Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Extremism is Lighter than a Feather, Centrism is Heaver than Mountains

Maintaining an independent viewpoint takes a lot of work. You not only do you have to collect evidence to support your views; you have to evaluate the quality of that evidence and compare it to contrasting views. It is so much easier to take the party line and repeat the empty platitudes of the herd. Not looking at complex public issues and figures like two dimensional cartoons is a burden. Establishing a context for each issue in reference to its own merits instead of a prefabricated party line is like building a road through the wilderness instead of taking the freeway.

Former Texas Agricultural Commissioner Jim Hightower once said, "There's nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and dead armadillos." That might possibly be true on lonely roads that nobody ventures upon, but where there is a lot of traffic, dead things get ground up pretty quickly. It's the ditches to the left and right that tend to accumulate the corpses of ideas that don't stand a chance in traffic. With the advent of the Internet, we're seeing traffic in ideas that have long been bypassed by the major media and political groups.

The greatest risk associated with principled centrism is risk itself. One of the reasons I respect Clifton Amsbury, even though I disagree with virtually everything he says, is that he fought in the Spanish Civil War as a matter of principle back when people were still arguing meaningfully about socialism. I write in support of BlogIran, and I live in terror of the day they are going to call me and ask me to go and help over there. I just got married, my finances are not the strongest, I'm getting old, and I will never be able to look Clifton or myself in the eye if I don't go when there is a reasonable chance that my participation in rebuilding Iran will help.

The great thing about current wave of extremisms is that they no longer require you to work to make something real; just send a check or beg for money, repeat the party line, or show up at a rally and be mediagenic. Doing something real means taking risks; every time I write that Iran should be free, I do so accepting the risk that somebody wanting to be free is going to actually ask me to do something real. It would be so much easier to advocate policies that require nothing real from me.

This inextricably brings me to suicide, which is the ultimate denial of reality. There is no real consequence for suicide bombers, which is why they are risking exactly nothing. By seeking rewards in the next world, they are abandoning their responsibilities in this one. Death is lighter than a feather, duty is heavier than mountains. The suicidal do not accept their duty to their fellows. In exactly the same way, if not the same sanguinary result, people who abandon their political identity to the will of the cause do not accept their personal responsibility to be independently aware. This is profoundly shown in the repetition of irrelevant objections to meaningful action. The endless quibbling of the politically correct is a ritual mortification of intellect in avoidance of the duty to confront real change.

(Thanks to Cara Remal for the inspiration.)
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