Radical Isn’t a Dirty Word

One thing that has caught my eye, to some amusement, is the use of the word ‘moderate’ by a load of the Labour students running in the most recent elections. Vote for me, I’m moderate! Don’t bother commenting on me picking on Labour students waa waa because nobody else has been doing it except them. I’d also like to clarify that whilst I’m far from being a Labour fan, that doesn’t necessarily mean I hate all the students involved with the Labour party – that’s far from the truth. Also I’m mostly just happy you’re not all tories 😉

What does moderate actually mean? Some definitions :

“average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree.” – Is that a good thing??

“a person who holds moderate views, especially in politics” – Not a helpful definition as what exactly are moderate political views? If they’re ‘average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree’ then again is that a good thing? I thought maybe you could interpret moderate views as being centrist, but when I asked someone who described themselves as moderate they specifically said that it didn’t mean centrist. Confused.

“Being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme” – Again subjective. Reasonable limits as defined by who? And when did being ‘extreme’ become inherently bad? I believe in EXTREME SOCIAL JUSTICE!! How awful!! Extreme!! Oh wait…social justice. Social justice is good, right? But only moderately? Only moderately good? Or only moderate social justice? That is, not full social justice, just a half-assed attempt?

Seriously though, what does moderate even mean?! I don’t think they even know themselves. I tried looking at their manifestos and promotional Facebook statuses but there were no explanations. In fact, I will ask them and update this before I post it…Update: I asked three people, I don’t really want to name as that wouldn’t be fair. One person told me that he used it to refer to ‘moderate political methods’ rather than political VIEWS as such. That makes sense I suppose and I appreciate the answer. The problem is that they also specified that they also see direct action as being a last resort – does anybody think otherwise? I certainly view it as a last resort but that’s because generally I think we’re kind of at a ‘last resort’ time in history where a lot of things go (if that makes sense). I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as moderate even though I definitely agree that the first step is always to talk about things and try to come to an agreement – the problem is due to power dynamics this very rarely works. I guess that’s where we differ?

^ Also, the other two people I asked didn’t respond.

The opposite of moderate is radical, I guess. Or extreme. Definitions of radical include:

“Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme: – Well, if you’re of a conservative nature that won’t be a good thing. However if you believe in social justice it most certainly is a good thing. Look at the state our country is in, look at the suffering the world endures because of the ills of capitalism, colonialism…exploitation at the end of the day. If you want true social justice you have to ‘depart markedly’ from this ‘usual’ state.

“Favoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions” – See above. This is clearly necessary to create any real positive change for the many people suffering.

Slang Excellent; wonderful”..;) Sorry, had to put that in there.

“characterized by departure from tradition; innovative or progressive.” I guess that’s the same as the first two. I really can’t find anything much different, unlike for moderate where there was a number of different definitions – does that not say something in itself?
I guess my main problem is that moderate is a word that doesn’t have a clear cut definition. It can effectively mean everything you want it to – or conversely nothing much at all. At least radical has a clear meaning, one that can’t be twisted for electioneering (I am not accusing anyone specifically of doing that, but it’s a danger nonetheless). Radical is also a positive thing unless you are happy with the status quo. And anyway who is happy with the status quo has very questionable politics in my opinion!
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One comment

  1. To make analogies with statistics, I would define “moderate” as the mean of people’s views. By this I mean that they more-or-less seek to represent the majority but are unwilling to truly challenge the status quo due to a desire to also please the existing controlling minority. The result is a state of affairs where no one is satisfied.

    Following our analogy, centrists would be analogous to the median while I would strongly argue the most effective politics is targeted to the mode, i.e. What is the best thing for the most people.

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