Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Radical about moderation

The only thing about which I am radical is moderation. This means, however, that I am in a very strict minority. In an era that both glorifies and amplifies the most extreme views until they obliterate any other (more muted or nuanced) views, it seems that only the most radical views are given the space for expression. Any attempts to moderate those positions are typically met with howls of protest from their proponents claiming that they are being marginalized for their opinions. Never mind that their opinions typically exist at the margins of public opinion to begin with.

In most of the democratized West, this tendency toward extremism (though it should be noted that extremism is not necessarily solely a Western trait, merely that there is more freedom to express it in many cases) has often manifested itself in negative ways - and often on the most innocuous subjects. It is not uncommon to see radical viewpoints on issues of race, politics and religion. If anything, it would be uncommon not to see them. But, it seems that extreme points of view now roll over into more mundane or trivial subjects such as entertainment, celebrity or even sports. Take the recent commentary regarding the marriage of Sandra Bullock and Jesse James or the storylines revolving around the Pittsburgh Steelers and their treatment of two players with troubles off the field. More precisely, a perusal of the message boards on various entertainment and sports sites to see the points of view relating to these stories demonstrates the radical opinions that even casual observers have on these events. Frankly, when those views can be expressed via the relative anonymity of the internet, the likelihood of self-censorship is further reduced since there is little possibility of actual consequences - other than equally radical opposing viewpoints being expressed in similar anonymity.

Yet, despite the increasingly radical rhetoric spewed about on the airwaves, the moderate opinions still hold sway - for now. This does not mean that radical stands have not occasionally shoved their way to the forefront of decision making, but that they are still the exception and not necessarily the rule. However, at some point, a stand must be taken to ensure that the extremists (on both sides of any given issue) do not become the law of the land. Extremist opinions are not necessarily always wrong, but they should not be given preeminence in a debate simply because they are so far different from the more common (read: moderate) positions which often come from common sense and logic. Moderation is a good thing, not a bad. Equating moderation with compromise (an apt comparison in my view) - a good compromise is when both sides leave the table unhappy with the final decision.

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