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.