In America, the Conservative says, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The American Liberal says, “Give the baby a bath.” Both Liberals and Conservatives agree on the fundamentals of history, economics, and government. They differ on the interpretations, but do not dispute the facts. Each knows The Other to be an essential part of society. Differences are mainly of orientation and degree, as both want to keep the best of the past while reforming the worst.
Their Radical cousins of Right and Left are of a different nature, perhaps of another order entirely. Radicals have no regard for the past or the present, and only seek to demolish what IS for the sake of some ethereal abstraction, a fantasy, an unanchored ideal. On the ashes of society (and their fellow citizens), they seek to erect some shiny steel edifice. They agree neither on foundation nor facts. They have their own facts, often fabricated instantaneously to support their beliefs. Humans, rather than being creatures of infinite dignity, are so many fungible assets, disposable according to the whim of the Vanguard, easily liquidated when inconvenient. So many Bricks In The Wall.
Radicals are in thrall to, are hypnotized by, the esoteric claims of pseudo-religious and poorly fabricated Ideology. They claim rigid consistency, but the hodge-podge accumulation of tenents (to attract a winnable coalition) belies that foolish claim. Neither Liberals nor Conservatives are that concerned with consistency, but tending toward pragmatism or tradition respectively. Less abstract, and more programmatic, they look down to earth, at this situation, this particular, and less to the sky. Their question is “What works here?”
Ideologists are infatuated with consistency and unity, however strained. Since most ideologies are cobbled together, this is an unsurprising obsession. Making a temporary alliance in order to attain power (before unhorsing their allies) is not unusual. They will gladly employ tactics of public ridicule and contempt, shaming, and humiliation to enforce their boundaries of belief.
Sectarians tend to be ideologists on steroids. Less concerned with mass appeal, they are content to lounge in their beer cellars and underground covens, plotting the day when they will “grasp the levers of power”. Their preoccupations are less with coalitions than with expelling from their ranks every hint of insufficient purity and fervor.
Conservatives and Liberals are the Centrists, occupying the common ground which facilitates social norms and permits folks to earn a living and raise a family. Radicals, ideologists and Sectarians appear as you go from the schwerpunkt to the lunatic fringes, where (on each side) we find the tinfoil-hat brigades (they who dwell in Outer Darkness).
Which brings us to … where do you think you are in this 3-D Cloud? (It isn’t a straight-line spectrum.)
Do you think you are one thing, when the reality is you are another altogether? Or is your self-assessment accurate?
Here is some help. Five of the better political surveys out there. Each has flaws (the I Stand With is comprehensive, but seems to swerve on a few questions), but taken together, can be a useful tool, provided you do not mistake the assignment of a survey for reality.
But if you find yourself inconsistent, will you panic and wish to realign with what you thought you were? Or will you stop and think some more (or for the first time?)
Here are the quizzes.
Which Side Are You On?