Friday, October 7, 2011

Are You An Extremist?

How did you react when you read the headline to this post? Does it make you feel automatically defensive? That’s what it does to me. Even though I can’t be sure I even know what the term means yet.

I react this way because the term extremist is most often used in a derogatory manner and is meant to shut up an opponent or to get people to stop listening to what she is saying. This is ironic because the person doing the labeling is actually engaging in extremist behavior.

The article in Issue 27, “What is Political Extremism?,” includes a list of 16 points that characterize extremism according to the author Laird Wilcox. It is timely to the present day because I hear so many people applying the term to others, most often to people in the “Tea Party” movement. Are they extremists and if so, are they any more extreme than any other political movement?

The author understands that the first job to be done on an article such as this is to define the term extremism:

Roger Scruton , in the DICTIONARY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT (Hill
& Wang, New York, 1982) defines "extremism" as: "A vague term, which can mean:
1. Taking a political idea to its limits, regardless of unfortunate repercussions, impracticalities, arguments and feelings to the contrary, and with the intention not only to confront, but also to eliminate opposition.
2. Intolerance towards all views other than one's own.
3. Adoption of means to political ends which show disregard for the life, liberty, and human rights of others."


Wilcox goes on to discuss other ways people use and understand the term but the main thrust of his article is to discuss extremism in terms of style, or the communication of one’s message, and not the content of the message.

The critical examination of how we communicate is a worthwhile activity. As the author notes, we can all fall into habits that may not be the most effective way to get our points across. He adds, though, that true extremists constantly behave in this manner.

So in regards to the style characteristics, extremism can be faulty and you may want to read the article to see if you do anything listed as extremist behavior.

But what about extremism in terms of guiding principles? Certainly any Voluntaryist can be defined as extreme because there are clear principles one tries to follow and there is little if any room for compromise. Is that “bad?”

I don’t think so. I think anytime someone tries to live by clear principles, as long as they can be backed up by reason and logic and can be applied universally, it’s a good thing.

So, I ask again, are you an extremist?

4 comments:

Kent McManigal said...

Apparently, yes, I am.

Joe said...

Working backwards through that definition, I think that no voluntaryist, libertarian or market anarchist (VLMA) fits under point 3, almost by definition (non-agression principle).

I also think most VLMAs tend to be reasonable and tolerant of the views of others, even if we may strongly disagree with those views.

Finally, although VLMAs may be uncompromising because they stick consistently to principles, I doubt their goal is to eliminate opposition.

MamaLiberty said...

I am most certainly an "extremist" in many ways. I don't use the term myself, and do not respond to it if it is used "against" me. I also don't allow anyone else to define my philosophy, methods or morals.

My life is clearly built around the non-aggression principle. I may temper my communication about almost anything else, but that is set in stone. Extremely so. :)

Chaeros of the Wild said...

Yeah I´m certainly an extremist myself, I carry my life as stuck to my principles as I can, thats to say I live in a perpetual fight here for in this place people does not respect anything, crippled people who thinks to have the right to by pass you in bus stop, just because they are "invalid" to wait or to work as any other, but not in other aspects if you get my meaning, paupers who thinks that is my or any other working class obligation to feed them and a lot of things like these, which our government see fit to upkeep since various administrations, and I am the only one who does a bit more than raise his voice, by the way as I told you before if well I work, is not legalized, so I'm a Galtian and for that I don´t vote, pay taxes or none of those things, no body wants to pay taxes here but for different reasons, the most are just because they think themselves roguish, even though I see pretty well amterial for Voluntarysts in Argentina. So once again I'm an extremist. Kind Regards