Activism, Top Stories

My Former Life as a Radical

To understand what it’s like to be a radical, it helps to speak to those once held under the sway of a radical ideology. Broadly defined, radicalism implies a rejection of compromise and incremental progress in favor of radical change, and for years I believed that Western capitalist society was beyond redemption and in need of a sweeping revolution. There were those who perpetuated a system of oppression and exploitation, and those who sought to overthrow it.

In The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope, the philosopher Roger Scruton outlines the fallacies underlying this mindset, such as “the best case fallacy,” which “imagines the best outcome and assumes that it need consider no other,” and “the utopian fallacy,” which insists that the perfect is the enemy of the good. These can be summed up under the rubric of “unscrupulous optimism,” a concept originally coined by the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Assuming that intentions translate directly into results, radicals tend to be unscrupulous optimists in that they operate on the premise that well-intentioned radical change, however destructive, can only lead to improvement.

They forget, however, that “human societies may retrogress disastrously,” as the economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell puts it in his analysis of Marxism. “Ignoring the dangers of retrogression can mean sliding into the belief that ‘nothing could be worse’ than the existing society being criticized.” This belief is reinforced by a tendency to compare the status quo not to history but to an imaginary future of human perfection. Any society that falls short of this fantasy is seen as an abomination. This can lead to false and dangerous equivalencies. It may, for instance, obfuscate the distinction between democracy and autocracy, between being governed and being ruled, which, from a utopian standpoint, can seem like a distinction without a difference.

This attitude often goes hand in hand with what Scruton calls “the born free fallacy”—the view that the laws and institutions of modern civilized society reduce human freedom. In fact, as the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker expertly demonstrates in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, these laws and institutions free us from living in constant fear and danger of violent death. Much the same is true for poverty, famine, and a host of other scourges, which have also declined thanks to what the MIT scientist Andrew McAfee calls “the four horsemen”: capitalism, technological progress, public awareness, and responsive government.

The widespread misconception that the reverse has been the case partly explains radicals’ unscrupulously optimistic assumption that the existing social order can be overthrown without detriment to the social fabric and human wellbeing. In short, peace and prosperity are assumed to be the natural order of things; it’s the capitalist system that disequilibrates society. The anarchist authors of Contradictionary: A Bestiary of Words in Revolt thus describe capitalism as “[o]ne of the most advanced forms of disorder,” a “disruption” of the “anarchic harmony” that would otherwise characterize our world.

In my experience, this is typical of the radical mindset. Radicals tend to conceive of the world as a fallen place while believing themselves to be on the side of virtue. This means, in Sowell’s words, that “opponents [can] be simply labelled and dismissed as moral lepers or blind reactionaries.” Similarly, the fact that radicalism does not usually receive broad public support is taken as a sign of “false consciousness.” This imbues radical activists in their special role of promoting the “true” interests of “the exploited and oppressed masses,” to borrow Lenin’s phrase. After all, “the masses would have neither the experience nor the theoretical insight to cope with anything as momentous as a change in the whole institutional structure of society,” explains Sowell.

Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, thus argued that “[c]lass political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without.” According to Sowell, this approach, which led to tyranny, bloodshed, and economic devastation, “represented the hubris of imagining that a whole society could be constructed from the ground up on the vision of one man, rather than evolving from the experiences of millions, spread over the generations or the centuries.” I found this same hubris to be prevalent among modern radicals. Convinced of the nobility of their mission, they imagine themselves to be the vanguard of a redemptive revolution that will finally remedy all social ills and conflicts. In short, they believe in the perfectibility of man in their own image: a combination of unscrupulous optimism and narcissism.

Political radicalism appealed to me because it seemed to hold the solution to society’s most deep-seated problems and injustices. However, the so-called “revolutionary struggle” turned out to be largely a struggle against reality—facts and evidence carried little or no weight. What mattered was the grand vision. Like many others, I “miss[ed] the point that a vision that departs from reality must be either abandoned or changed,” as Sowell argues. Even worse, I condoned the use of violence as a necessary means to the pursuit of that vision.

The neuroscientist-cum-philosopher Sam Harris once remarked that “the true horror of religion” is that it “allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions what only lunatics could believe on their own.” And as Voltaire warned us, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Radical ideology has a similar effect—it inspires and justifies immoral actions. After all, morality is, according to Lenin’s fellow revolutionary Leon Trotsky, only “a product of social development” that “more than any other form of ideology has a class character.” In other words, it’s nothing but “bourgeois ideology.” Radicals are, therefore, not bound by it. As a Ukrainian communist paper wrote in 1918, “To us, all is permitted, for we are the first in the world to raise the sword not in the name of enslaving or oppressing anyone, but in the name of freeing all from bondage.”

From the Bolsheviks’ Red Terror to Germany’s murderous Red Army Faction (RAF), the radical Left has a long and bloody history of justifying violence and inhumanity. Even today, many radical leftists and anarchists condone violence as a political tool. They consider themselves to be at war with the capitalist system and, as Saul Alinsky wrote in Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, “in war the end justifies almost any means.” This dangerous mindset makes radicals prone to another pernicious fallacy—that their enemy’s enemy is their friend.

Initially, the September 11th attacks, which killed 2977 people, elicited in me a feeling not of horror but of excitement. After all, a devastating blow had been dealt to American hegemony. My moral compass was completely thrown off by the notion that the terrorists’ jihad was best understood as a liberation movement against Western capitalist imperialism—the chickens had come home to roost. This view was quite common among radicals. A friend of mine even got a tattoo of the burning World Trade Center captioned “FWT”: Fuck World Trade. At the time, this didn’t strike me as particularly obscene.

When it finally dawned on me that the jihadists’ goal was diametrically opposed to my own idealistic vision, I briefly endorsed the then-fashionable conspiracy theory that 9/11 was an “inside job” executed to provide a pretext for the suspension of civil liberties and the waging of wars. This sentiment was captured in slogans like “Bush is a Nazi,” which implied that American democracy under George W. Bush was tantamount to fascism. False equivalencies of this kind allow radical leftists and anarchists to hide behind the guise of antifascism. I participated in a number of “antifascist” protests myself, some of which escalated into riots and violent confrontations with law enforcement. Often, however, the targets of these protests weren’t fascists as commonly defined, but political adversaries who had simply been branded as fascists. This meant that they were fair game. As Mark Twain said, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

I also participated in a number of squattings (occupying vacant buildings without permission in order to create a rent-free, public-use space). The outcome was always the same: The police were called, and the squatters were forcibly evicted. I remember a young police officer asking me if I really thought they’d just give up and withdraw, as he pulled me away from the human chain we had formed in front of the building. I wasn’t that naïve. But I was convinced that our eviction was unjust, even though we were the ones violating property rights. My attitude at the time reflected the radical view that “property is theft.” A combination of economic illiteracy and moral confusion, this belief implied that it was ethical to take from those who “withheld” from us what was “rightfully” ours. So, like many of my radical peers, I turned to shoplifting in protest against the capitalist market economy. Needless to say, when I eventually got caught my father, a police officer, gave me an earful. Though I no longer lived with my parents, I had to inform him right away in order to preempt police gossip.

My radical attitude didn’t sit well with the fact that my own father was a policeman. After all, the prevailing view among radicals is anti-cop. In radical circles, the police are generally seen as the guards of an oppressive social order. This is not to deny that some police officers abuse their power. What many radicals, especially anarchists, assert, however, is something else entirely—that we would be better off without law enforcement and the penal system. Again, the underlying assumption here is that humanity would thrive in the absence of such institutions. But as Pinker and others have shown, such assumptions mistake the cure for the disease. One afternoon, two friends of mine, both fellow radicals, sat me down and suggested that I disown my father on account of his profession. I heard them out, even agreed with what they said, but in the end, blood proved to be thicker than ideology.

Radical ideologues have sought to undermine the family for centuries. Many decry it as a patriarchal institution that acts as a unit of capitalist consumption and teaches passive acceptance of hierarchy. What they ignore, however, is that most people find meaning in family (for which there are good evolutionary reasons). This relates to radicals’ contempt for liberal democracy. In a liberal democracy, people are free to choose what they think is right for themselves as long as their choices don’t infringe on the freedom of others to do the same. Furthermore, each individual is protected by rights, enshrined in laws and institutions, and therefore cannot simply be sacrificed for the collective or a “higher cause.”

These principles violate the radical mindset, which assumes that the end justifies the means, and that ordinary people can’t be trusted to make the right choices for themselves. But why would ordinary individuals, in a future utopia without institutional regulation or capitalist incentive, make the “correct” choices, given that human nature would remain unaltered? And how exactly would such a society work? Since it’s much easier to criticize and tear down existing structures than to develop functionally better alternatives, “technicalities” of this kind are typically postponed until “after the revolution.”

As a former radical, I understand the appeal of this mindset. But I also know that there is a way out of it. An appreciation of reason and evidence and a willingness to consider the other side of an argument offer a good start. Alas, these qualities are not sufficiently encouraged in today’s society. We increasingly live in a partisan culture, in which beliefs function as signals of loyalty—“the more improbable the belief, the more credible the signal,” as Pinker puts it. Radical culture is the same, but on steroids.

None of this is to suggest that radicals are wrong about everything. However, their radicalism tends to alienate those who might otherwise be on their side. When, for example, the radical environmental group Extinction Rebellion chants slogans like “System change not climate change” and “Only revolution will save us now,” they not only display their true colors, but they discredit the environmental movement as a whole. There is widespread agreement that CO2 emissions must be reduced, but that does not imply the end of the capitalist economic system. Particularly troublesome is radical environmentalism’s tendency to slide into misanthropy: Humans are portrayed as a plague upon the planet, which implies an environmental imperative to drastically reduce their numbers. This has a dehumanizing effect: People are treated not as moral agents to be reasoned with but as obstacles to be removed.

I’ve seen the same thing happen in the animal rights movement. A slogan like “It’s OK to kill humans to save animals” is clearly not designed to convince ordinary people to support animal rights. Rather, it serves to radicalize those who are already on board with the movement. It also functions as a loyalty signal: a belief so radical that if you express it no one will doubt your commitment. I was guilty of this too: I would wear a vegan T-shirt bearing the image of a machine gun captioned, “This is a fucking war.” A friend of mine recently told me a disturbing story from his past as an animal rights radical: “There was a professor at Indiana University who had published some articles which made it clear that he did some sort of animal testing. So I showed up at his house with a baseball bat and threatened him.” Before long, however, my friend found himself on the receiving end of fanatical anti-vivisectionist agitation: “Once I got cancer, friends from the animal rights scene told me that I should rather die than benefit from medicines tested on animals.”

Is there any point in reasoning with radicals? From my own experience, I believe Pinker is right when he says that although people tend to “dig in and double down when evidence challenges a sacred belief that is close to their social identity … evidence can change people’s minds, even on highly politicized issues.” When I was faced with contradictory evidence, my echo chamber started to crack, and my ideology began to crumble. It’s certainly possible to persuade radicals out of their radicalism. But it’s difficult. Their ideological beliefs are not just “close to their social identity”; often, they are their social identity. Their social life is centered around those beliefs. Thus, they feel a strong social pressure to reject outside criticism.

Not coincidentally, the prevailing mentality in radical circles is “us versus them.” We should be careful not to make their same mistake. It’s tempting to condemn radicals as enemies of society, to dehumanize them, or to write them off as lunatics. But if we’re serious about opposing radicalism, with its disregard for human life and its contempt for liberal democracy, we have to treat them as independent human beings capable of rational thought and action.

 

Gerfried Ambrosch is a heterodox academic and writer with a PhD in Literary and Cultural Studies. You can follow him on Twitter @g_ambrosch

Photo by ev on Unsplash

Comments

  1. “You cannot reason any man out of a position he was not reasoned into.” – attributed to Jonathan Swift

  2. ‘The neuroscientist-cum-philosopher Sam Harris once remarked that “the true horror of religion” is that it “allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions what only lunatics could believe on their own.”’

    A truly hateful comment, which it seems the author still believes, showing us just how hard it is to completely deradicalize oneself. But he certainly seems to have progressed far, considering his earlier views on other matters.

  3. Good piece. I enjoyed reading it so much I have some complaints.

    The author is a PHD and he writes well. His intelligence is (presumably) above average. The average radical is probably nowhere close to smart enough to pull themselves out of such an ideological quagmire. Also, to give up radicalism, a radical not only has to abandon their identity, their social circle, they have to abandon the thing that (in their mind) sets them apart. That thing that only they know, that only they are intelligent enough to see. They not only have to utterly abandon their worldview as the garbage that it is, they have to come back with hat in hand and muck around with the rest of us previously contemptibles in (gross) reality as just another person with ordinary ideas.

    It’s a hard sell IMO. I don’t think many radicals these days are up to it. From the rock throwers to the professors, I seriously doubt there is enough brain power or humility to convert back to sanity.

    To the author, just because YOU responded to having your views challenged and slowly changed your mind doesn’t mean other people are also capable. Just think about your dumb friend with the FWT tattoo. (It’s supposed to be FTW, so imagine the lifetime of having to explain why you didn’t actually misspell your horrible neck tattoo, you just got a fresh take on a golden oldy) You think THAT guy is capable of writing what you just wrote? You think he can change his mind and absorb and quote Thomas Sowell?

    I’d honestly rather beat my head against a rock than try to convince ole neck tattoo of anything. And not because I’m especially disdainful of radicals, just because I have better shit to do with my time.

  4. The author may not be representative of radicals if he believes a radical is unaware of carnage from their actions is only a risk. From the specimens that I have had the misfortune to experience, they were so full of resentment and rage it was evident their real motive was to see the world burn.

  5. This was a fine essay. I reckon it was the blood being thicker than water that ultimately saved him.

    I think what would have made the essay better would have been to explore what of radicalism appealed to the author. I understand he wasn’t an indigenous peasant exploited by the hacienda owner and terrorised by right-wing death squads. Was he resentful of the well-to-do whilst he was - I assume - a poor student engaged in “more valuable yet less (monetarily) valued” endeavour? Did he think the purported science of socialism was compelling? Was it because of his social circle? A need to impress professors to earn good marks and to find those for letters of recommendation and his dissertation committee?

  6. Without the vestigial superstition (justified or not) in the belief that they would be judged in the afterlife, it is unlikely the decision-makers involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis would have found their way out of the crisis, without resorting to Global Thermonuclear War (WOPR). At the same time, faith communities seem to have an incredibly beneficial effect on social cohesion, charitable giving and crime reduction. So it would appear that faith still has some utility in the modern world, given that we would be extinct, along with most life on Earth, without it’s residual presence.

    The trick about understanding the role of Religion, is that it exists as a form of flood defence, against the various irrationalities and group insanity to which human beings are incredibly susceptible. As individuals we may be prone towards goodness, but as groups we are not, with Faith a normally benign agent tilting us back towards kindness and compassion through its positive reputational influence, on a social level . You only have to look at the various ideologies from either end of the political spectrum that have emerged to fill the void left by religion, with intersectionalism only the latest in a line of fascism, nazism, communism and socialism- to see the pathological need of humans for the deeper meaning provided by a memetic unifier. Rationalism as a secular religion by contrast, can only be advanced by 1% of the population and appreciated by 10%- it is, in effect, a meritocratic aristocracy that will never have mass appeal.

    Unfortunately, whilst religion has evolved as a means of filling this meaning void, it has not yet adapted sufficiently to make it error proof. Especially in times of hardship, there seems to be a rogues gallery of demagogues, bad actors and tyrannical rulers, waiting in the wings to utilise religion towards their own nefarious ends. This doesn’t mean that Faith or Religion is, in itself, harmful- merely that the Food Defences it protects require guards, to defend against the potential for saboteurs intent on breaking the defences and utilising the destruction caused to sweep to power. Worryingly, where both Religion and Ideology were absent in Twentieth century conflict, wars seem to default to conflict on ethnic grounds- which only makes the need for a memetic unifier, or grand narrative all the more vital.

    A better way to model faith and religion, is to recognise that it needs to be bounded and limited, in the same way that Government should be. Secular humanism, with a general tolerance towards Faith, seems to be like Democracy in this regard- not necessarily ideal, but better than all the other alternatives. There is a tenuous space where Science and Religion can coexist and cooperate, without competing. It recognises that whilst Faith may govern our private lives and give us access to an intangible spiritual realm, it should not infringe on the way others chose to live their lives, provided they harm no one. Furthermore, Faith needs to recognise that Science governs the physical world, and should be preeminent in this regard. Believe it or not, there have been several interactions between Richard Dawkins and prominent Rabbis which have resulted in rather positive, if slightly bemused, results.

    Ironically, one of the best examples of this sort of benign coexistence springs from Islam between the 8th and 11th centuries. Neil DeGrasse Tyson gives a wonderful talk on the subject on YouTube entitled “The Islamic Golden Age: Naming Rights”. With the rise of the thinking of Hamid al-Ghazali this period was drawn to a close, with religion superseding Science, and leading to the inevitable decline of Islamic ascendancy. A distinction that would have better served their culture would have been that rather seeing the attempt to understand the universe as a vain attempt to apprehend the mind of God, Science is the best way to appreciate the elegant simplicity and artistry of his works, for those who believe.

  7. Reason could work as a way out of radicalism, but probably only for a select few. It’s also insanely hard to reason in a way that is actually respectful, considerate, restrained and logically flawless against a radical and that’s what it would take for it to have even a remote chance of it working. However, there are a lot of alternatives to trying to convince people to temper their views.

    Give these people as much life and meaning outside of their ideology as possible and they’re likely to de-radicalize themselves. Just give them options and an identity independent of their beliefs.

    When feasible, I think we should ignore all these labels and connect to the people underneath, even if people wear them proudly. Isolating people based on their labels is likely to be what radicalized them in the first place.

  8. Initially, the September 11 attacks, which killed 2977 people, elicited in me a feeling not of horror but of excitement.

    Has anyone else noticed the curious convergence of extreme leftism and fundamentalist Islam? It seems like everywhere you see angry, racist left-wing radicals, you find hijabi women, sometimes in leadership roles. My hyperbolic, doomsday prediction for the next decade is that we are going to see more and more of these crypto-commie antifa cults converting to Islam and joining with the ISIS types, united by their shared hatred of western civilization. It’s been suggested that wokeness is “like” a religion – my guess is that eventually the pull of real, radical religion will draw them all in, especially if it comes within a framework that will push their battle against the US and Christianity forward.

  9. I think there are a few reasons for that.

    The re-invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003 to oust Saddam was very controversial. That the country then spiraled into horrific carnage was seen by many as brown bodies victimised by capitalist white supremacy. This was a repeat of the Vietnam War. Moreover, cultural relativism has seized many influential opinion makers, which has it that certain people are above criticism, or, at a minimum, “It’s not my place to say.”

    What I think is less understood is the background to this. Westerners get the Crusades drummed into their heads. But how well studied is the period from the 7th century to the 15th re Islam’s conquest of Spain, the invasion of Frankish Kingdom, the frequent raids of Italy, etc? There is a tale spun of enlightened Islam, its “diversity” and “multiculturalism”, etc. that appeals to the left.

    To seize a word from Joe Biden: it’s malarkey.

    You might want to check out Northwestern University Professor Dario Fernandez-Morera’s The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain. He counters the Panglossian narrative amplified by many academics and apologists in recent years, but really it originates with Voltaire and others of that era who had the agenda of ridding Europe of Christianity’s importance and influence. To contrast Christianity, a straw man was created: a super enlightened Islam that never did exist in reality.

    Another good book is Holy Warriors: Islam and the Demise of Classical Civilization by John J. O’Neill, a pseudonym. He argues the sudden relapse of Europe to the Dark Ages in the 7th century was due entirely to the economic blockade imposed by Islam’s war against Christendom. Islam’s doctrine of perpetual war against nonbelievers had Muslim pirates raiding the Mediterranean, effectively ending all sea trade between Europe and the Near East. “Holy War” as a concept was transmitted from Islam to Christianity and led to it launching the Crusades to both the Holy Land and the Baltics.

    Excerpt from O’Neill



    16%20PM

    Interview with Fernandez-Morera - audio only

  10. I don’t think its a lack of reasoning power that prevents deradicalization, I think its a lack of humility. Being a radical unfortunately is a part of their identity, self-worth and purpose. Its a big hit to the ego for someone to turn their back on their entire world view. That leads to bunch of uncomfortable questions with yourself.

    “Am I not that smart? I thought that it made sense at the time.”
    “Am I not valuable? I wasted many of my developmental years chasing this dragon with nothing to show for it.”
    “Am I not a good person? I thought I was fighting on the side of the angels but they were actually devils”
    “What is my purpose? If I’m not a radical then I’m lost at sea with no direction in my life.”

    I completely agree with you. We need to get rid of these labels and talk to people as people. We should look at these radicals as victims of brain washing.

  11. This article makes sense if you disconnect yourself from reality you can believe anything you want. I’m sure radicals feel noble which make them feel special and who doesn’t want to feel special. What is missing is any reference to age chronology of the author’s becoming a radical and his progression past it. He also doesn’t touch on how he became a radical or how he supported himself during his period of being a radical both would be interesting. It would be interesting to have a psychological profile of people prone to adapting a radical theology. At the age of 69 I can remember have some quite naive ideas about life and how the world should be when I was in my late teens. I became a police officer at 24 and spent the next 35 years in that profession. That too was a process of starting out naive and being educated by reality.

    I basically believe the only reason people change is because they want to. As for ideologues I find the best way to deal with them is to not put up with their bull shit.

    As an aside I take exception to the author’s assumption that there is any proof of anthropogenic climate change. But that’s another conversation.

  12. Citing the sins of religion is like using medical malpractice to discredit medicine. So yes I will concede the Christianity has a centuries old tradition of malpractice, much like medicine. However Christianity is based upon Logos. Though man may misconstrue The Word just as man may misconstrue and misapply the Law, it is The Word that is at issue, not man’s use of it. I believe that if The Word were practiced as written the world would be a better place. Others are free of course to disagree. But citing misuse of religion is no different than claiming government is invalid due to all the horrors it has wrought.

  13. It seems to me that many of these people who are radicalized do so simply for a sense of purpose. They find their lives empty of meaning and so search for a group they can assimilate into and then take on that groups sense of purpose.
    One of my daughters was an “environmentalist”. Not really radicalized as the author describes but on her way there. What we did as parents was to tell her to ask herself what was she was accomplishing participating in all these protests and marches? Why not try and change things from the inside? If you want people in power to listen to you then you have to have the credentials to back up what you are saying so you need to become more educated. Nobody is going to listen to some idiot who chains herself to a tree, it will accomplish nothing. She went after her environmental science degree and there was her new sense of purpose. That old group fell away and she had a new group, a productive group.
    My point here is parents/adult role models play a huge role in this. Most of these kids are very intelligent and just need to be reasoned with. The problem is that if the parents (or someone who might have an interest in their success) do not intervene there is no motivation for anybody else to try and reason with them and get them back into mainstream society. Not sure if the author got himself out of this environment by himself or with the help of others.

  14. Thread derailing, but I’m finally not on my phone.

    Two things are enraging to me about this article.

    1. The author is a former radical. To the author: Did you ever damage these properties you squatted in? Did you, in your antifascist rallies, ever attack other people for the crime of not being on your team? This is important: I find many “former” radicals want to write-off their crimes as youthful indiscretion, as if there was no harm. It betrays the same fundamental arrogance and self-aggrandizement that afflicted them as radicals- those they wronged, those they injured, those they crippled and stole from, those whose lives they ruined- they aren’t real people, but bit players in the play of the life of the radical/former radical.

    I rather think this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks these people face in facing what they’ve done. Much like an addict who comes clean has to deal- without the escapism as their preferred drug- with what they’ve done to their friends and family; these people need to reconcile, with their narcissistic self-image, that they are the villain. They are not the hero of the story. And even those who do tend to brush it off with “Well, I was sincere/meant well”- implication being that they’re more moral because they cared more.

    It’s immature- literally. Third level of maturity- other people aren’t fully real. Most people pass it by the end of adolescence; which is marked by decreased function in the empathic portions of the brain and an inability to correctly understand the feelings and motivations of others; leading to a need for over-the-top displays and overt statements to establish who to trust. Hence, “never trust anyone over 25.” Why? They’re rational adults, who don’t need to proclaim virtue but instead can demonstrate it and tell when others are demonstrating it without a giant neon sign.

    So, author, have you made right what damage you did? Have you even confronted it, or did you too brush it under “youthful indiscretions?” Because the crimes your radical friends hated others for were being adults.

    Sorry, but radicals really eat me.

    The other item that eats me is precisely the millennials and the Boomers. The Boomers started a mythologizing lie. Protesting does something other than raise awareness.

    According to this logic, suffragettes claimed the right to vote. No, old male politicians gave it to them. And the electorate pressuring them to do it was the voting electorate, which be definition did not include women. Same with Civil Rights in the US. Bunch of white guys (and a few white women) voted for it. Protest and agitation can call attention, it can breed sympathy or put a face on suffering, but in terms of doing anything it does exactly zilch, zero, nada, nothing.

    I recall hearing on the radio, in the mid-90s, a guy excitedly calling into a radio station because they were going to have a new Woodstock. He was 19, and said “My father always was on me as a kid, that his generation gave us Civil Rights, Woodstock, and stopped the Vietnam War, and he always was asking what my generation had ever done.” He then said his father was 37. Means his father wasn’t marching for the Civil Rights Act, or in Birmingham, or even old enough to go to Woodstock- he was a failure “wannabe”.

    I find radicals, in their Utopian ideas, are frequently children who see themselves as heroes and among millennials, are ignorant of the actual aftermath of the “Glorious '60s”- the 70s and 80s were a hangover they don’t remember.

  15. I disagree with the over abundance of IQ diagnosis.

    Radicals (used to) seem intellectually superior when I was a young man because They knew about things that other people hadn’t studied or spent time looking into (the reality is that what they ‘knew’ was easily refutable garbage, but alien, so somehow mysterious and learned).

    In reality, Even the smartest Marxist and anarchic radicals are operating on 85% passion 15% knowledge and if you know even half as much about their ideology as they do, it becomes apparent that it’s ancient gibberish that fails to take humanity into account in an idealistic attempt to smush The whole of society into a minuscule Ideological box made out of saltine crackers.

    Also, have you looked around at who is identifying as radical these days? It’s pretty grim.

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