Radical, a term often used but what does it mean?
In the 60s the term referred to those who not only questioned but sought to change the social status quo. It gradually became common to use the word to identify (or self-identify) only those who really pushed the limits.
I made common cause on some issues in the late 60s with certain individuals associated with new left groups and the SDS. But I never bought the whole package. Interest groups seeking power to achieve legitimate objectives, when strongly opposed, sometimes lose sight of the goal. A cohesive and unwavering commitment to gaining power can become an end in itself rather than a means; the original objective gradually recedes in the distance. I had rejected one religion that opposed the right to question and had no intention of surrendering myself to any other demanding organization, albeit secular. When expressing this position, I was viewed by them not as a radical but, in the parlance of the time, a "white-assed liberal".
Was I radical then? Am I now?
Over 40 years later I find myself in strong opposition to certain decisions being made in the management of a large institution which I view as fundamentally unjust and unprincipled. Those making the decisions would see me as obstructive and conservative, although they have yet to comment on the pallor of my posterior.
"Radical" is defined by Mr. Webster as "Of or pertaining to the root; proceeding directly from the root . . . Hence: Of or pertaining to the root or origin; reaching to the center, to the foundation, to the ultimate sources, to the principles, or the like; original; fundamental; thorough-going; unsparing; extreme . . ."
Surely the roots, centre, foundations and ultimate sources of our basic institutions should be the principles of natural justice and respect for the individual. These are not modern, sexy or trendy but we ignore them at our peril. By unsparingly refusing to compromise on fundamental ideals do we remain radical, i.e. true to our roots?
I like to think so.