On being a Centrist -- a personal view
There have been debates lately concerning what it means to be centrist. I will try to give my highly personal view here.
Being centrist means to not want to buy the whole package of either Left or Right. It means being more concerned about issues than ideological consistency. A centrist position can hold strong principles, but it tries not to get tied down by stale ideologies. However, most centrists (at least in Sweden and the greater part of Europe) could be placed in or near the social-liberal camp: that is, they will tend to promote personal liberty coupled with social justice. They will champion individualism, but within a social framework.
Some people sneer at the centrist position. It is often said to be the viewpoint of the willy-nilly, wishy-washy and undecided. I strongly disagree with this view. I think that many people today don’t want to, like I said, buy a whole ready-made package deal of leftist or rightist ideas. Many people hold leftist views on some issues, and rightist views on others. There is nothing strange or weak about this position. On the contrary, it takes careful consideration on every separate issue. I, for my own part, am more to the left when it comes to social justice-issues, but more to the right when it comes to foreign policy and the war on terror.
Instead of going to the extremes of the political scale, I. e. to the left or to the right, I prefer to go deeper into the centre. To delve down to the roots of things. A radically democratic view, if you like. Most centrists also have an instinctive dislike of political extremes and the all-too political, which is why so many centrists also are antitotalitarian, i. e. they combat extremism whatever shape it takes, be it Fascism, Nazism, Communism or Islamofascism.
I’ve noticed that I hold views that could be considered conflicting by some, but which I consider complimentary. I am culturally conservative in many ways, but politically radical in others. This kind of “conservative radicalism” has been shared by many other people like George Orwell and Lewis Mumford (please note that I am in no way equivocating myself with these people!). Perhaps someone like Christopher Hitchens could be included here. He has often talked about “the radical conservative”. Some people would say that this is an oxymoron or a paradox. Perhaps it is a paradox, but therein lies its strength. The concepts, in my view, aren’t conflicting but, as I said, complementary. It’s a syncretistic position. It is possible to be traditionalist and progressive at the same time. These concepts aren’t, and shouldn’t be, mutually exclusive.
Many schools of thought within philosophy have recognised the importance of centering-down, finding the proper balance and creating a whole from complementary forces, such as Daoism, Buddhism and the ancient Greek concept of metron.
In my own country, Sweden, it is people within the centre of the political field that have most successfully combated totalitarian ideas such as Nazism and Communism. Often these were individuals more or less connected to the Swedish social-liberal party, The People’s Party. The Conservative Right and the Socialist Left have traditionally been more prone to support dictatorships, whereas people within the centre of the political scale have fought against oppression and tyranny.
Today we face a new totalitarian threat: Islamofascism. This has not yet dawned upon the Left. Or rather, there is the Reactionary Left to whom it will never dawn, as they do not wish to know. Instead, they will try to support totalitarianism in opposition to “Western” or perhaps more commonly “US imperialism”. Then there is the Liberal Left, who has turned out to be even more naïve than I expected it to be, indirectly supporting tyrants and dictators, believing that “violence will only make things worse”. The political quietism and pacifism of the Liberal Left, and the openly totalitarian and anti-democratic ideals of the Reactionary Left will risk undermining our Western democratic way of life if we don’t start acting against these forces as well as against Islamofascism itself. So far, a great part of the Right has seemed to understand the totalitarian threat we’re up against, except of course for the rabid, far-right “America first” isolationists who, like the Islamofascists, think that America is rotting from the inside because of the “decadence” going on there.
So today, I wish to pursue the middle path with guiding principles such as social individualism, the pursue of both personal liberty and social justice, a balanced relationship between the market and the state, the defence of our Western values and way of life whose very existence is now threatened by a religiously motivated Fascism. Further, promoting human rights and equality between men and women – to ensure, like Marcus Aurelius said, that we will be no one’s master, no one’s slave.