Radicalism has strong merits in our political environment


In his op-ed piece from April 23, Spencer Janyk claims, “Radical actions are far from productive, on the contrary, they invite their perpetrators to be smacked down by the policy pros who actually know what they’re doing.” I believe that in making this judgement Janyk fails to note the significance of radical action. Though Janyk is eager to point out that our “constitution [was] designed to secure rights for everyone,” apparently he feels that radicals are wasting these rights. He is forgetting that our country was founded by radicals who wanted to make sure that anyone, even those who held contentious and radical beliefs, could enjoy the right to freedom of speech. Clearly this instance: the founding of this country, one which Janyk lauds for being founded on a form of government “designed to secure rights for everyone”: is a perfect example of radical action come to fruition to benefit many.

In response to Janyk’s claim that left-wing radicals destroy “any chance of gaining conservative allies” I present the example of the radical environmental group EarthFirst!. This organization was fully aware of, and even embraced the fact that their extreme actions: such as placing metal spikes in trees so that loggers could not cut them down for fear of severely damaging their equipment: would make other environmental groups such as the Sierra Club seem more moderate. This means that they had the power to push the political center left, thus moving closer to the accomplishment of the goals of environmental groups in general. This is clearly not futile radical action.

Janyk claims that if “a clear majority of the American public believed in radical values[…]there would be profound disagreement all the time [and] we would need to rethink our basic approaches to foreign and domestic policy on all fronts.” To this I say, is profound disagreement necessarily an evil to be avoided at all costs? Are complacency   and uniformity of thinking any less dangerous than active: and dare I say radical: debates   taking place? And have we not needed to seriously rethink our foreign and domestic policy for the last eight years anyway? Perhaps if more people had been willing to take to the streets during the Bush administration we would not be suffering the woes of a faltering economic system and two failing wars today.

– Adrienne von Wolffersdorff ’09