“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue” – Barry Goldwater.
“The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in time of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality” – John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., paraphrasing Dante.
Well, there you have it. Something that the left and the right in U.S. politics agreed upon quite recently. The ’60s which, as we all know, were the good old days of activism what with all the draft card and brassiere bonfires. Of course, what they did not agree upon was what the correct content of extreme moral commitment ought to be. That’s the tricky part. How to find such agreement whilst shouting from up on those holy mountain-tops.
Extremism makes nuances and opportunities disappear. Here’s a more common example. On another blog by a respected colleague and its comments I read a compelling account of interpersonal dynamics in which the two options boiled down to getting to talk however you want or being silenced into complete servility. This is a classic extremist analysis. The first option is the dream of complete empowerment. The second is the nightmare of total oppression. These extremes do not describe many real-world situations. Living as if they do must be very stressful.