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Are you part of the problem? Sunday 20 December 2015

I seems to me that a lot of really serious problems (like Israel-Palestine, Afghanistan, certainly Syria, politics in my own country, etc.) would be much easier to solve if we could make the EXTREMISTS of both (or all) sides of the problem just SHUT UP and BACK OFF. ‘‘Extremist’’ is of course a very relative term, but that’s all right. Whenever a ‘‘compromise’’ is out of the question (or where it’s even taboo word, as it seems to be in the US for example), extremist positions dominate.

There might be cases in which the extreme position of one side might be more just or right seen from a great distance by a really disinterested observer, but that kind of abstract justice is often unattainable, at least in the short term. It seems to me that in many instances the kind of justice that is still controversial can only be reached when, through a slow process, the ideas that it contains have been become more mainstream. In the mean while, who else can move things forward at least somewhat, except MODERATES? Can it be true that, in the short term, only moderates can work toward the solution of a difficult problem?

If you are an extremist, you are likely to be part of the problem. You’ll make things worse, not better. It’s easy to test if you take an extreme position. If you think that your objective can only be achieved through violence, or by unethical or unlawful means, or if you somehow think that ‘‘the ends justify the means’’, or if you think you need to deceive and seed disinformation to get your ideas accepted, then you are taking an extremist position.

A true moderate position can be characterized by notions like that the goal is to give everybody concerned a real chance at a peaceful life, with opportunities like, freedom of movement, opportunities to finding a job, being able to live in a house or apartment, sending their children to a good school, access to proper medical care, etc. Keywords are: peace for all, basic opportunities for all. The moment you start thinking that you can exclude people from also enjoying these things, you’re no longer a moderate. Simply writing people off, is already extreme.

While to some it may sound easy to take this moderate position, many societies have become so horribly polarized, that the MODERATE position (peace for all, basic opportunities for all) may actually be seen as extremist in itself. In a very real sense, one or both or all sides don’t even care if the other side perishes and dies, and taking a moderate position will get you expelled or even killed.

Let’s take an example that may not be very obvious. Even in a relatively democratic and civil country like the US, lots of people don’t realize that they are taking an extremist position by denying that other people INSIDE THE COUNTRY be allowed to live in peace and have basic opportunities. For example, homelessness and the impossibility for many to find proper living space is not considered a problem by many. However, as I indicated above, not caring about the other side to the extend that those people perish is an extreme position. Or consider the priority that governments in the US give to taking care that there are real opportunities for finding a job or getting an proper education. Sure, the president of the US talks about it, and may boast that unemployment is one or two percent down, but that’s very different from having an economy where everybody can find a job. How likely is it that a resourceful country like the US is really unable to build a society with opportunities for all its citizens? The US went to the moon and currently wages wars over the entire world, but it really can’t create more opportunities at home? Choices are being made, and consequently millions of people inside the US are simply discarded. That simply is extreme. And why is a ‘‘living wage’’ even a discussion? Saying that some people don’t need a living wage, amounts to saying that you don’t care if they perish, which is again the extremist position.

Or take the ‘‘war on drugs’’. That it is called a ‘‘war’’ is a telltale sign. It is considered a problem that can only be solved by warlike violence, which is already extreme. And certainly it often looks like a war, with the police becoming more like a regular army every day. Also, the people caught up in this war (say, people that don’t sell drugs but just use them) end up being targets of the war, leading to the mass incarceration that the US is now famous for. What kind of life do people have inside jail, or do their children have outside of it?

The policy of mass incarceration is only possible because many people in the US don’t care for the people that end up in jail, because they think that those people voluntarily chose to smoke that joint or take that cocaine, thereby disobeying the law. Let’s leave aside the question of how voluntary the habit of taking drugs is. Just ask yourself: whose law is it? Who forbids who to smoke a joint exactly? It is ONE SIDE, forcing the OTHER SIDE to do its bidding. If the other side has no say, than there is no compromise, and no moderate position. Do you really need to wage a war inside the country to prevent people from smoking a joint? That is an extreme position to take.

The US is a large, populous and powerful country, and what it does (or more accurately, what some of it’s people choose to do) has a global effect. It is an amazing public secret that the civil war in Mexico is really being caused by the people in the US. The US is a huge illegal market for drugs, creating huge incentives both inside and outside the country for people to make money delivering those drugs. Because a lot of the drugs are produced more easily outside of the US, Mexico has become the front-line of the ‘‘war on drugs’’. Tens of thousands of Mexicans are being killed in this war, but most people in the US don’t really care. In other words, they take the extremist position.

I could go on and give more examples relating to the US, but hopefully you get the point. Policies in the US are being dominated by extreme positions, that cause a lot of harm to people, but in the extreme viewpoint those people simply don’t deserve a proper life. A moderate position would take the fate of those other people into account.

I got this idea from thinking about the Israel-Palestine problem. I live very far from Israel, but still a lot of stories about the conflict reach me. It is hard to say if I am biased toward one side or the other, but still, to me almost all the stories that reach me seem to be dominated by EXTREME positions that people take on ALL sides. There seems to be no living space for moderates at all. Often moderates are expelled or even killed. This is the reason I got the notion that EXTREMISTS of both (or all) sides of the problem should just SHUT UP and BACK OFF. Or learn how to accept, tolerate or even take moderate positions, that involve this very basic rule that people of the other side should be able to live in peace and have a decent life with basic opportunities, like being free to move, find a job, live in a house, get education and medical care. As long as you think that you need to use violence, that the end justifies the means, that you need to ‘‘force’’ the other side to your viewpoint, that you don’t care if the people of the other side live or die, then you can’t be a part of the solution and need to make room for the moderates that can make a compromise. That doesn’t mean that complete and true justice will be achieved, it only means that all involved will be able to live in peace and make a life for themselves. Some problems may remain for a later peaceful resolution, some problems may never be solved. But if you don’t value life for itself, than you can’t be part of the solution.