Centrists and extremists

There are a variety of centrists, as there are a variety of means (e.g., arithmetic, geometric, harmonic, etc.). But all centrists share certain characteristics, which differ markedly from all extremists.

Centrists reside in the center, the middle, from a long-term perspective. Unlike moderates, who go with the flow of current politics and culture, centrists resist change away from the center. As I’ve noted before, that often makes centrists contrarians, trying to turn society away from movement toward any extreme.

Centrists see extremes as contraries, not contradictories. This logical point is the justification for seeking to balance opposites rather than eliminate any of them. It’s not that extremes are all wrong; it’s that extremes substitute the part for the whole. Extremists see their opponents as permanent contradictions, which leads them to desire to eliminate them rather than compromise with them.

One commentator on Hegel put his dialectic this way:

Logical unification is the application of the same dialectic relationship in the realm of logic. Consciousness is taken as ‘thesis’ and Being as ‘antithesis’. Thesis and antithesis are identical because antithesis is derived from thesis, and different as antithesis is something other than thesis. This contradiction between them is, however, resolved and superseded in their unity understood as ‘synthesis’.

This logic is exactly wrong. The problem is not antithetical propositions, that is, contradictions, but contraries that are treated as contradictories. Contraries can be reconciled at a higher level of consciousness but contradictories cannot be reconciled because one is true and the other is false. There is a direct line from Hegel’s logic to the Marxist liquidation of classes of people considered to be in contradiction to the cause.

Centrists welcome balanced compromise between contraries. There is no formula for what this is or how to achieve it. Each case must be considered separately, and care must be taken so that weaker parties are represented as much as stronger parties. Balance is not a fixed equilibrium but an oscillation around a center, like a balance beam rocking back and forth.

Centrists are patriots. A patriot is one who supports the good of the whole country, rather than just a part or faction. The problem of politics is the tendency for factions to gain power and the good of the whole to decline. Constitutions and elections are supposed to reduce the danger of that happening, but it takes vigilance by patriots to make sure it doesn’t.

Centrists keep the whole in mind at all times: the whole of society, the whole of civilization, the whole of life. Extremists take a part for the whole, and end up trying to eliminate the other parts. The ultimate extreme is idolatry: putting something other than God in the place of God. Centrists keep God in the center at all times.