(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
First, if someone were calling you a “radical,” ask them to define their terms. The term has such a wide variance of meanings as to be applicable to essentially opposite things, and some things in between, allowing for an absolute lack of accountability in its typically inflammatory usage.
The etymological “root” of radical is the Latin word radix, meaning root, connoting some essential, fundamental, or basic origin.
Here’s Definition 1 and synonyms and antonyms from Thesaurus.com:
Main Entry: radical
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: fundamental, basic
Synonyms: basal, bottom, cardinal, constitutional, deep-seated, essential, foundational, inherent, innate, intrinsic, meat-and-potatoes, native, natural, organic, original, primal, primary, primitive, profound, thoroughgoing, underlying, vital
Antonyms: extrinsic, nonessential, superficial
I’d hazard a guess that so-called modern day progressive bloggers (otherwise known as the dirty fucking hippies that mainstream media and politicians habitually use as political punching bags) find the “root” definition of radical something close to their very own political hearts and minds, the words and concepts being very appealing, embraceable, comforting, and even intellectually righteous, in the sense that comporting with the laws of nature, the primal, the constitutional, and the vital is life-affirming and just, whereas violating the basic rules and laws is inadvisable and reckless.
Now, let’s look at Definition 2, the secondary, and quite antagonistic , if not opposite meaning of the word. Tell me of whom it reminds you.
Main Entry: radical
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: deviating by extremes
Synonyms: advanced, anarchistic, complete, entire, excessive, extremist, fanatical, far-out, freethinking, iconoclastic, immoderate, insubordinate, insurgent, insurrectionary, intransigent, lawless, leftist, militant, mutinous, nihilistic, progressive, rabid, rebellious, recalcitrant, recusant, refractory, restive, revolutionary, riotous, seditious, severe, sweeping, thorough, ultra, ultraist, uncompromising, violent, way out
Antonyms: conservative, moderate
Aside from a few stray words of more recent historical smudginess (i.e., who’s defining whom in what context), the essential secondary meaning of radical is virtually tailor-made with hand-sewn lapels for Richard Bruce Cheney, as this meaning of the word connotes a deviance from the roots, even a violent attack on or rebellion against the roots. It’s beyond ironic that the antonyms here identified as being “conservative” and “moderate,” as this secondary meaning of radical essentially describes the raw deviance of the modern conservative movement.
The original meaning of the word was orphaned and “radicalized” in the secondary sense of the word fairly recently.
late 14c. (adj.), in a medieval philosophical sense, from L.L. radicalis “of or having roots,” from L. radix (gen. radicis) “root” (see radish). Meaning “going to the origin, essential” is from 1650s. Political sense of “reformist” (via notion of “change from the roots”) is first recorded 1802 (n.), 1820 (adj.), of the extreme section of the British Liberal party (radical reform had been a current phrase since 1786); meaning “unconventional” is from 1921. U.S. youth slang use is from 1983, from 1970s surfer slang meaning “at the limits of control.” Radical chic is attested from 1970.
The smudginess of meaning apparently arises with the British Liberal Party, which was apparently striking at “conservative political roots” by advocating social liberalism in the sense of a “laissez faire market place of individual freedom,” a platform or philosophy which soon also recognized a need for a minimal social safety net.
Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this-that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world.
To some extent, the secondary, politically-imbued meaning of radical does indeed apply to what many would consider basic contemporary southpaw-lefty-hard-to-port-liberal humanitarianism, though we need not necessarily agree on all the details, e.g., Keynesianism. Such branches and bifurcations, may well be secondary to more primal identifications to more foundational and vital origins, e.g., the Constitution.
On the other hand, there is no question that modern “conservatives” are not the least radical in the primary sense of the word, as they rabidly hack away at our Constitutional DNA like the crazed felons they are. At root, modern conservatives are excessive, extremist, fanatical, far-out, immoderate, insubordinate, insurgent, insurrectionary, intransigent, lawless, militant, mutinous, nihilistic, rabid, rebellious, recalcitrant, recusant, refractory, restive, revolutionary, riotous, seditious, severe, sweeping, thorough, ultra, ultraist, uncompromising, violent, way out anti-Constitutional deviants.
Funny how things get turned inside out, but I find these basic distinctions instructive.