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>Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2001 12:46:45 -0500
>From: Harvey Newstrom <mail@HarveyNewstrom.com>
>Subject: RE: Extremism
>My take on "extremism" is that extremists try to go as far as
>possible in one direction or the other. I think the real answer is
>always somewhere in the middle. That means that you have to pull
>reality toward the correct answer until suddenly, when you've reached
>the appropriate position, you have to stop or pull back the other way!
>Most people cannot judge such an even-handed approach. They decide
>on a direction to move, and then keep moving in that direction
>forever. Almost all people hold this kind of view on any topic.
>Anybody who proposes some middle ground will be accused by both sides
>of being an advocate for the other side. Most people divide every
>issue into two positions only, and then play tug-of-war as far as
>they can go. They go as far as possible for their direction, and can
>never concede a single point to the opposing side, or admit that
>there are logical limitations to their position up to a point.
>Examples of extremism in my view would include:
>- pro-gun position that allows arms of any type for any person
>- anti-gun position that removes all guns for everyone
>- pro-government position that wants the government to control everything
>- anti-government position that wants no government at all
>- pro-technology position that thinks technology is good for its own sake
>- anti-technology position that thinks technology is evil automatically
>- pro-Bush position that think the Democrats caused the election problems
>- pro-Gore position that think Republicans caused the election problems
>- pro-evolution position that evolution always produces the best solution
>- anti-evolution position that evolution never produces the best solution
>- pro-market position that markets always produce the best solution
>- anti-market position that markets never produce the best solution
Let us not forget my other example; the pro-choice position of supporting a woman's right to abortion for any reason, or for none, up to the moment of childbirth, vs. the antiabortion position of opposing all abortion, even in cases of rape, incest and fatal threat to the woman's physical health, and opposition to birth control as well.
>The fact of the matter is that any position can be taken to
>unreasonable extremes. Most people can't recognize this. It
>confuses them when they push for their solution and suddenly they go
>too far. They become disoriented when someone allows their solution
>to be applied "hypothetically" in all cases, to the point they start
>running into problems. This is why most people become defensive in
>theoretical debates or retroactively start rewording their position.
>They "know" they are right, and can't understand why their "obviously
>right" position fails when applied to pure clear-cut examples.
>I would argue that 45% of the people are extremists on either side of
>any issue, and only 10% of the people choose a median position or a
>third position. This small minority will always be accused of being
>on either side, of flip-flopping, or just left out of the debate
>totally. They will be seen as supporting one side on one point, and
>then suddenly supporting the other side on another point. They will
>alternatively be friends and enemies of either camp. No one will be
>able to tell where they stand. They will insist on integrity, logic
>and consistency on every issue, and yet most people will not be able
>to predict their position. They are not easily classified into
>As a self-test, I would argue that anybody who agrees with one side
>of an issue all the time is an extremist. No group is right 100% of
>the time. The rare person who is more correct than most would be in
>a small minority. They will never agree with the status-quo or
>default position of their group all of the time. If one finds
>oneself agreeing with their party, PAC, group or spokesperson all the
>time, I would worry about being an extremist or a "sheeple". If one
>agrees all the time, one can never surpass the understanding of truth
>beyond the position that they already follow. In any debate or
>negotiation, the fair arbitrator always angers and pleases both sides
>equally. Anybody who serves one side only is not being fair.
One of the greatest ironies about this whole extremism structure is that it is exactly the extremist sheeple on both sides of an issue who accuse the independent and balanced thinkers of being either sheeple or followers of the other herd, simply because they won't run with their own.
>Harvey Newstrom <HarveyNewstrom.com>
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