Thursday, March 08, 2007

Feasting On Your Own

I have long since understood since I was but a little pup that extremism comes in many flavors. Batshit insanity is by no means limited to warmongering hyperconservative evangelicals bombing abortion clinics and cheering Ann Coulter's latest episode of her ongoing experiment to see just how odious one human being can become. No, it's all the way on the other side too. The only thing I find forgivable about the extremism on the left is that it seems well-intentioned by comparison to the exclusionist, violently combative authoritarianism of the right. I can get with environmentalism because I kind of dig nature... I like breathing air and drinking water that doesn't have a yellow tinge to it even if it isn't causing global warming. As much as I'd fit in this brain-damaged world, I prefer my seafood sans mercury. But I mean flounder and crab, roughy and clams. I didn't mean kelp. And that's where it all goes south.

Any time you discuss politics with an extremist, you have to understand that they are so by virtue of their incipient authoritarianism. I mean, think about it. Would they be extremist if they were content and comfortable and accepting of another point of view? So you say, I just won't discuss politics with an extremist. Well, sonny, good try, but to an extremist everything is political. You like seafood? Well meat is murder. Stop it and get with the morally superior since you can't seem to parse right and wrong on your own.

I guess I've always had a problem with authority, probably because most people who try to exert it do so without the consent of... well.. anyone. With as many serious idiots on this planet that I've had the misfortune to meet who claimed the moral or intellectual superiority to entitle them to decide what's best or correct, you'll forgive me if I don't rush to their flags.

But I take solace in the fact that extremists are, by their true nature, a self-regulating breed. They rarely get too far along in number. It takes a unified front to change things in such radical ways, and extremists are really horrible at maintaining that necessary unity. Oh, sure, they can keep it up for a while, so long as they perceive the enemy outside of their ranks, but the second they score a victory or two, they sink their teeth into each other.

Pass the salt.


JohnMcG said...

Of course, those who are successful in bringing about change are no longer considered "extremists" once they are successful. Equal rights for balcks, women in the military and the workforce, same sex marriage, the impending danger of global warming were all once "extreme" positions.

Clot said...

The supposed "well-intentioned" mitigation of left-wing extremism usually derives from the canard that because it is ostensibly unselfish, for the good of "the people" or somesuch, it is therefore more palatable than extremism for the individual or for a particular favored group at the expense of others. It's true right-wing extremists usually begin with defensive, exclusionary, and even aggressive postures against perceived threats in a lapsed world. However, when the putatively optimistic, human-potential worldviews and expectations espoused by left-wing totalitarian formulas invariably fail to produce the expected results, they also cast about for scapegoats (saboteurs, counterrevolutionaries, reactionaries) so as to avoid the conclusion that their initial premises about human nature were faulty. Hitler's terrible legacy was at least matched by the untold millions of deaths at the hands of left-wing ideologues like Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot, whose victims hardly care that it was all well-intended, in the name of The People, and the so-called "common good".

scout29c said...

I tend to agree that while the extreme tree-huggers are insufferable and global-warmers don't tell you the whole truth, their goals are much more nobler than the self-serving, self centeredness of those on the right.

If conservatives had their way, they would do away with all liberals as though that would solve all their problems. There is no place for liberals in the conservative world while there is a place for conservatives in the liberal world. In the liberal world, everyone deserves a place.

Communism totalitarianism is not extreme liberalism gone awry but the despotism an individual or group. In America, liberals are the proverbial cat herded crowd, but they neither lynch nor march lockstep. If they do, then they are not really liberals.

Elbo Ruum said...

John: I hate to disagree, these were never extreme positions even in the quotidinal. By this definition, any idea that goes against the status quo is extreme. The ones you claim are merely a question of "well, why not?" and the extremism tends to take the form of the resistance.

Clot: If you can justify tax breaks to big energy and relaxation of environmental regulations as being somehow ethically or morally equivalent to environmental protection, then I'd say that your statements have some weight. The "common good" you refer to wasn't, but what the left is talking about is. Granted, that's a value judgment on my part, but we don't live in a morally neutral world. Those who would liken left and right wing radicalism as though they has some equanimity beyond the verbal polarity aren't taking a concrete look at those expositions and the intentions which fuel them.

You may disagree at your leisure, but the far right-wing's prime movers, from a reasonably objective viewpoint somewhere in the middle, are decidedly self-serving whereas the lefts' tend to be writ on the large scale. They have a bigger umbrella and a more worldly concern. There's something so much more noble about that.

scout: I'll agree with you to a point, except when you say that conservatives believe there is no place for liberals. Some do. In fact most do. Also, I disagree in that liberals are particularly accepting. Some are. In fact most are. But those fringe elements are precisely exclusionist and authoritarian, and in their minds, it seems, no quarter may be brooked those who they perceive as the enemy.