From Radical to Mainstream

By Max Wilbert / Image by Max Wilbert

We are used to being labeled radicals, and sometimes, we use that term to refer to ourselves. But we are using the word very differently than most people do.

The root of the word ‘radical’ comes from the latin word ‘radix’, meaning ‘root’. Radish comes from the same root word.

When we say we are radicals, we are referring to a distinct political tradition that seeks to address the roots of social issues, rather than only addressing the symptoms or surface manifestations of deeper problems.

When people use that word against us, they use it to mean “Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme.” They mean we are fringe, crazy, deranged.

By asserting this, they claim the mainstream political space for themselves. They claim rationality, logic, and centrism, and in so doing they assert a great power. In order for us to be successful, we cannot allow them to claim the mainstream any longer.

This is a battle that has been conceded by many radicals for hundreds of years, and has contributed to the sidelining of movements. Many groups have faded into obscurity, complaining of alienation while divorcing themselves in every way from the trials and tribulations of average people. This is a political dead end.

Withdrawing from political engagement can take many different forms: self isolation is, unfortunately, one of the most common in radical groups. If we wish to succeed, we must buck this trend. We must remain engaged with society. We must claim that political space for ourselves.

WE are the normal ones. WE are the mainstream. The capitalists, the bankers, the CEOs, the businesspeople, and those who follow them blindly – they are the crazy ones. They are ones who occupy the political fringe, measured in both historical and commonsense terms.

This may seem like a purely rhetorical change, but by changing the narratives we act within, we take an important step toward expanding the effectiveness and scope of our work.

2 thoughts on “From Radical to Mainstream”

  1. Environmentally and ecologically, we’re actually the conservatives. It’s the majority who support killing of non-humans and and destroying ecosystems who are the radicals. We just want to maintain the natural order of things, but the majority wants to radically alter it (or just doesn’t care and will continue their lifestyles despite the fact that those lifestyles radically alter the natural balance).

    Credit to Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman for raising this issue in the 1980s.

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