They can burn books, destroy libraries, forbid languages, ban beliefs, delete past times, draw new present times, order future actions, torture and execute people... But they still don´t know how to kill the intangible and bright bodies of ideas, dreams and hopes.

About the word "radical"

By Edgardo Civallero

When I read "progressive librarianship" documents (and other "socially concerned", "left-wing minded" texts), I use to find a curious word, normally labelling this kind of progressive positions.:
"Radical"
Well, in spanish, this word means "extreme, incisive". And according to my old dictionary, in english it means exactly the same.
I normally hate labels: they look like mental and social borders to my personality. I feel that, by being labeled, I´m limited to be "this" and not "that". I feel I lose my personal freedom of being whatever I want to be (a freedom that costs me a high price). I really feel classified, like one of the books of my library, just filling a fixed, pre-determined space in the big shelves of this social world.
But, beyond these considerations, I don´t like (and I don´t understand) the label "radical" very much. A radical attitude is totally close-minded. It usually believes that its position is the correct one, that it has the Truth inside its pocket and that it has a "right" or a "duty" of combating against the opposite, contrary positions because they are "wrong". A radical attitude sometimes doesn´t care if its struggle becomes violent (terrorism and dirty wars against terrorism are radical attitudes). Even a "soft" radical attitude is maybe very passionate, and, by being like this, it loses a good part of rationality, a lot of clarity in its ideas and objectives, and a lot of aiming in its struggle...
I was educated by anarchists, in Spain. They were the most intelligent people I have met in my whole life, but they were extremely naïve, extremely ingenuous. By keeping their radical position, they were inside a kind of mental "blind alley" and their actions in real (not ideal) world were totally useless. When I came back to Latin America, 9 years ago, I realized the results of radical attitudes here: my people is still mourning 30.000 disappeared persons. And the actions of "soft" radicals are also completely useless in real world, in actual reality.
I think that a "progressive" way means an open mind. A REAL open mind, for understanding ALL the voices (even the contrary ones, or maybe SPECIALLY these ones) and ALL the situations from INSIDE (there´s no way of understanding a problem or a situation from outside). There´re lots of close-minded people ruling Humankind´s destinies and affecting our societies in a direct way, so radical positions are not useful. We´ve plenty of them right now, and all this is not working very well.
I think that a "progressive" way has nothing to do with radicalism. Racism is radical, machism and feminism are radical, communism and capitalism are radical, anarchism and dictatorship are radical. They look like "Evil" and "Good" fighting an eternal combat (and normal people suffering in the middle, without solutions). Radical positions don´t understand solutions if these solutions are not build according to their own beliefs and rules. And, while these radical positions are fighting for looking who wins, who has the reason, a whole world is waiting for help for their urgent problems.
(Maybe I´ve seen too much pain in my country and in my continent. Maybe I´ve touched this pain too much with my own hands. I´ve understood that we must help with good actions and not with good ideas or labels).
I think that a "progressive" way doesn´t mean to attack, to criticize, but to understand and to give options and good ideas, options and solutions for real things... from an open minded and practical perspective. I am not saying that we must forget our values or our ideas. We become "nothing" without them. But if we carry them to an extreme point (= radical), they become useless, and we become exactly the same thing we´re fighting against (but in the other side of the line).
And violent positions (revolution, anarchy...) are just a problem. The society where I live is still dyed with blood and covered by scars, even after 20 years of "democracy". Romantic guerrilleros of 60´s and 70´s, like Che Guevara, maybe had good and noble ideas, OK, but they raised a gun against another human beings and spilled their blood because the others didn´t think like them. And that´s very romantic, yeah, and they are in very nice songs and very nice tatoos and very nice T-shirts and so on, but it´s also terrible, because here we´ve learnt that, from blood, nothing new and clean can be built. And, YES, these attitudes were radical. In my opinion, they were nasty. They were just murderers. Maybe they had a reason, but here we are, in the same point (and missing a lot of dead people).
What do I want to say with all this? Current left-wing, radical and progressive positions seem to be a little bit out of focus, a little bit naïve, a little bit based on abstract ideas. I understand that the basic ideas are good, but... are they useful? are they working in reality? I´m not sure. I´m "left-wing" minded, I´m deeply "anarchist" (ufff, labels again) but I prefer to forget ideas and theoretical positions and start practical ACTION in real world. And action is based on a simple concept: helping other people to live the life they want to live when they don´t have the opportunities and tools for helping themselves or for solving their problems.
I don´t know if this works the same in "First World". I´ve met a lot of european and northamerican "progressive" librarians personally, and they seemed not to know how to solve REAL problems, they even seemed not to KNOW the real problems, even in their own society. Everything was like inside a pink fog or a romantic bubble. Maybe conditions here are different (0harder), but, anyways...
I guess that with this text I am being "radical". Funny. This text looks a rude and cheap criticism to another point of view, but I´d like to understand what´s going on with the good people around me. I am a little bit tired of "I-talk-the-talk-but-I-don´t-walk-the-walk" people. I´m sorry. I´m realizing that there´s a lot of talk, but nothing happens. And I am noticing that best actions in my continent (political and social) are not based in radical attitudes, but in hard work from the basis.
And I am getting very tired of seeing people self-labeled as "radical" and "left-wing minded" comfortably seated in a pub, wearing a Che Guevara´s shirt and drinking expensive artisanal beer and talking about "saving the world" while my colleagues and me are putting our lifes under risk, right here and right now, working inside favelas.
Maybe this is a very Latin American problem: we´re tired of words, because we´ve listened them (promises + good ideas + promises + good ideas...) for centuries, but we are still in the bottom of a big hole full of shit. Nothing has changed.
I hope that, one day, something will change. At least, I wish that attitudes will change among the people who has good ideas. We need action. So, don´t speak and don´t write anymore, and start ACTING. It´s the best way. Because a lot of people here (like me) are getting tired of struggling and fighting against all this poorness, all this pain... and we´ll need helping hands in a very, very close future.
Because we are being defeated and we´re getting really tired.