Thoughts From 1969 for 2021
I wrote the following for a Freshman college English class, and it seems appropriate now, as it did then.
After reading in newspapers of left-wing activists or radicals and their attempts at influencing society, or after hearing the warnings from right-wing conservatives or reactionaries on various news programs, we might logically conclude that these two groups are totally different in every respect. They seem to condone the opposite of each other in all political areas with different means of achieving their goals. Can we in any way reconcile these two political philosophies?
The political spectrum ranges outward from the norm or moderate level in two directions. Just to the left of the moderate position is the liberal ideology. To the extreme left would be the radical or revolutionary. Immediately to the right of moderate is conservative with reactionary being the extreme right position.
As unusual as it may seem, radicals and reactionaries have certain things in common. The most obvious shared trait is the fact that both lie at the extreme though opposite, ends of the political gamut. Neither radicals nor reactionaries are satisfied with standard methods of problem-solving. They demand immediate attention to whichever of society's ills they have decided to remedy and would take up arms if necessary to allow these changes to occur. The tactics of the extreme right and the extreme left would be equally unacceptable to majority of people.
Following pure radical or reactionary benefits would result in anarchy or no government at all with their willingness to use violence as a tool of reform, despite the different objectives of each group.
Both of these political views have resulted from lack of response to the liberal and conservative views. Government is slow to change and those liberals or conservatives who become impatient with the bogged down bureaucratic processes will often revert to a harder line in their political activities.
In spite of these similarities, the foundations on which these two view points originate are different. It centers around basic attitudes toward government. A conservative seeks to maintain the status quo in most cases or if he does accept change, it is to loosen government strings; whereas a liberal's desire is to increase government benefits for all. To the conservative, a liberal view might seem to border on socialism. A good example of how their ideas vary is the question of welfare. A conservative would say we are doing enough in the way of social benefits. At the extreme right, a reactionary would maintain we are doing too much already and the best policy would be to eliminate welfare. The liberal would seek to increase benefits somewhat, and the radical would propose a guaranteed annual income for everybody.
Of course, the blending of these two ideals is the moderate or middle of the road stance. Naturally, most people are inclined to lean one way or the other from the middle, depending on their environment and personal experience. It is important not to confuse stereotypes of these two groups when dealing with individuals. Many people tend to label any conservative or liberal as a reactionary or radical. There could be benefit derived from an open exchange of ideas between the two ideals. Above all it should be remembered that in spite of differences in intent, extreme left or extreme right views both result in chaos and misunderstanding on the part of average citizens.