Tuesday, February 01, 2011


The global financial crisis, a reduction in farming to create food, failed and late harvests have all taken their toll on the ability of people to afford their basic living necessities. In the wake of all of this has ripened dissatisfaction and movements for change. 

Radicalism and radicalisation has become common descriptive currency. There seems to be, globally, (from a U.K. perspective), acceptable and unacceptable radicalism. There will be much manipulation of strings in the political stage wings, which you, nor I, will be privy to. It has led me to thinking about the meaning of radical and how the term is being used today. What is radicalism? As there will be numerous perspectives on the subject, I am not sure I can truly answer my own question.

There are a number of definitions, including a mathematical one. Bear in mind that the starting point is, of or from the root:

• (esp; of change or action): Relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something. e.g an overhaul of an existing regulatory framework

• Radicalism could also be characterised by departure from tradition; innovative or progressive: a radical approach to electoral reform.

They sound familiar. These two points appear to be the progressive conviction politics of the present British Government

• Advocating complete political and social reform; representing or supporting an extreme wing of a political party. ('Left wing' is an exemplar in the Oxford English Dictionary. However, extremes of left or right are unlikely to be so different).

What we are currently witnessing in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia, are restless, mistrustful, angry movements that appear to come from deep within the roots of their various peoples. There is deep desire for change, different social politics to that with which they have lived for decades. All this, as defined, is undoubtedly radical.

In the UK we too have witnessed protests. Like elsewhere there is a deep anger lying at the root of the protests against policies that are being imposed by a Government that did not obtain a decisive mandate to impose its radical ideology on the population, an ideology that they define as ‘progressive’. ‘ Progressive’ can be an element of radicalism. (See bullet point 2 above).

Police, who use force against their people in other countries, are described by our media as authoritarian; yet, our own civil police are being allowed to exert a level of aggression that could otherwise be actionable. I fully appreciate that safety for all is paramount, as it should be, and that there are provocations. However, it does look as if there has been a radical regulatory shift in what is currently legally acceptable public policing in our own country.

There is money being offered by the British Government to fend off the radicalisation of students at the British higher education (H.E) campuses. The focus appears to be generally towards stemming young British students from becoming influenced by Islamist fundamentalist proselytizers and to prevent Moslem students from being motivated by radical orthodoxy. There is a belief, suggested by H.E. educators that there is a desire from the centre for all student radicalism to be suppressed. I would find it difficult to believe that our present political leaders were not young radicals in their time. If I were to be advised that those same people were not radicalized by their earlier social political experiences and influences, it would be totally unbelievable. 

In today’s environment, it seems that radicalism is constructive, only if it is supported by both internal and external powerful influences. Whether the end result of the revolutions in the Arab countries fits in with the real -politique of other nations is yet to be seen.


TG said...

I think the media define what is good and bad radical. I think when it comes to Egypt, they're still not sure on which side they stand. What happened to Western idealisms of freedom, democracy and prosperity for all? Wish we in the West could feel the same feelings we had in 1989/1990, when the Berlin wall fell.

As for the situation in the Arab world, I need to quote a tweet I've read:

"Politicians and diapers have one thing in common.They should both be changed regularly, and for the same reason"

ZACL said...

Excellent comment MKL! There is no doubt that the media have a heavy presence and, though unelected, they also front up for certain powerful elements in our society. People are fed all sorts of messages. Many prefer to accept what they are told rather than think for themselves. If people think for themselves are they deemed Radical ?

Ideals change with time.

It's all very circular and creates quite a conundrum.

keiko amano said...


Probably the majority of people agree with MKL's reference to the tweet.

I think from Egyptian point of view, the leader of 30 years to step down is quite radical, but
the former Japanese prime minister Koizumi to hold his office for five years was also quite radical.

So, diapers and politicians analogy doesn't apply to all.

ZACL said...

Indeed Keiko, there are many perspectives to my question on what being radical and radicalism means. Which is why I considered some of the definitions in relation to what I see as a UK perspective on the meaning of radicalism and how it is understood today. As I mentioned, I might not be able to answer my own question.

Yes, I too liked the analogy of the need to change diapers.