Is Becoming “Radicalized” Always Bad?
Our world has always favored just a few people running the show. Call them the elite or aristocracy or warlords or billionaires or career politicians. The rest of us common people just want to be left alone to pursue simple daily routines, watch football games, mind little pleasures, and be told how to think.
In our democracies, we can thank the elite for taking care of us. The technocrats give us computers and televisions, without our needing to know much at all. There used to be lots of simple labor-type jobs to support our families, but automation has reduced the numbers.
Now government welfare supports the working class, supplemented by local television news broadcasts that swing from one charity to another: free food, coats, toys, school supplies, you name it.
But just make sure that the “necessities of life” (food, shelter, clothing, and fuel) are available, or the people will turn ugly. Born in the wake of the French Revolution, Thoreau understood this (and so did Karl Marx at the same time). America’s sense of Manifest Destiny came at the right time. Energies that might have become destructive and revolutionary could be vented.
The management class (such as politicians, academics, bureaucrats, lawyers) can successfully keep the commonweal content so that the status quo goes unquestioned. Ideologues are unwelcome. So are any deep or independent thinkers not on the government payroll. Moderates don’t upset the applecart.
Religions can be dangerous, especially if they get people to become true believers. Religion is best when it pacifies and promotes acceptance. Once vibrant religions around the globe have survived by allowing core values to be hollowed out, with worship becoming mechanical, albeit enjoyable.
But don’t tell this to the Jewish Essenes or the Roman Christians who founded Constantinople. They were radicalized. As were the American revolutionaries who would rather die than remain a part of the British Empire. “Give me liberty or give me death” was no idle slogan. The radicalized will always be a minority on any side of a political spectrum, like our liberal power brokers today, but a few will always be tempted to ask “What can one person do?” to make a difference.