Sunday, September 19, 2010

A few immoderate things.

I like Jon Stewart. As far as understatements go, that's a pretty big one. Like with any other human being, though, there are some things that I don't agree with him on. One of these times occurred recently, when he announced a rally to restore sanity, where sanity is defined as political centrism. Glenn Greenwald rather well argues why this is problematic, and so I don't wish to flog that dead horse any further. Rather, I want to emphasize a somewhat tangential point: that the truth isn't always in the middle.

Sometimes the extreme position is the only correct option, or even the only morally defensible one. While I don't deny that the centrist assertion that truth always lies between the extremes is a decent heuristic, I flatly deny that is is true in full generality.

Take the pope's visit to the UK, for instance. What Richard Dawkins said about the pope is surely not moderate, but a moderate response would put one in the unconscionable position of defending someone who, by all available evidence, knowingly and deliberately protected those priests that raped children in their charge.

Similarly, though it isn't moderate to insist that Bush should be tried as a war criminal for his role in the torture of prisoners of the United States, a moderate position is one in which the laws and treaties that protect prisoners are fungible. Such a position ultimately allows for more people, both innocent and criminal, to be exposed to inhumane treatment in the future.

Should we sacrifice religious freedom on the altar of moderation by taking a position less extreme than that the Park51 facility (whatever kind of facility you wish to call it) be allowed? Should we put moderation above the well-being of future generations by taking the moderate "wait-and-see" approach to climate change? Should we deny the human rights of GLBT people by taking the moderate "civil unions, not marriage" route?

Don't get me wrong, though-- moderation in one's opinions is a fine and wonderful thing at times. What I cannot abide by, however, is when moderation is allowed to be the goal. One's opinions should, I submit, be aligned with reality, whether that reality is moderate or not.

1 comment:

Joshua Fisher said...

One side can be wrong: