White collar conservative flashin’ down the street, pointing that plastic finger at me, they all assume my kind will drop and die, but I’m gonna wave my freak flag high.
— “If 6 was 9”, Jimmy Hendrix, from his 1967 album Axis: Bold as Love
A map of the world that does not include utopia is not worth even glancing at.
— Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, 1891
Nearing the final chapter of late stage capitalism most major media outlets have been absorbed by centralized corporate power, where anyone that doesn’t have a pro-corporate, pro-USA opinion within the bounds of power’s defined normalcy is labeled as radical. The news media has seen fit to no longer report the news through the lens of supporting the people, rather they are purveyors cultural norms pushed onto us by corporations and US intelligence agencies which best suit the needs of power. The perspective of major news outlets is that it’s perfectly okay for the US to engage in unjust wars, and meddle with the rest of the planet by inserting our own chosen leaders into foreign governments; e.g., like they are doing to Venezuela, and generally have no problem promoting mass murder using Orwellian vernacular to peddle support for violently spreading US economic interests to the rest of the world.
Suggest peace or ecological sustainability? Shit, sorry buddy, now you’re a radical; a naive one they’d argue. The powers that be seem to fully embrace the idea that it’s fine as a nation-state to act like homicidal authoritarian maniacs who are pushing the global ecology to the brink of collapse, that’s just fine, so long as you just want to kill the proper people. Should you be a proponent of peace, cooperation, and sustainable non-exploitative living for all, generally creating a world with far less atrocities and horrors, well, that will get you the label of radical even for the socialism lite policies Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is pushing in the green new deal. She has since owned the moniker of radical along the general line of thought that if being more humane makes her a radical then so be it, and rightly so, but if the ideas of being more humane are considered radical now, wait till these mainstream hacks hear what is actually necessary to begin to heal the natural world on a timetable that doesn’t end in some rather brutal ways and much faster than most think possible no less. Climate change and species extinction are continually accelerating faster than expected along exponential curves and exponentiation has a way of sneaking up on you rather fast. Now we’re talking about the type of stuff that will be openly balked by the status quo neoliberal capitalists as potentially extremist.
For instance, Trump recently sarcastically scoffed in a tweet: “I think it is very important for the Democrats to press forward with their Green New Deal. It would be great for the so-called “Carbon Footprint” to permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas, & the Military – even if no other country would do the same. Brilliant!”
Trump frames needed change as an absurdist impractical disposition, while my radical disposition is that I do indeed think it would be great to phase out and eventually eliminate automobiles, commercial airlines, the torturous livestock industry, and scrap the world’s largest polluter and ruling titan in the industry of child murder known as the US military. Further, I’d argue that the majority of the planet would wake up to a life that’s far kinder and more livable without these things. Now I’m not so radical to say immediately eliminate them, but they should be phased out and our communities reoriented to move away from their use within five years. The change would be dramatic; however, the term radical probably isn’t apropos here considering the potential implications of not changing means nature likely forces our hand to change, and the resulting chaos would be far more radical of a transition than an intentionally controlled move away from social hierarchy, global capitalism, and fossil fuel use.
It’s quite the game of semantics being played when corporate news bandies the word radical around, as it only means to deviate sufficiently from accepted norms, it doesn’t innately have a positive or negative meaning. I’m sure we’d all happily accept lives that were radically more peaceful and happy, yet the connotation in corporate news doesn’t usually imply the definition in the superlative. So when news media uses the word radical they use it as an opportune smear, sometimes when even referring to a modicum of change they hyperbolically reach into their grab bag of fear mongering words to create a negative association with those who might cut into their profits and present them as fringe outliers, and they’re also quite aware the term is often used to label people they correlate with violent activities, which is a bonus since what they are attempting to do with the word is discredit the opposition.
The tactic of applying the word radical to the left isn’t just to invalidate an idea, but it’s designed to denigrate the change agents, which is usually the progressive left and those further to the left of them. But the left isn’t really a thing and neither is the right, they are but a spectrum of people who gravitate to ideas based on a set of values and where they feel like they fit relative to the culturally established polarities promoted, and to a large extent in the US what determines left and right ideologies is established by the Republican and Democratic parties. And the people don’t set the agenda of either of the parties. Rather wealthy elites set their agenda, which equates to the people having no real voice, rather only if they want corporate authoritarian plan A or B.
The extremes of the spectrum of left and right are often misconstrued intentionally by those attempting to manipulate the public dialog, and for my purposes here, like the word radical, the word extreme isn’t to mean good or bad only the furtherest realms of thought down a logically consistent path. Most people have a mixture of right and left ideas, but the ideological thinking at the root of the left and right, what I’m referring to here as the extremes, have certain core beliefs at their foundations.
So the extreme right is embodied by the following ideas: An open endorsement of competition, discipline, control, militarism, shame and punishment behavior modification; e.g., prisons and courts, law and order. A might makes right power structure, acting on fear impulses and using it as motivational tool. A culture of violent domination and ownership as a means to an end to accomplish the interests of the installed hierarchy. The right wing embraces an archaic brutal winner take all competition where the hoarding of resources is encouraged to utilize leverage over other people, and warfare and policing is commonly employed to achieve those means if necessary. And because they believe in hierarchy and broken ideas like “leadership” they are innately against mechanisms that distribute power whether they be economic or political. Hence they are against socialist policies of government that limit profits for corporate interests like healthcare, but for the physical authority aspects of socialism like policing, jails, and military. Also due to their belief in ruling hierarchy there is a more natural submission to play the role of unthinking pawn to an authority and those at the top of the pyramid will more commonly exhibit authoritarian tendencies. This tendency for the right wing to adopt authoritarian policies is noted by former psychology professor Bob Altemeyer, where in his book The Authoritarians he cites authoritarianism as primarily a right wing behavior.
Under the doctrine of the right the ruling power acts like a parent to the people. The parent will play nice so long as the child behaves, they may even negotiate occasionally should it be easier for the adult to briefly yield than use corporal punishment, but should the child interfere with the relationship with power to the adult then violence will be used to reestablish power.
The environment and human life are secondary priorities to maintaining the power structure to the right wing. Words are reframed if not outright inverted to mask the extremely negative repercussions from operating in competitive hierarchy, where implications such as war, class subjugation, incarceration, and ecocide are merely the price we have to pay for the good of the nation state and its sacrosanct economic system. Nationalism and organized religion are heavily promoted by right wing authoritarians as these are both ideologies where critical thinking is circumvented in favor of blind allegiance. They both have leaders who serve as conduits to a higher power; in religion this is the priest class and in patriotism a leader like Trump fills this role who gains his power by being conduit to the American mythology and putting a flag in front of every atrocity made while lurching for more power. Every act of violence and abuse of power orchestrated is put in the context of a mistake or a necessity while ostensibly trying to protect ole glory.
The rationale dismisses most actions that might be considered ugly as merely isolated events and not indicative of the system itself which is beyond reproach as the mythology of the founding fathers is sacred, just as the bible itself was infallible to Christians as soon as ink touched parchment. Everything to foster a belief in held power and perpetuate the status quo way of doing things, while attempting to justify all the actions of it. Wholesale “loyalty” to a side is an underlined virtue. Due to blind subscription to ‘isms, the activities of ruling power are never dubious enough to dim the fidelity of the people to the ‘ism, in part because they have personified the ‘ism as a part of themselves, it becomes part of their identity, and thus all misgivings are rationalized through the ultimate good they believe the power represents since they believe themselves to be good. And no matter how much evidence is presented to the contrary it remains sacrosanct to question that authority because it’s akin to questioning their own ego identity.
As for the ideology of the extreme left, they are at root based in human cooperation, sharing, equality, and flattened models of power in a voluntary economic system. Lefty ideas are usually embodied under the umbrella of ideologies like socialism, communism, and most forms of anarchism. Consciousness, and the quality of it, for all living beings is prioritized. Compulsory conformity is frowned upon.The extreme left consists of people who want to be left alone to live free in their communities unmolested by business interests and government. The extreme left chooses symbiosis with nature rather than bulldozing over it. They encompass shamanistic Native America values, with strong ties to community without petty division and being stewards of the land.
A live and let live outlook is embraced, a take only pictures leave only footprints mentality. Peace, diplomacy, and understanding are at the forefront of thought when dealing with others. Violence is a last resort only when facing an unyielding force, such as what western empire is to countries not currently in their financial snare. And again, the left isn’t really the political left, they are merely a diverse group who react to fear differently than those who more closely associate to ideas on the right. Lefties are traditionally less reactionary to fear, and less vengeful to external threats; maintaining a do unto others mentality with a belief that people should not exploit others or the land for profit. Not controversial stuff, just treat everyone like you would like to be treated, the golden rule.
Lefties are funded by almost no one with a big pot of gold, likely because there is an underlying contention on the left that no one needs to be that rich and powerful, so those who crave wealth and spend their days chasing money and power don’t typically have much in common with core lefty values. And George Soros, Bill Gates, and other so called lefty elites don’t support lefty writers, pundits, and journalists like the Koch brothers support on the right wing, mostly because those billionaires aren’t really the left, they are Reagan era conservatives who are only considered lefty relative to Trump era conservatives.
It’s primarily the left that cares if animals are mistreated, the left that finds trophy hunting and abattoirs disdainful, the left that doesn’t support “double tap” drone bombing, or giving weapons to hardline authoritarian allies like Saudi Arabia who drops them on school buses in Yemen.
The lefties are the ones suggesting nation states prioritize taking care of the people and living sustainably instead investing in mass murder and ecocide on a global scale. Or that humanity not be an authoritarian shit show, but for these sentiments the argument is inverted by the right wing and the left is called authoritarian. The rebuke from the right wing often lands on a variation of the following argumentation: “Did you hear about Stalin and Hitler? They were authoritarian lefty communist/socialist types, and didn’t you know that communism and socialism always end in tragic failure?“
However, I’ve yet to meet a lefty that would support a modern day Stalin or Hitler regime or any of their methodologies, or their structure of power, or the way they conducted any their of business as usual behavior, but according to some punditry on the right, this is an example of a violent failure from the left. The most horrendous right wing activities are pegged onto lefties as a basic straw-man shell game and intentionally using the most convenient arguments usually blurted from a bully pulpit with a large installed audience where the counter arguments are muted and/or ignored by big media outlets.
The misconceptions of what and who is radical have been driven by the aforementioned right wing. Values are again very intentional. The right wing is what western civilization is based on, and they contort and confuse every successive generation into believing aspects of red baiting propaganda, which works really well when one can control media outlets and silence dissent. Like when they sentenced lefty socialist Eugene Debs to a decade in prison in 1918 for nothing more than giving a speech. And today the ruling elite right wing authoritarians have sought punishment for Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and others for whistleblowing on the heinous activities of the state. If the people at the top of the hierarchy had lefty values they’d thank them for pointing out the corruption, but the reaction of the US government tells you all you need to know about the ideology currently running the world.
The proper and reasoned response to this systemic construct of intentional mass inequality, which threatens the very continuance of the human species, is to reject it outright. This is a system that deliberately manufactures inequality so an oligarchy can forever enrich themselves while keeping the lower classes divided, subjugated, and bemused. To create such inequality others must be disempowered to the point they cannot resist, clearing the way to properly rob them of the land beneath their feet and plunder the natural world for resources. The powers that be propagate large scale plans; e.g., the southern strategy, for dividing people and not caring about the human suffering that is a result of their social meddling even should it lead to violence, which is the intended result in most cases where it occurs. Their objective is only to virulently defend the helm of power at any cost, and to serve economic interests of those who already have more than their share.
Radical change starts with understanding that the way things are now isn’t how they have to be. What occurred yesterday doesn’t have to be what happens tomorrow. However, being a radical is not something to be taken lightly. Drawing outside the lines that comprise defined societal norms takes courage, but we should not endeavor to do things simply to prove we are not afraid, or to garner a sense of status, or because it betters our odds of getting laid. But when simple truths go ignored which give rise to widespread abuse and inequality, and standing up to end these practices makes one a radical – Then so be it.
Be fuckin’ radical.
Be radical when it comes to standing up for any action that reduces suffering of another. Be radical to protect all nascent threads of emotional connection, creativity, and courage wherever they may lie. Radically see life and consciousness in everything and treat all as an equal, radically enlighten, be radically sustainable; these are not controversial things yet they are all under attack to the degree that to be logically consistent with these ideas will make one a radical with a negative connotation. So in the face of ecocidal empire we must rebel radically, yet with radical wisdom to know that the methodologies in which we bring about change will determine the values that will be expressed into any new system of change. Divesting from the current economic methodologies, using radical non-participation, radical civil disobedience, and creating self sufficient sustainable communities will help drive power away from the current model and potentially break it. Though, I’m afraid there’s no way forward unless we accept being radical.