The Awkward Necessity of Being Radical

I’m not sure how to write this:

Being radical.

Or better: Being radical!

Or perhaps: Being, radical.

Radicalism is out of favour. Too many people take up arms in the name of radicalism. Too many die or are murdered because of radicalism. Being radical also means being rooted. This sounds very much like having a foundation, i.e. being a fundamentalist. Thus: being radical seems to be the same as being a fundamentalist.

We often think of a radical person as a narrow-minded bigot who supposes he/she is a vessel of divine intervention and that all who disagree are lesser beings, to be disposed of. And fundamentalists think of themselves as always and ever being on the right side of truth. Other people are always wrong. And as such they have to be rooted out. Self-perception and perception by others seem to correspond with each other. The radical Fundamentalist excludes the others from his world-view. And society excludes the radical from its sphere.

Considering this mutual exclusion mechanism: is it at all possible or is it to be aspired to to be a radical? To be awkwardly rooted? To be fundamental in one’s theoretical worldview and practical action?

I could say affirmingly „no“ and that would be the end of this. Or I could also say „yes“ and then venture on to compose a piece on a kind of post-modern, post-structuralist way of being radical. Like being rooted, but not knowing in what kind of soil. Or being radical, however, just living of air and a bit of damp like orchids.

I am really tempted to be a little post-modern and post-structuralist here. But I feel as well that this is not the solution. This is just clinging on to the word, the lexeme „radical“ without actually facing up to the awful challenge of really being rooted, of really being radical. Of being, because of your radicalism, faced with misunderstanding, with mistrust or, even, disgust; both by society and by the narrow-minded version of radicalism.

It is a truism these days that you can’t fight radicalism with a laisser-faire attitude and intellectual ignorance. I fear we need some intellectually and existentially very radical people in order to root out the narrow minded, violent quasi-radicalism which dominates the current news. Does this mean driving out the Devil with Beelzebub? No, it means to exchange real radicalism with its fake imitation.

Real radicalism is always directed against one’s own zeal and yearning for power. It is kenotic, self-demeaning, decentring. Real radicalism does not insist on its own way. It is patient and kind. It bears all things. It endures all things. Real radicalism dies rather than let die. Terry Eagleton calls this a „radical self-dispossession“; and he adds: It „is the necessary condition of human flourishing.“ (Culture and the Death of God, New Haven 2014, 93). Real radicalism, thus, serves a social purpose. But it is practised and lived not because of this purpose. It is practised and lived because it is the truth.

„Real“ radicalism? Truth? Is it not that I fall into the trap of imagining myself as the true bearer of wisdom here? Yes, I am. I fear there is no way out of this. You have to take sides. You have to side with the truth. You have to side with compassion which is the truth. Relativism won’t save you here. Post-modern ifs and buts won’t help. You have to be a true radical in order to fight radically for peace and justice. You have to take up the sword in order to beat it into a ploughshare. Hence there exists the awkward necessity of being radical.



Ein Gedanke zu “The Awkward Necessity of Being Radical

  1. Pingback: Terry Eagleton and the awkward necessity of being radical | Rotsinn

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