A person who holds extreme views
We can all be a little bit extreme from time to time. We all have opinions which can be unwavering, but in reality, there are a million different opinions, none of which can be the only correct answer. If we deal in absolutes we can never progress. Just imagine if we all still accepted that the world was flat and had never questioned it! Everybody likes to think they’re right – even me! And we will argue our case until the other party backs down. Just to say “Ha! I told you I was right.”
Just because we accept it’s true doesn’t mean it is
In recent times, the label “extremism” has been laid at the door of islam, but that is just the media and politicians talking, using headline grabbing catchphrases. Christianity, judaism, and all the other major religions could be considered extreme, and without wanting to discuss religion here, are extreme if (a) they believe their truth is the only truth and (b) if they force other people to accept what they say is true; but extremism comes in many forms, religion being just a small part.
We may hold extreme views on politics, immigration, homosexuality, sport, education, crime or race, but that is only ignorance. Ignorance of diversity. Ignorance that there are other people in the world who do not share your views. Ignorance of the fact you may not be right. Ignorance of the fact that real truth stems from openness.
If we are to learn the truth about anything, we must be open to new ideas, new suggestions and we must attempt to discover the truth for ourselves.
Let me ask you a question. Where do you get your opinions from? Who told you about this truth you believe in? Listen to this statement.
“All rapists are evil and should be locked up forever.”
Now most people have a firm opinion on rape, due to its brutality against women, so everyone would agree with the statement above, wouldn’t they? What about paedophiles who prey on children, who lure children, and sexually abuse them? What should be done with them? Kill them? Lock them up and throw away the key?
But it is not the seriousness of the crimes we are interested in here, it is the attitude to the statements. How fast did you reach your opinion? Half a second? One second? How about “We should have the death penalty for child murderers,” or “it is sinful for a woman to have an abortion.” One second? Two seconds?
What we are trying to examine here is that when we make up our mind on a subject in a matter of seconds, it means we have an extreme view. This is an opinion that has been imprinted on the memory ready to be used in an instant when challenged. This is extremism, not suicide bombers, or terrorists – as the media and politicians like to call them. “Terrorism” is just action. The end result of extreme thinking. What we are discussing here, takes place in the mind long before action. I would like to use the example of the animal rights extremists.
As you have read in other topics, I am a vegetarian, and believe that as humans we should show compassion for all living things on the planet, not just our fellow humans. So, although it saddens me to see animals being experimented on by scientists, it saddens me even more to see people who supposedly love animals, terrorising the scientists who work there; or setting fire to the labs and generally causing fear to everyone associated with animal testing. Why do they do it? Because, in their distorted thinking, anyone who causes harm to these animals is a justified target, and in doing so, they lose their compassion.
In my mind, it doesn’t matter the cause you are fighting for; if you are prepared to use violence to achieve your goals, (however peaceful the end result may be) you have extreme thinking. In your desire, and subsequent failure to convince everyone you are right, you have resorted to convincing people that your views are the only truth, by forcing them to accept your opinion through terror.
Let’s go back to when we were children. I wonder how many of us had extreme views then. Any of us? I doubt it. So let’s try to examine where this thinking originated from. As we weren’t born with these views, the first people we have to look at are our parents. Think back to any views your parent’s had, that you may have picked up – whether religious, political, or racial.
Most of us don’t realise what an effect our parent’s views have as we are beginning to form our world view from an early age. If you constantly hear your father talking about “the immigrants that came here to take our jobs,” or the “failure of the government to lock up dangerous criminals,” or “christianity is the only true religion,” do you think it’s possible that – as you respect your father – you believe what he says is the truth?
Most of our parents never encourage us to think for ourselves; in fact it is more likely they will try to stifle debate, by exercising their authority. “Don’t argue,” they will say. “What do you know about it anyway? You’re only a child.”
Instead, it is the children who should be asking “Actually father, what do you know about it? Where did you get your opinion from?”
As we get older, we form our own opinions from experience and our environment; from government, our, religion, our peers and the media; and everyone holds some opinion, left, right or centre. The problem of extremism arises when we fail to notice we are holding an opinion that does not allow any other views. When we are so convinced that our way is the only way, we become single-minded and our mind loses its flexibility to be open to different trains of thought.
The key to understanding extremism is to understand ourselves. To watch ourselves in action, and pose the question “Why do I think like this? Is this the only way?” Before you have a debate with another, debate with yourself. Go on, try it! Pick a topic you hold a very strong or singled-minded view on, and ask yourself: “Why do I hold this belief to be true?” Ask yourself if holding that view, in your opinion, makes your thinking extreme. Remember, there is always another way than the one we know.
There will always be truths we have yet to discover, and that is the greatest thing about being human. The ability to use our minds to find out the truth of something. We should never hold an opinion that is absolute. Throughout our long history, people have held views that have been accepted as “definitely and most certainly, the truth,” whether scientific or religious, only to be challenged later, and replaced with another that is “definitely and most certainly, the truth.”
- A personal belief or judgement that is not founded on proof or certainty
- A vague idea in which some confidence is placed
I have come to realise that pushing our opinions onto other people turns them against us. Opinions are merely that. An opinion. People do not like to be forced to agree with us, they want to make their own minds up. So if we want to share an opinion with another, do not offer it as the only truth, or the only way, because there are a billion opinions out there in the world. Just ask anybody! We cannot hope that everyone will agree with us.
Whilst reading this book, I am sure there are lots of things you don’t agree with, because you have another opinion, but all I ask is that people approach life with an open mind. There is no right way to truth, only a long journey of discovery.
Extremism stops people from embarking on that voyage of discovery because it limits the mind.