To Combat Extremism, We Need to Radicalise Our Own Thinking
Radicals and extremists threaten our way of life, so goes the official line. The two labels are synonymous with each other in mainstream political discourse, and then further, with ‘violent fundamentalists’.
To Combat Extremism, We Need to Radicalise Our Own Thinking
Photo: Garry Knight/Flickr
By Elizabeth Mizon /

With the occasional exception this has generally, in my adult lifetime, been used to mean Islamic fundamentalists. But now Britain has been forced, once again, to open the definition to ‘one of its own’ – an awkward admission that British people who might not be religious at all can be ‘evildoers’.

Amongst all this labelling, I guess I’ll accept ‘extremists’ – but I won’t concede ‘radicals’. Using violence to target people you don’t like is an old strategy, not a radical one. And it’s time we admitted that withoutradical changes in direction, reactionary responses to the frustration of continued oppression and lack of opportunity will continue to blindside us.

We need radicals more than anything right now.

Reflecting on the language used in response to the rise of Isis, a 2015Big Issue article by Brendan O’Neill made the case that we are significantly confusing ourselves by calling reactionaries ‘radicals’. Being a member of the Radical Film Network, I debate the word frequently, and often come back, as O’Neill did, to its primary definition: ‘of or going to the root or origin; fundamental’. O’Neill notes:

“To politicians concerned about the threat of Islamist terrorism, ‘radical’ has become synonymous with evil, danger, disease. They speak of young people being ‘radicalised’ over the internet, by mysterious forces, as if radicalism were a virus.”

All radical ideas are not equal. There are those who want to fundamentally change – not simply tweak – the way we govern and are governed. Responding to dissatisfaction with, for example, the direction of the economy or the religious trajectory of society by stabbing someone or blowing oneself up, is not a radical idea. Nor does it change anything fundamental except the individual lives of those directly hurt; it generally solidifies the resolve of those whose ideas you oppose.

I imagine politicians and journalists are genuinely invested in their own words when they speak of supposed ‘radicals’, and that they are intent on addressing violent extremism. However, this mislabelling is also a convenient way for establishment power to maintain a lid on any dissident behaviour.

Even the most quiet, mild-mannered, terribly English suggestion that perhaps we might do politics and economics ‘a different way’ has been explicitly described as dangerous: see David Cameron’s knee-jerk (you might say, reactionary) response to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership election. Plenty of people have since jumped on Corbyn and his ‘radical’ advisors, whom many of his supporters have found to be frustratingly reserved in their approach to the ‘new politics’ his campaign promised.

In response to Jo Cox’s murder, Gordon Brown wrote a piece for the Guardian about the ‘downward spiral’ in politics:

“The business of politics has become more about the exploitation of fears than the advancement of hope. Temperate language has given way to the intemperate. And where there is latent prejudice, we have seen it exploited to breed intolerance – and then too often intolerance has descended into hate.”

Jo Cox embodied a fundamental departure from Westminster’s ‘business-as-usual’. She was not a career politician, and displayed clearly an idea of strength in which violence had no place. Cox demonstrated a radical, fundamentally different idea of strength; a truer understanding of leadership.

Maintaining the status quo will not improve society. Growing the economy does not constitute change. Yanis Varoufakis has been described as a radical, and wears the badge proudly – he’s not suggesting we blow up the EU; in fact, he doesn’t even think the UK should leave. He believes in diverting from the neoliberal project, the neo-foundation of our economy that we’ve been rapidly, and successfully, manipulated into believing is ‘common sense’ since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher first pitted the working and middle classes against each other as a distraction.

The variety of toxic political discourse peddled by the finance and business classes, career politicians and other members of government, and the monopolised media – that preaches as much hate as it can without explicitly recommending violence – appeals to people who feel powerless. This discourse needs to be permeated and battled by radicals, especially the ideas around strength. And new media may potentially be its nexus.

People working on educating boys about masculinity are an example of how a radical understanding can shift a paradigm. Feminist teachings of gender combined with self-examination of masculinity has begun to take hold at a grassroots level. The idea that perpetrators should be examining domestic violence as their issue rather than simply victims being taught to and assisted in protecting themselves seems like ‘common sense’ now.

We need to apply this self-reflexive approach to the state; to what strength is, and the use of it; to self-governance and governance-over-others in general.

With strong, radical leadership, the referendum might have provided this opportunity for a genuinely new approach to governance. Electorally, the Green party might currently be closest to embodying a radical approach – welcoming certain radical ideas such as shared leadership, abolition of the monarchy and a Robin Hood tax. But it is still a majority-white, middle-class movement, a long way off proving it could enact real and lasting change, and then convincing the electorate of it.

Ultimately, it is rare if not impossible for a happy, well-supported person who has witnessed a demonstration of strength as collaborative, to murder anyone. The sooner we stop perpetuating the ancient idea of strength as domination, the better off we will be and the less extremism we will witness. And the radical approach to language, strength, governance and collaboration that we need must come from all sides – but primarily from a media currently revolutionising itself, and a government becoming seemingly more entrenched.

Creative Commons License This work by Novara Wire is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

0.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 11,628 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 5,495 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 2,901 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · 2,811 views today · Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites use to...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,802 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 2,238 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,576 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,323 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 1,257 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 1,087 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 1,014 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 833 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 659 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 598 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 542 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 453 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 363 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Eckhart Tolle: Your Facebook Ego, That's Not Who You Are
2 min · 275 views today · “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past: the "little me" and its story. This...
Are You Lost in the World Like Me?
3 min · 262 views today · Animated film by Steve Cutts for 'Are You Lost In The World Like Me?', taken from These Systems Are Failing- the debut album from Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. 
The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism
Chris Hedges · 256 views today · College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay. Their duplicity—embodied in...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
To Combat Extremism, We Need to Radicalise Our Own Thinking