No one wants to be “extreme.”
It feels icky and will get you disinvited from all the cool kids’ parties. Besides, these days reasonable conversation about important issues seems impossible.
One of the biggest problems is the logical fallacy that supporting X’s right to do something equals support for X and opposition to Y.
This is how unintelligent people see things. Unintelligent people, or dishonest ones.
You can see the left/right polarities in politics, philosophy, economics, and in many, many other field–even the arts.
Reaction against constant politicization is completely rational. Jamming politics down everyone’s throats is tiring and it prevents any meaningful solutions from being formed.
Someone has to be right, right? Someone has proposals that’ll work better than others, don’t they?
Enter the centrists.
A new trend is to describe oneself as centrist, meaning–according to what I call the nü-centrists–“one who looks at things from both sides.”
“Centrism is NOT agreement with parts of both sides!” I’ve been told.
“Centrism isn’t being a moderate!” they say.
Except…it kind of is.
You see, as with most things, it doesn’t matter what YOU wish a word meant, it matters what the word actually means and how the society views the term.
In other words, the term “centrist” is horrible branding. It has way too much baggage and means in the majority of people’s minds exactly the opposite of what the nü-centrists want it to mean. The word implies “middle.” It conjures images of a center point along a spectrum, not, as nü-centrists assert, “being in the middle of a circle and seeing all sides of an issue” or somehow being smarter than everyone else.
Give me a break.
“Centrism” implies “squishy.” It implies “no overarching philosophy.” It implies “kind of right, and kind of left.” It implies constant compromise.
I’m not saying the nü-centrists are these things. I just think that they need a new term.
Everyone has an overarching philosophy. Even self-styled centrists. From my observation, most centrists are right-wingers who want their left-wing friends and associates to still be friends with them.
Admit it, centrists: your conservatives except you’re cool with gay marriage and drug legalization. You “don’t agree 100% with either platform.” And that’s okay! Most people who identify with either party don’t agree with their own party’s platform 100%. They just recognize the power of organization.
Which is another thing I’ve observed centrists don’t like: belonging to a group.
Which is fine.
Take an issue like free speech, though. The nü-centrists I see online are almost all free-speech extremists…yet they insist they’re not on one side or the other–even though they don’t compromise on free speech!
Refusal to compromise isn’t very centrist.
Look. I get it. Both American political parties are hopelessly corrupt and care only about their own power.
But the centrists are really railing against an attitude and a logical fallacy: the binary straw man issue.
I get it. I hate that binary straw man too! But that’s not a “centrist” thing.
Nü-centrism seems to me to be a pose, an attitude, an argument style. It urges moderation in rhetoric and in tone.
Nü-centrism is no, or at least does not appear to be, some sort of political third-way.
Nü-centrism eschews extremism in temperament. It wants to think about things instead of having knee-jerk reactions either way. It’s very Aristotelian.
And I’m on board with this.
But nü-centrism is not a political philosophy nor a set of principles. And sadly, in the culture war and political war, as well as in actual shooting wars, it doesn’t matter if you don’t take a side. A side will take you.
So be reasonable and think. I support this and if this is what centrism actually was, I’d call myself a centrist too. But it doesn’t and it’s not.
The term sucks. Persuasion fail.
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