Friday, April 29, 2011

Dynamics of radicalism

We have now had in our recent elections interestingly a very slight whiff of actual radicalism. The "True Finn" party as a whole is more a renewal of our venerable rural populist party SMP just in somewhat more urban circumstances, and not really remotely radical in a serious way. But they do have a Southern metropolitan and fairly educated wing that is a relatively nasty, polarizing force somehow getting energy from the pitifully few immigrants from culturally more distant countries that we now have in Finland. This is probably neither here nor there, a passing phenomenon (Western populations getting to terms with globalization), but it got me thinking about circumstances where the centre does not hold, where liberal democracy is either weak or non-existant.

I myself go instinctively for the extreme middle way, aiming to cohere, construct, approving of messy, pragmatic compromizes, rational dialogues. These reflexes are the fundamental base of our Western liberal democracy. The true radicals, on any issue, aim to polarize, to weaken the centre, to disrupt the rational discourse. If they are weak, it is them who are marginalized, if they are strong enough, it's the rational centre that gets marginalized. Terry Eagleton characterizes liberalism as an ideology that would seek a compromize between fascists and non-fascists, but that's deeply unfair and misleading. Inherent in liberalism is a distrust of passion and fanatism, a lesson learned from our bitter historical experience that rational dialogue must not be extinguished. A radical for me is a person who in the fight against fascism chooses Stalinism, or vice versa. It is the extremes that get hard to distinguish from each other, never the centre.