So here comes my own moment of snide: I am havin' issues with the term "radical," especially lately. And no, I expect, it is not entirely fair or rational.
First of all, yes, the denotative meaning of "radical" (as applied to politics) is one I am down with. Or, well, at least some of it:
rad·i·cal (răd'ĭ-kəl) pronunciation
1. Arising from or going to a root or source; basic: proposed a radical solution to the problem.
2. Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme: radical opinions on education.
3. Favoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions: radical political views.
4. Linguistics. Of or being a root: a radical form.
5. Botany. Arising from the root or its crown: radical leaves.
6. Slang. Excellent; wonderful.
1. One who advocates fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions: radicals seeking to overthrow the social order...
To me the true or best radicals are the ones who are mostly about
1): "going to a root or source."
It is important to do this, and there are people--some who style themselves "radicals," some who don't--whom I respect, very much so.
From there one tends to go to:
"One who advocates fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions"
--which, well, yes. Theory is no good (to me) unless you can eventually put it into practice. And sure, there is often a need for fundamental change. Depending on what we're talking about and--more important--how, specifically, one plans to implement such, I might be down.
"But if you're talkin' 'bout destruc-ti-ion...don't you know that you can count me out..."
As it happens, though, these days, at least 'round the circles I am most familiar with, "revolutionary" does not usually mean bomb-throwin', building burnin', KILL the fascist pigs. It could do, eventually, I expect, with some people, and that is one reason why I tend to be a bit leery. I mean, I suppose it is possible that that shit can work sometimes (as in has the effect of leading to what you say you want, positive sociopolitical change, better lives), and that it even works better than some other approach might have, or is really the only possible approach left. Maybe. And I'm not saying that I'm such a committed pacifist, or such an enlightened soul (easy enough to cry pacifism from the comfort and safety of one's own home, after all) that I'd vow I could never be violent, or advocate violence, any violence, no matter what the circumstance. But...
I just wonder, you know, what purpose it's actually serving, with a lot of people, this revolutionary zeal. Because I strongly suspect that far more often than not it's a form of expressing older, murkier, less coherent shit, not really calculated for long-term or even short-term consequences at all. Or, not calculated from a reality-based worldview, anyway.
But like I say, I don't currently worry much about this actually happening with the most of the self-styled "revolutionaries" of my acquaintance. Either they are using the term more symbolically, or at least concretely but nonviolently (which again, I could be on board with, depending); or, (she said, more cynically), they are using the Revolution the way certain religious folk use the Apocalypse: a big violently dramatic event in the indefinite future which will wipe out the Bad Guys and deliver them to the Promised Land. Pie in the sky, in other words, except in this case we're more about throwing the pies (which have grenades tucked inside) than actually eating and enjoying them.
Mostly, I tend to see radical as being used in the sense of
2) Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme.
Well, sometimes this is simply accurate: relative to the "mainstream," such-and-such a person/group/position is "extreme." Which, fine.
Of course, one recalls that not only is "extreme" based on relativity, but that things change, and what was radical yesterday might be perfectly mainstream today, or nearly. Or, what's radical in one context/setting might be "so what?" in another.
Which, again, fine. ...You would think.
But sometimes, and this is where my knee starts a-jerkin', I do get the strong impression that certain "radicals," far from being delighted that their position is indeed starting to become more widely accepted and practiced, (if perhaps not perfectly so) are, well...rather put out. Oh of course one never says so. Not in so many words. Instead, sometimes, the radical becomes ever-more radical. Everyone I know is starting to eat raw food, just like I advocated? Well, I'm a fruitarian now. Better get with the program and stop eating those legumes; you don't need them. ...What, you think I'm right? Well, uhm, I don't need to eat anything at all! I'm a breatharian! Top THAT. (And, Buy My Book).
More often, instead, a certain stubborn myopia sets in, and, if you don't watch it, you end up coming off a bit like Little Britain's Daffyd, bless your heart.
(DAFFYD dressed from head to toe in shiny latex slutboywear, dripping his rainbow jewelry, nursing a drink in a small local pub full of elderly Welsh people)
DAFFYD: “Oh, Myfanwy, I’m so down. It’s so hard being the only gay in the village. I dream of the day when I will meet other gays who will know what it is like to be a gay.”
MYFANWY: “Oh! That reminds me! Mrs. ___has a new boarder, and do you know! He is a gay!”
D: “What?! What?!”
M: “Oh, look, here he is now.”
(second screaming queen comes into pub, and DAFFYD proceeds to drill him mercilessly, finally determining that he is *not* a Real Gay. newcomer flounces off in a huff:)
D: “This village has a gay already, and that’s me! We don’t need another!”
M: “Daffyd, you bloody fool! You could’ve had a bit of cock, there! ‘I’m the only gay in the village’–you’re full of shit, you are!”
D: “This is exactly the kind of homophobic attitude I’ve come to expect from this village! Good day!”
Of course, my first exposure to the term "radical" was used as in
6) Slang. Excellent; wonderful.
Actually, not "radical;" "rad." The antonym of which, btw, was "gay."
"Dude! Duuuuuuuuude. That's AWESOME, dude. Raaaaaaad."
And, it is hard to shake that off entirely.
Nu, what can I tell you.