The word “radical” is usually used in our culture as a synonymn for “extremist,” but actually the word means “to come from the roots.” “Radish” is an offshoot of the same word.
So what are the “roots” of a human being? We can come up with infinite hypothetical answers to the question, but if we limit ourselves to the kinds of experience we share in common, the list becomes much shorter. We might trace our roots to the earth, to other living beings, and to our own human nature.
From such a beginning we may conclude that the most radical stance possible for a human being is to be ecological, humane and fully alive.
It sounds simple, but such rootedness requires a rejection of many cultural idols. To be authentically human requires that we abandon the false labels of our nation or our religion as well as the trophies of our culture often falsely called “success” or “education.” To be who we truly are we must live in perpetual revolution against all that would rob us of our humanity, of living fully, or of being in harmony with the earth.
When we live unrooted lives, we settle into a kind of depression. We are trying to save the world, but we are doing so within artificial definitions such as “American,” or “Christian” or “capitalist.” Such non-radical definitions are expressions of the problem. Unless we radicalize our understanding of such labels we have little hope of being helpful in the current crises. When we try to do good within such labels we become depressed because, at some level, we know we cannot possibly make the world whole if our minds are in the process of cutting it to pieces.
Bob Jensen has a new article in YES! Magazine called, “Why Radical is the New Normal: Get Apocalyptic.”