Sunday, May 26, 2013

The War on Extremism?

With all the chaos in the world, it is impossible to say anything sensible.  I will thus limit my comments to trying to parse out the meaning of the scientific term "Extremism".

"Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission.  Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife.  But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals." - Brainy Quote

"The United States of America is engaged in a war against an extremist group of folks." - Zimbio.

"The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be ...  The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"To boldy go where no extremist has ever gone before ..." - Captain James Tiberius Kirk

And, if we are going to fight a war, we might want to keep in mind Sun Tzu's advice from The Art of War:

"He who knows the enemy and himself will never in a hundred battles be at risk; He who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes win and sometimes lose; He who knows neither the enemy nor himself will be at risk in every battle."

It would undoubtedly be helpful to have a working notion of the term "extremist".  The dictionary definitions seems to favor something that is as far in a particular direction as is possible.  Starting at the most general level, we can try taking the set of animal behaviors and working from there.  This seems reasonable since many groups have taken to justifying their behaviors by referencing the mating habits of slugs.  Of course slugs don't go through elaborate ceremonies complete with priests and government recognition, but these are minor trappings compared to the more important evolutionary behaviors.  Then there are wolves and sheep and sharks and black widows.  Some, like rabbits, are born to be chased.  Others, like foxes, are born to hunt.  This range of human behaviors is clearly on display just up the road in Oakland.  Then we have animals that eat their young, which has a lot of similarity to abortion.  Or perhaps we can consider the Black Widow.

There is another opinion from anthropologists that normal human behavior is that which would have been normal for an aboriginal village.  From this perspective, it would be quite normal and unsurprising for a young man to have his brains bashed out by the young men in the next village over, followed by a wild dance celebrating the event.  The Bible tells us of the first such instance when Cain bashed out the brains of his brother Abel.  There is nothing quite like brotherly passions.

To conclude, I really have no idea what the word "extremist" means in a modern, secular context.


Delirious said...

The meaning differs depending on which political party you follow. Today it means any group that disagrees with your philosophies. ;)

Looney said...

Yes, I was trying to avoid the obvious definition, since it would imply a junior high silly joke level of philosophical maturity from our intellectual classes!

Rummuser said...

Extremist, Radical, Ultra etc are difficult to define but without fail convey an image of some one indulging in some activity that is descriptive of the topic under discussion. I am sure that we all know the words every time they are used when we know the full context.

Without the context, it is indeed difficult to give any meaningful definitions.

Looney said...

@Rummuser, yes the context is important ... provided these terms are used in their proper sense. The problem being that Leftists in the west usually resort to the rhetoric of extremism first. A new principal is invented on Monday and by Friday anyone who holds a different opinion is condemned as a dangerous, civilization threatening extremist.

I will generally perk my ears up at the use of the extremist rhetoric. Then listen to see if something substantive is added or if the empty rhetoric is the sole content.

Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

Extremism is going to the extremes of things, it is radicalism; it is a state of disequilibrium and chaos. Nevertheless, it is a word subject to political manipulation.

I don't know if you heard of the Woolwich terrorist attack (in Southeast London) last week: two Islamic terrorists beheaded an off-duty soldier and tried to eviscerate him, in broad day light (14:20/2:00 PM), in a busy street. What is remarkable is that upon fait accompli they waited for the police and wanted to be recorded by witnesses. The lunacy and danger is increasing and we still have politicians refusing to acknowledge that terrorism is a real problem and it won't go away with politeness.

The West doesn't know itself properly and doesn't care to know the enemy.


Looney said...

Howdy Max,

Yes, the machete attack has been all over the news. I was treated to the video while eating lunch at the company cafeteria.

You have just used the words "Islamic terrorists", which now makes you an Extremist too in our current "Age of Ultra-Enlightenment"!

I could also note that over the last week, hundreds of abortionist in this country were paid by the government to butcher babies and then dance and celebrate with their hands covered in blood, but that would make me an Extremist also, so I won't mention it!

So I do agree with you. At the same time, I think that the blindness is a spiritually caused one that cannot be overcome with reason.

Max Coutinho said...


LOL and you managed to digest your lunch after visualising the video? You could've been a coroner...

I am a bit fatigued of the Left, I confess. Sometimes they can be a ridiculous bunch of people.

Someone in my family calls abortionists "serial killers" because they kill babies in series: I suppose one can't get more extremist than this. But is that assessment right? It is a painful truth.

"At the same time, I think that the blindness is a spiritually caused one that cannot be overcome with reason."

I hear you.