaning of these terms, I came to agree that I am radical … and so should everybody else.

I notice the words “radical” and “extreme” are used in a very ignorant way, pejoratively, and so perceived by most people as negative. Radical people pursue a complete reform, they fight an issue at its roots, while extremists hold political views that exceed the ordinary, or the reasonable according to common interpretations. Now that the definitions are settled …

In our society, people are expected to moderate their speech in fear of coming out as intolerant, or narrow-minded. The ruling powers, as represented in mainstream media and educating systems for example, do not encourage us to take positions, and lead us to adopt a passive behaviour. So they cultivate this moderation – or as I like to call it, mediocrity.

Yet moderation does not often lead to real tangible changes. Every social change in History was promoted by radical movements, with ideas that were considered extremist at that time : democracy, racial justice, labor movements, abolitionnist movements …

Revolutions make evolutions.

In fact, being radical means being coherent in your opinions, being logical, upright. It means fighting a problem at its roots, instead of hiding behind “normality” and a moderated speech. Tolerating an opinion that you believe is wrong does not only not lead to progression, but also approves the current state of things.

Actually, extremism is already present everywhere around us. Our opinions are not flexible – not moderated – on murder, on rape, on torture. We are radical about these subjects, because they involve a victim. In some countries, these are accepted by the legislation, but it does not mean we have to tolerate them, and be passive about it. We protest against these practices because it is not their freedom to do so.

One person’s freedom ends where another’s begins.

Our behaviours are extreme as well : (over)consumption is extreme, the life and death conditions of animals are extreme, capitalism is extreme, racism is extreme in some places … Extreme acts are only called so when society decides it, more particularly when it pleases the ego of the privileged.

To summarize, denying our opinions to tolerate the ideas of the privileged is a superficial behaviour that will not solve the problem, but only interfere with the movement. Being radical only means being coherent and logical when you truly believe in something, and it is the least we can do at our level. The real change in mentalities begins with us, through indignation and rebellion, toward the changes we want to see in the system.

radicalism

Clicking on “Continue reading” will open the original full version of the article, with more precise and illustrated information, and the references that helped me to write it.

Do you think being a radical or an extremist is necessary, or is it rather dangerous ? Do you think moderating your speech is the best way for making a change ? Educating myself about social issues forges my opinions. I advocate lifelong learning, which is why I believe it is natural that one’s opinions change over time. However, at a given time and place, I come to ad hoc conclusions which are perceived by some people as radical, or extreme. In this first post, I would like to rethink what these terms mean, and if they are necessarily negative.

Using words

The terms “radicalism” and “extremism” are often used interchangeably, but there is a slight nuance I would like to first pinpoint. Radical people favor a complete reform. Etymologically, the word comes from the root, the origin of an issue, that is, they pursue a fundamental change. Extremists, on the other hand, hold political views that exceed the ordinary, or the reasonable according to common interpretations. They are also often portrayed as acting with violence.

These terms are used in an ignorant way and pejoratively, which causes people to always perceive them as negative. In that context, they are also used by other people to describe someone else. Mainstream media, representing the power in place, decide who is and who is not a radical or an extremist. For example, it is commonly acknowledged that terrorism, or fanatism, or feminism – other words that nobody knows the true definition of – are extremist acts or point of views. Consequently, people repeat these allegations, denying all the history, all the facts, all victims’ statements, all the research of thinkers behind these radical movements.

Cultivating mediocrity

The reason why these terms sound so negative, is that our society wants us to think they are. The ruling powers do not have any interest in you thinking outside the box and taking positions against them towards change. They are represented in educative systems, mainstream media, lobbyists, etc. for example, who have a clear vision of normality and who will push you to conform. As a consequence, people are expected to moderate their speech in fear of coming out as intolerant, or narrow-minded, in favor of a so-called freedom of speech*. Indeed, moderated ideas are seen as positive because they do not hurt anyone’s feelings, or anyone’s ego among the privileged, as opposed to minor (oppressed) entities.

This process is often hidden behind “political correctness”, and its not-so-secret purpose is people’s passivism. I like to call it mediocrity. Anything that annoys the system is being swept away with these labels : “extremist”, “radical”. It is the way to discredit a message and avoid any interference, and in doing so, any real change.

Indeed, moderation does not often lead to tangible changes. Every social change in History was promoted by radical movements, with ideas that were considered extremist at that time : democracy, racial justice, labor movements, abolitionnist movements … “Revolutions make evolutions.” If anything, your history lessons taught you at least that some extreme ideas were also abusive, but you need to choose your battles wisely. I certainly do not advocate for fascism, for example (duh …).

Being radical

Staying apathetic, tolerating an opinion that you believe is wrong, not only does not lead to progression, but also approves the current state of things.

In fact, being radical means being coherent in your opinions, being logical, upright. It means fighting a problem at its roots, instead of hiding behind “normality” and a moderated speech. Basically all that radical people do is truly believing in what they say and acting upon it.

Living extremism

There is a reason why the word “unethical” exists : because ethics are not subjective. They are based on verified and available facts, and leave no to little* space for flexibility. We are in fact not flexible – not moderated – on murder, on rape, on torture. We are radical about these subjects, because they involve a victim. On the other hand, these are accepted by the legislation in some countries, but it does not mean we need to tolerate them and do nothing about them, right ? We protest against these practices because it is not their freedom to do so. “One person’s freedom ends where another’s begins.”

Actually, even though our society values moderation, extremism is already present everywhere around us. I have already mentioned our extreme opinions about torture, murder, rape … Our behaviours are extreme as well : (over)consumption is extreme, the life and death conditions of animals are extreme, capitalism is extreme, racism is extreme in some places … Extreme acts are only called so when society decides it, more particularly when it pleases the ego of the privileged.

To summarize, denying our opinions to tolerate the ideas of the privileged is a superficial behaviour that will not solve the problem, but only interfere with the movement. Being radical only means being coherent and logical when you truly believe in something, and it is the least we can do at our level. The real change in mentalities begins with us, through indignation and rebellion, toward the changes we want to see in the system.

Limiting violence

I will not dive deeply into the topic of violence, but I thought it was important to mention that radicalism can be abused. Impulsive or hateful words or actions will not serve your cause. Education (information), careful thinking and questioning, new legislations, then mentality changes will lead to the destruction of the existing structures (from their core), and the construction of new ones.


*It is not freedom of speech anymore when victims are involved. By this I do not mean hurting a privileged person’s feelings. A radical speech is needed when it represents the voice of oppressed entities, that is, the true victims.

*Ethics are mostly unflexible, but not always 100%, just as many things in the world. For example, it is not considered unethical to murder in case of self-defense against a violent aggression. However, there is a difference between being moderate, 50-50%, and being radical, 99-1% in this case (it is an example, I did not check the exact amount of self-defense murders compared to cold-blooded murders).


References

  1. Several online dictionaries
  2. European Parliamentary Research Service Blog (March 2018)
  3. The Harvard Crimson  (March 2018)

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