Extremism of All Kinds

The underlying problem here is that most people seem to want firm and pure responses to life’s questions and problems.  It is no surprise that youths (e.g., college students) hold to strong ideals.  They have not, most of them, encountered the challenges to safe beliefs and pure ideals.  Mark Twain is credited (probably falsely with the following quip.
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
All those complaints about behavior on campus, which have been around as long as there have been universities (around a millennium) and even before.  Some people never outgrow this immature need for certainty.  It comes out in their politics and their religion and in their cultural tastes and more.  That we are experiencing this political extremism is a sign of an ailment in our society and culture.  It is one that, for example, was warned of in the Federalist Papers.  Religious fundamentalists become zealots who are intolerant of any belief system but their own.  The same happens in politics.   People, in effect, stop thinking and seek their answers from a source.  The worst of these sources is when it is a single person.
This applies to all belief systems and all the important issues.  It is therefore found on both the left and the right.   Much of my work has been to get fellow rights and peace activists to be realistic and to figure out what is possible as well as what is desireable.  That blend of realism and idealism can come from the practice of critical thinking, which requires one to question even one’s own beliefs.  That is an important aspect of what our little group is all about.  We ought to be learning from each other even as we argue our own beliefs and opinions.

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