Thursday, November 8, 2012

What Happened To The Political Moderates?

On Thinking

“Every reasonable human being
should be a moderate Socialist.”

—Thomas Mann

Few persons who consider themselves extremists; yet that doesn't stop them from often taking extremist positions politically. The problem stems from reductive and simplistic partisan politics, which inflames the emotions with hot-button issues; too many persons get information from media sources that support their one-sided views, which further entrenches their ideas, eventually leading to extremism, or hardening of the mind. For such individuals, a strong unbending point of view is equivalent to having a principled position; in other words, a moral one.

Moderation, on the other hand, is considered weakness, wish-washy and indecisive; in short, a moral failing. Such is a common mode of cognition and it is precisely the kind of thinking that dominates our politics, not only here in the West, but around the world. What this is suggesting is that strong, clear and forceful views—no matter how irrational or fanciful they are, or how inflammatory or splenetic the language— is far better than moderate, rational and thoughtful views and positions. Or, in other words, it is acceptable for most persons to hold extremist views in the name of an idea or an ideology that promotes their agenda.

So much does the extremism colour such views that it makes the individual blind to the arguments of the other person, no matter how well-reasoned or factual. Like deep ruts in the road, a long-held and cherished view forms figurative ruts in the brain. It takes effort and mental exertion to get out of the rut. So much so that few individuals care to change their position, even when new evidence is presented. Such explains extremism: an individual who is devoted to an idea because he has faith that it is true. Or he is too tired to change his mind.

Moderates hold principled views, but not necessarily the same ones for a lifetime and not necessarily  for all occasions and periods. For example, tax cuts might be right for one period, but not for another; a decrease in defense spending might be necessary for one period, but not for another; as is the reasoning behind more money for public infrastructure projects, or healthcare, and so on along the list of issues that divide the hard-core Leftists and the hard-core Rightists. If moderation is considered good in eating, drinking and exercising, why is it not so in politics?

The answer some will offer is that politics is a "Blood Sport." Human sacrifices, however, are pre-modern and have no place in today's world.


  1. An "individual who is devoted to an idea because he has faith that it is true" is an idealist who has embraced a religious or ideological dogma because many doctrines forbid thinking. Unquestioning faith is the primary cause of evil.


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