Monday, October 29, 2007

Soft centres

There is nothing much worse in politics than a moderate. These sad creatures tend either to be rightists in disguise, or clowns who cannot read the political map. They believe they are eminently "reasonable", but reason should lead you to either wing of political thought. I can respect the rightist intellectual -- although I wonder about the coldness that has seized their heart -- but for the moderate I have only contempt.

Why? I can almost hear you whining. Why hate me for not having the balls to believe in anything except timidity? The reason is simple. Moderates are enablers of the right.

Progressives want change because we believe the world is wrong. The way it is structured is all awry, and we believe it could be put right -- or righter. I don't think anyone wholly sane believes it can be made perfect, or even that there is a perfect state it could be in. But we feel that it could be better. Moderates though fear great change. They are on the whole statusquoists. They look for excuses not to urge disruption. On climate change, they want to wait and see; on oil, they think the crisis is exaggerated and we will science our way out of it; on wars, they are against them, but not so much; in disputes, they urge seeing both sides, even where it is quite plain that one side has much the greater claim to justice. This latter is, I think, their worst crime: they allow disgusting rightists, who have no interest in justice, to claim an equal share of their affection. Always seeking "balance", the moderate ignores that the world is unbalanced, and, to bring about equity, what is needed, sometimes, is an extremely unbalanced reaction. For instance, if women are sorely mistreated in some distant land, denied rights, employment, access to education, what is needed is not to see the point of view of the men who are mistreating them, but to demand that they are provided with what they lack. But what happens? The rightists, who don't care about women (and mostly don't believe they should have much in the way of rights anyway) unless they have some political purpose for pretending to, want business as usual with the men in the distant land. Moderates, instead of insisting that we cease to empower them, invent excuses to do nothing: the women will suffer more; our economy depends on turning a blind eye to bad business partners; we should work for slow but steady progress, not revolution. And so on, blah blah blah.

Meanwhile, the women continue to have circumscribed lives, and nothing changes.

As I say, there's no way in a case like that to characterise the moderate's position as anything else but a softer version of the rightist's. Philosophically, they took a different road, but they arrived in the same town, if not the same street. Worse, even where they do not share the rightists' positions, they enable them. American moderates may hate Guantanamo, torture, the war on people with oil, but they won't do what it takes to end it. If that was impeach Bush, Bush should now be impeached. If it was disrupt the mechanism of government, that's what they should have done. Floppy moderates, trapped by their belief that others can't really be all that bad, allow hardcore shitheads to get away with murder. It's not just America, of course. This happens everywhere that there are bad men and others without conviction.

Now, I do understand that this thinking can be dangerous. It lies on the road that the takfiris and other jihadis have taken: first you identify your enemies, then you identify your enemies' fellow travellers and they too are your enemies, and finally you identify those who aren't actively opposed to your enemies and they join the ranks of your enemies. But it's a curious thing about the jihadis that in their ranks are many smart guys, who have argued from premises that are not unreasonable to positions that are extreme without their ever having really gone off the reservation. Most of their analysis is fairly sound, when it comes down to it. (Consequently, I think that if you consider that we are involved in a battle of ideas with Islamists, we must approach their premises, not their final positions.)

But I am not urging their extinction. I'll settle for their being imprisoned in the camps they facilitated, until they are sufficiently enraged by the way things are that they stop the Panglossing and start hating the bad. It's not so terrible to hate if the target of your hatred really deserves it. And some do. Some really do.


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