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Monday, February 02, 2009

The Virtue of Being Moderate

Being moderate is truly a wonderful thing, and a surprisingly easy one. To be a moderate all you really need to do is take a look at your principles, and subtract half of them. Congratulations, now you're officially a moderate. Repeat as many times as needed.

When in doubt the safest thing to do is be a moderate. Not the safest thing to do if you want to change anyone's mind, or win an election or accomplish anything useful. But the safest thing possible if your greatest fear in life is taking a position on something, or being accused of being an extremist.

To be a moderate means to always be vigilantly on watch against anyone you generally agree with expressing an opinion that is less moderate than yours. The danger of that is clear. As a moderate you can't risk being associated with extremists, not without denouncing them in all public forums, and making it clear that these people do not represent you.

The issue isn't a matter of scale, it's a matter of degree. Pete and Ted both live in Yorksville. Pete and Ted both agree that raccoons are a serious problem. Pete wants to increase garbage pickups to twice a day. Ted will not hold with his extreme twice a day garbage pickup views, and insists that legitimate citizens of Yorksville who understand the raccoon problem do not wish to be misrepresented by any association with the likes of Pete. Ted will write two editorials denouncing Pete, to every one editorial he writes complaining about the raccoon problem. Ted is of course a moderate.

Moderates are very useful when ordering lunch, mainly because they'll have what you're having, only less of it, and not so extreme on the ketchup. They're very useless when it comes to everything else. Pick a moderate in an election, and you better hope that he can juggle, because otherwise your side is in trouble.

The great thing about a moderate is that he can see the point of view of every opposing side, but the people who agree with him and think he doesn't go nearly far enough. This makes him a fantastic diplomat for the other side, whatever the other side may be.

Moderates aren't necessarily cowards. They're just people who decided that the world would be a much nicer place if people didn't feel too strongly about things. Moderates are naturally very suspicious of things other people are enthusiastic about.

The only form of extremism that moderates support is to get extremely worked up about extremism. Even talk about extremism upsets moderates a great deal. A sentence such as Goldwater's famous, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue" is about the worst thing you can say to a moderate. It would be far better for you to walk up to him and call his mother a shrew, his father an elephant, his wife a hippo, and his children misbegotten mistakes, than to suggest to him that moderation is ever unjustified and extremism ever justified.

The moderate dwells in the Zen-like calm that can only be achieved by the inhaled odor of a fresh print copy of the New York Times, a Starbucks cup of coffee, and the knowledge that your opinions could not possibly offend anyone who matters.

To be a moderate is to live with the serene confidence that your house may be on fire, your children may have been carted off, your wife is nowhere to be found, and your government has been changed from a Democracy to a Cannibolacracy, but you won't make the mistake of those who fools who will get upset about such a thing.

The only thing the moderate truly fears is to encounter a man or woman whose opinions are even more moderate than his. To that end the moderate embraces the protective camouflage of blandness, and puts forward no opinion that he is not prepared to further water down and dilute on careful examination.

It might be the extremists who change the world, but it is the moderates who step in when all the changing is done, and instantly pass 300 regulations on how high a picket fence may be built, how many permits must be applied for in order to modify said picket fence, and the approved shades and colors which a picket fence may be painted.

The extremists may make the revolutions, but the moderates make them livable. Thomas Jefferson wanted a revolution every generation, but James Madison talked him down to a millennium. Bush started out as an extremist proclaiming "Either you're with us or with the terrorists." By the end however he had become a proper moderate watering it down to, "Either you're with us, or with the terrorists, or you're undecided, or you're a terrorist willing to talk about being with us, or you're confused about the whole process and need some time to sort it all out."

Why be a moderate? There are few things as thrilling and exciting as getting up in the morning, taking a look in the mirror and realizing you're a moderate. To know that your beliefs are as watered down as they can possibly be without being confused with mush always brings a rush of blue blood to the noggin. And when heated words are being flung around like darts at a pub, and there's the possibility that something new and unexpected might happen, it is the noble duty of the moderate to step in, water things down and announce that the way forward will be to think less, believe less and do less. All hail the moderates.

32 comments:

Keli Ata said...

I'm mild-mannered but hopefully not a moderate. I'm easygoing on most things but passionate on issues that are important to me.

In other words, I pick my battles.

Lemon said...

G-d is extreme.
There is a middle ground of truth which avoids evil and idiocy but that is not what you are talking about. You are talking about moderation which stems from cowardice and that is very common today.
These are the people who make peace at all costs and will murder to stop what they see as the extreme views of the brave and the morally decisive.

To describe yourself as a moderate today is to mean that you have no strong moral conviction really.

Great post and dead on the money.

Sultan Knish said...

the moderation that discards principle for convenience is without principle

Surind Raj said...

"Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security." - Benjamin Franklin

Mrs. Anna T said...

Spot on, as always.

In many situations, being "moderate" is worse than being outright evil. Here in Israel, it's the "moderates" that stop us from defending ourselves against those who try to do us in.

William T. Thornton, pastor said...

Moderate people are lukewarm.
Lukewarm water makes you vomit.
People must be either hot or cold on all subjects and on all things.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Mrs. Anna,
Being a moderate means I want people to love me, admire me. Even the great Aric had the need to be loved by Bush. He started strong, asking Bush not to use Israel like the alies used Czechoslovakia and when rapped on the hand for that stand, he became a puppy. He is the one who started the "no response to terror" policy which his follower Olmert turned into an art, waiting 3 years (until elections) to respond to Hamas rockets. Sharon is the one who started to bomb empty houses to show his nation that he really cares. We have a problem with the need for love from the world and we will do anything even treason to get it.

Stanley Szczespanski said...

You got to be hot in love, hot in politics, cold to those who are wrong and evil and hot towards those who are good and right.

Moderation means you don't give a damn.
As for choosing battles in life I don't know of one thing that isn't worth fighting for with passion even down to pancakes in the morning vs cold toast.

BNP voter said...

A second attempt is to be made to show FITNA in the House of Lords in defiance of 'Lord' Ahmed and his 10,000 enraged third-world savages:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3317931/the-intimidation-of-short

BNP Voter said...

The excellent Citizen Warrior has a new thought-provoking article about the multiculturalist dogma that 'all cultures are equal' . The article was actually so thought-provoking it set me to thinking of whether there is any logical argument that can demonstrate the inequality of cultures, and it occurred to me that different cultures can be thought of as 'sets' of beliefs and customs which may or may not overlap.

If we apply set theory to multiculturalism, then Judeo-Christian civilisation can be shown to be superior to Islam, because when examined closely, Islamic culture is seen to be nothing other than an impoverished subset of Judeo-Christian culture. Consequently, Islamic culture cannot add anything to ours, it can only subtract and destroy.

Every aspect of present-day Islamic culture that appears to be different from our own is in fact already contained within our culture, it's just part of the subset of beliefs and customs marked 'history'. For example - tribalism, theocracy, punishment by amputations, repression of women, honour killings, blasphemy laws etc - we've been there and done that and given it up centuries ago.

As with adolescent vandals, those who lack creativity can only express themselves by destruction, and Muslims are very good at destroying the products of other civilisations (known as 'Jahiliyya') . Remember the Buddhas of Bamiyan!

If you look carefully at the process of Islamification in Europe, you'll see that nothing is being added (apart from babies and mosques), but much is being taken away. Almost every Muslim demand is culturally destructive and 'subtractive' rather than 'additive'. They want to remove pig statues, ban alcohol, curb free speech, stop teaching art, music, drama, biology and other 'un-Islamic' subjects in schools. And the mere presence of Muslims in the West reduces the quality of life, with security restrictions on travel; and kaffir women and children in Muslim-infested cities unable to move and play freely for fear of sexual predators.

In contrast to the subtractive impacts of Muslims on Western civilisation, Muslim clerics in in Dar al-Islam are paranoid about the addition of aspects of Western culture such as fashion, music, toys, cinema, art, science etc to their own, which they refer to as 'Westoxication'

So, no matter what the multiculturalists tell us, Islam cannot bring 'cultural enrichment' to the West - it can only bring cultural impoverishment.

To say that Muslim immigrants are worthless is to overvalue them. In fact they have a negative cultural worth, because their attempts to Islamify the West are an attempt to reduce the rich culture of a superior civilisation to a depleted and restricted subset.

Ed said...

Fluff-piece.


(Comment moderation has been enabled. All comments must be approved by the blog author.)

Matt from Australia said...

Firstly, @SultanKnish let us try not to confuse moderation with ignorance - while ignorance demonstrates an inability to wrestle with the ideas of the day, moderation is often a symptom of a balanced and empathetic weighing up of both sides of an issue. This may lead to extremism, but more often than not it leads to balance.

Furthermore, a society of extremists would lead to little more than constant war - while extremists may make the revolutions, it is the moderates who organise the ceasefires, build lasting democracies and rule fairly and equitably.

Secondly, to proclaim the Judeo-Christian tradition as enlightened is to ignore the homophobic and genderised oppression of the catholic church, the educational regression of the intelligent design movement of the southern US, and the impact of fundamentalism upon the advancement of genetic science and technology. These social atrocities, handed down not by the moderate but by the extremist element of our own "superior" culture, serve to highlight that the blind faith which guides the suicide bomber is burning just as bright within our own culture.

Bryce said...

Hey Sultan Knish, maybe you should define the criteria for being extreme. I'm trying, but I just don't think I'm extreme enough for you.

Harold Fowler said...

Hmm, i think you might be onto something here!

RT
www.real-privacy.us.tc

Rickjr82 said...

Being moderate means that you understand that you do not have all of the answers and that someone on the other side might have some good ideas as well.

The world is generally not black and white. Living as if it is won't help find the real answers that everyone can live with. Sharing information is the only way to reach that.


In a world of perfect information, there would be no moderates or extremists. Everyone would (or should) just be right.

Sultan Knish said...

Matt and Bryce, where did I say that constant extremism was the ideal?

RickJr, the kind of moderation I'm talking about suffers from having no confidence in his own views and that lack of confidence easily gives way in contact with an opposing view.

Tetea said...

Can there ever be an extremist moderate?

Just asking...

Belsleezo said...

BNP your argument cruel and unfair because the real problem lies with all religion which is at the heart of all mankind's problems. I believe that eradication of religion will remove all the divisions among men...therein lies the solution!

Anonymous said...

Genderized oppression of the CATHOLIC church?
As opposed to Judaism or Baptists or Churches of God or Churches of Christ or the Pentecostals who force women to cover their heads like pariah Dhimmis? Who say women should be quiet?
Oh get a life Aussie boy.

Having said that they are hardly atrocities.

Abe said...

Moderation is having something but not too much of it. A moderate political view is a view that has principles, but does not push these to the point of infringing upon the rights of others.

If a moderate believes that we have a problem with unemployment. He will speak with both sides to develop an amicable solution. In many cases, it is the moderates' drive to solve the issue above all else (political issues and ideologies) that allows the issue to be resolved.

If both sides cannot come to a (somewhat) mutual accord, then problems will not be solved.

Martin Equis said...

Is Ed a joke?

Sean said...

Perhaps you don't fully understand your argument, you have essentially stated that taking into account multiple view points, ideas, and sources of information to make up your own mind on both specific situations and general beliefs while disagreeing with people who hold minority views (if you hold an extreme position, by definition you are in the minority, which is not to say that holding a minority position automatically makes you incorrect.) is a bad thing. I applaud your closed minded view of the world and congratulate you on your assumption that anyone who doesn't hold extreme views therefore doesn't firmly believe in their opinions. I hope your ad hominem attack against your concept of what a "moderate" is makes you happy, just as my return salvo at the least makes me smile. I will close by thanking you for being a mouth piece for the wonderful notion that the person who yells the loudest is always right.

Matilda Peabody said...

Its interesting that very few got what the post was saying and many actually took their view to "extremes".
Some took it personally which is also interesting.

It shows that people read into things through their own filter.

Anonymous said...

You're right, of course. You're always right. So is the other guy. He's right too. He's always right. Those damned moderates just want to minimize the blood spillage, but that would be a betrayal of principles. If you KNOW you're right, you must FIGHT! Right? All sarcasm aside though, your view on moderates is simply an expression of frustration with people who you wish would join your side. You'd even prefer they would join the other side, instead of being wimpy, compromising appeasers. You remind me of a Klingon. All you are interested in is the battle (even if you lose, you would still have more respect for your opponent than for a peacemaker). I submit that a moderate is someone who has evolved the ability to empathise with his enemy. You would say that no enemy deserves any empathy. And, of course, you're right. You're always right.

Sultan Knish said...

Abe, moderates have no problem infringing on the rights of others. In fact they tend to be a major source of regulatory activity.

Sultan Knish said...

Sean, you've made a number of false assumptions, including the belief that moderates are necessarily in the majority, rather than reflecting a view that is safe and politically mainstream.

There's nothing wrong with listening to all sides, but at some point you do have to make up your mind, and that rarely means taking an equidistant position from all sides to minimize controversy.

Sultan Knish said...

Anonymous, a moderate's ability to empathize with his enemy is more commonly known as Stockholm Syndrome.

Matt from Australia said...

@Anonymous, I absolutely agree - the catholic church is not the only oppressive judeo-christian religion out there. My point was to counter the idea that these j-c religions were somehow free of the archaic oppression that is said to be endemic of islam and the like.

@Sultan, it seems that this idea of moderation you're attacking has given way to cowardice stemming from either ignorance or a lack of commitment. While we should all wish for an increase in education of those whose ignorance leads them to fence-sit, surely this is not as much of a bane upon society as a group of the ignorant who loudly express their uneducated point of view. Maybe your quiet moderates should be preferred to those who advocate poorly researched viewpoints much louder? Surely peaceful placid societal inertia is preferable to a world of ignorant warmongering? If not then I guess this is the root of our disagreement.

Sultan Knish said...

Matt, you're making an either or assumption. Moderation for the sake of being moderate is still ignorant, and passive ignorance can be just as destructive as active ignorance. More to the point, moderation for the sake of being moderate is not passive in terms of its expression, but only in its intellectual timidity. Such people can be both loud and ignorant as well.

Anonymous said...

Being moderate means that you respect people who have different viewpoints. Opinions are like...well, you know the rest. If everyone cared enough to consider others and tried to help everyone live together, wouldn't the world be a nicer place?

Sultan Knish said...

except everyone doesn't, so your hypothetical utopian world doesn't actually exist, you know

HermitLion said...

Daniel,
Just wanted you to know I've used some of the 'educated replies' you got here as a basis for an article concerning Moderates in Patriot's Corner.
I think they made a nice sample group of the self-righteous, not-really-so-moderate crowd - especially the Klingon guy.

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