Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Radical moderation is no virtue


A follow up to the previous entry...

I believe that consensus is the preferred route for society and government. In fact, I'm fairly uncomfortable with conflict, at least face to face. I think civility should be the default pathway for society. I simply don’t believe we should be a slave to it merely for its own sake. In fact, we mustn’t. Radical moderation can be just as dangerous as radical extremism. It seems counterintuitive but it’s true.

I believe that consensus is the preferred route for society and government. It should be the default route. I simply don’t believe we should be a slave to it. In fact, we mustn’t. Radical moderation can be just as dangerous as radical extremism. It seems counterintuitive but it’s true.

Without agitation and contestation, we would not have had great social advances like: women’s voting, the end of slavery, the end of segregation/apartheid, consumer protection laws, health and safety laws, worker protection laws, unemployment insurance, the 40 hour work week and many other things that make America a first world country.

Warm and fuzzy bipartisanship has led to many abominations including: the Patriot Act and the war on civil liberties, the deregulation of the financial industry that led to recent economic meltdown, the aggression against Iraq, the Vietnam War, the internment of American citizens of Japanese origin in the 1940s, the genocide against Native Americans, to name but a few.

Yes, the ultimate purpose of agitation is to form a newer, better consensus. But neither is of any value in and of itself. The objective is that which is better. Not only can you not make omelettes without breaking eggs, but even after you break the eggs, you still have to stir things up to get something useful.

Think of it this way. Pick any despotic regime in history. It was no doubt led by extremists. But the extremist regime could not have survived without the active cooperation and acquiescence of moderates. Of people who maybe didn’t agree with the regime but didn’t want to shake things up or were afraid to make waves. Sometimes extremism is actually principle. Sometimes moderation is complicity. Not always but at times. Neither is a virtue in and of itself. The key is know when which is appropriate.

Instead of radical moderation, how about moderation in moderation.

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