On Extreme Extremists in an Extremist Way

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Extremes do not meet. Extremes are extremely far away from one another. And being extremely good cannot be extremely bad. Whatever people may say.

It is said that extremes meet in the end. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Nothing is more unlikely to meet than extremes. Extreme cold and extreme heat, extreme poverty and extreme wealth, negative infinity and positive infinity, extreme left wing and extreme right wing, and so on. If you think they meet, please check your definitions. Values meet in the midpoint, extremes are qua definitione as far from one another as possible. When you yet again hear that extremes meet, stop the author of the statement, and discuss a meeting of Mother Teresa with Hitler.

Extremes are not necessarily and inevitably something bad, something we need to fight against or something that needs to be removed at all costs. Let’s imagine an extreme supporter and an extreme opponent of slavery (let’s refrain from discussing the complexity of the definition of slavery and imagine a black slave from the 18th century). Is there any sensible person who would argue that both of them want the same thing in the end? Not only do these extremes not meet, but it is apparently not true that both extremes are necessarily bad and a compromise has to be found.

Maybe I and all of my friends need help of a police psychologist or a government extremism specialist. But put a black person to the work and crack a whip, and everybody will go to streets to protest. Try saying the whip is too much, but that it is needed to find some compromise, and everybody will stay in the streets.

Try to find a compromise when it comes to murder. Murders are bad, but is it also as bad to be extremely against murders, as it is to extremely bad to support them? Or are we going to look for a compromise? And what about theft? It should be obvious that a question presenting an extreme opinion as moral, defensible, and correct, may exist.

Many people think it is moral and correct not to steal, not to murder, not to “initiate violence”. And if they consider this to be right, sometimes they advocate this opinion even absolutely, consistently – in an extremist way. If it is not right to steal, this therefore applies to everybody. Even if it seems unlikely to the majority, it is possible these people are right.

The truth does not lie somewhere in the middle, as the common proverb says. Compromise is not always the best solution. A Chinese friend of mine wisely said that if one person says 1+1=2, while another person says the result is 42, the truthful result is not 22 or somewhere “in between”. Even if the result of 2 was backed by one person and 42 by whole masses, it does not change a thing about the correct result. The effort to remove extremes would be utmost counterproductive. It will not bring a better result. And the right one will not even be stated.

In order not to be stated, too much attention is focused on whether an opinion is not extreme, and desperately little attention remains for the opinion itself. With no doubt there is a difference between a person who supports rape only in exceptional weather conditions, and a practising, persistent and consistent supporter of fight for female rape. However, both of them advocate the most horrible crime of all and we can do nothing but despise both of them, disregarding extremism and their attitudes.

The nature of the issue is important. It is the same with the supporters of classical liberalism. One is not supposed to steal, period. No matter if a beggar or a king steals, it is still a crime. If you beat up another person, it is a crime, always. The nature of the issue is clear, but was pushed way aside in the end. What becomes important is the degree of the advocate’s always standing firm on a period or word. If he does it in an extreme manner, he is suspicious. Because fighting a for 1+1 being 2 is incomprehensibly a mark of rudeness, lack of judgement, detached view, and a lack of broader cultural overview.

In social sciences, extremism is defined, if at all, so vaguely that anybody can hide anything behind it. Anything can be outside the “mainstream”. However, if status quo is the mainstream, i.e. the state with a hand constantly in our wallets, “reasonable” money printing, “adequate” limiting of the freedom of speech, state power growth in general and along the way new restrictions in private property use, well – who is not an extremist then? And if somebody refuses in a consistent manner all mentioned above, is that person an extreme extremist?

In the end, we are brought to one question: if those who say extremes meet are right, isn’t an extreme extremist in the end the same as an extreme non-extremist? Logical conclusions of such thinking are implosive. Extremes simply do not meet, and to be an extreme defender of morality cannot be punishable. All there is left is to finish the discussion about what is and what is not moral.

Dominik Stroukal
Liberalni Institute