The following annotated list of 10 core Radical Centrist values was initially inspired by Mark Satin’s August 2007 article from his Radical Middle Newsletter, under the title– Post-Partisan Politics: First American Political Ideology?
In that essay Mark detailed his ideas for 10 Radical Centrist “principles.” However, reading the material it struck me that better terminology for what he had written was “values.” Principles, at least as I understand them, have a more operational sense rather than an inspirational sense. To be sure, this is partly a subjective call. Depending on context one can be the other. Yet there already is a set of 10 Principles which are essentially operational in nature which was written for our group in December of 2010. And we could now use a set of values.
By no means did I agree with all of Mark’s ideas; in a couple of cases, especially, I disagreed strongly. And some of what he said has already been expressed at RadicalCentrism.orgin other ways. Regardless, by and large his work is thoughtful and has considerable merit on its own terms. Yet there are other ways to say some of the things he put into words, and none of what follows is a simple duplication of the Radical Middle statements of “principle.” There also was an agenda in this set of 10 RC Values which is uniquely our own. I wanted to integrate into the overall new essay a number of important ideas that have been expressed in our group over the years, or very recently. Hence you will find ideas that Ernie has emphasized in the past, or myself, or David, or others at one time or another. This also includes Doug Johnson, although the subject he is most closely identified with, a Radical Centrist philosophy of education, is only discussed along the way and deserves special treatment. His 2008 essay, “Change from the Radical Center of Education” will need to suffice for now, but is so good as it is that the best I might be able to do by way of picking up on the topic would be to add some considerations. It is very difficult to try and find anything “wrong” with his article.
None, or almost none, of the 10 Values corresponds with the categories in Mark’s essay. The new article only starts from Mark’s work ; everything has been re-thought, with ideas from our group woven into the overall text in different ways in different places.
Doubtless not everyone will agree that these are “the” 10 values of Radical Centrism. Or, more likely, some may agree with half, even with most, but have reservations about the rest or simply think that some items would benefit from revision. Some may wish to add other Values to the set.
This is an attempt to put it all together, the best I could for now. Suggestions are welcome, as are criticisms.
10 Radical Centrist Values
1. Respect for each other and for everyone deserving respect
–which is the great majority of people. This means that relationships matter
to Radical Centrists, including friendships, professional sharing of ideas
and information, and a desire to use our knowledge and insights to
do our part to make our communities and our nation better for what
we may contribute. Another way of saying this is that co-operation is
our objective. Obviously this is not always possible. Respect needs to
be reciprocated, for one thing, and obviously there can be no co-operation
with people whose intentions clearly are hostile, or worse. But to express
what we most want in terms of each other and almost all others, we
prefer co-operation as the best way to do things.
2. There is a premium on civility among Radical Centrists that, while we
all believe it is essential for Radical Centrist purposes, is intrinsic to who we are
as people with a wide variety of interests. For most of us this is an effect of religious
faith, including something similar among good-intentioned people who may be classified
as humanists –in the sense that the word is used historically to denote someone
who seeks wisdom from many different sources, not limited to religion. We want
to get along with one another, and with our guests. Thus, while we certainly find
ourselves in disputes now and then, everyone tries to keep things “in bounds.”
To state this in another way, Radical Centrism is not for religious zealots or firebrand
Atheists or “hard core” political partisans, either Right or Left or something else.
We are committed to open exchange of ideas, to searching inquiry wherever it
may lead, to discussions of serious issues, and to honest dialogue. For that to happen,
it will not do for someone to use our forum as a megaphone to seek to browbeat others.
Civility means willingness to listen, not just to speak, and it means strong desire
to keep the friends we make.
3. Competition for achievement. Think of this the way you think of track and field
events. The athletes strive with all they’ve got, to cross the finish line first, or throw
a javelin the furthest. But no-one seeks to injure anyone, and far from hating each other,
they have the deepest respect for what their peers accomplish. We try to do what we
do as Radical Centrists in this spirit. We regard competition as healthy, necessary
in life, and as essential for motivation to reach difficult objectives.
4. Minimum compromise. This does not mean we never go halfway to meet
other people with other political objectives, but it definitely does say that Radical Centrism
is about staying true to our sense of morality, and to everything we cherish and regard
as crucial to our integrity. Compromise may be a necessary evil but we try to avoid
any such thing whenever possible. What this does, however, is to compel us to
make an extra effort to always be informed so that objective facts are under discussion,
and so that we do not enter into ideological disputes which, by the nature of things,
are clashes of beliefs that rarely end in anything but acrimony. It also means seeking
post-partisan solutions to problems. That is, trying to find new ideas that can speak
to real issues that may divide people but new ideas that go beyond disputes to try
and find special ways of framing those issues, or that seek to arrive at entirely new
approaches to problems that allow some kind of practical solutions to emerge.
At least this is our ideal. But if there is no other way out, we are prepared
to fight like hell for what we believe is right.
5. Critical thinking is absolutely necessary. This means not only understanding
the importance of being critical –in the sense that a theater critic tries to provide an
accurate evaluation of a drama or the way that a coach seeks to let a player know
what he or she is doing wrong so that sports performance improves– toward others
but also with respect to one’s self. That is, we try to be self critical, to be objective
about our limitations and problems. We try to be realistic, in other words. In all cases
criticisms should be constructive. Maybe this does not apply to those who make
themselves our enemies, but otherwise this is a basic rule. Almost always criticism
should have as its intention, making things better, making people better able to assess
their strengths and weaknesses or those of others, and to recognize the good potential
in arguments for or against something, not only flaws.
6. Focus on the future. We seek to cultivate a shared vision for America
–but including other nations and our own lives. We are wide open to making
the most of historical examples, and always try to discuss issues that matter
in the here-and-now, but ultimately it all leads to the future since we cannot
bring about instant change. Indeed, Radical Centrism has much in common
with the discipline of futuristics, also known as Futures Research. After all,
no-one can develop reliable forecasts unless he or she is as objective as
possible, is eager to explore all relevant viewpoints, and looks dispassionately
at the opinions of both the Left and the Right and any other relevant political
positions. We also realize that to create a political program of our own
we need a sense for what the world will become in ten or twenty years,
if not further ahead in time.
7. We seek to create value for others and to reward others who
create value for us. In effect this is market philosophy, but not in the commonplace
sense of what happens on the floor of a stock exchange. The market that means the
most to us, usually anyway, is the “marketplace of ideas.” Or you may wish to think
of it as a marketplace of character. We are always learning and always teaching others
as much as they may wish to learn from us, but what is most important is what makes
us better as people. Hence the inspiration for the civility among us –the spiritual or
philosophical values that we regard as essential– emerges in what we say to each
other in many different contexts. We all feel that we have a stake in contributing to
one another’s character. Not to overdo this sense of things, since most of it is
unconscious, but it exists as a leitmotif in many, many discussions and it may well
carry over into our lives in the 3 dimensional world.
8. It is crucial to admit your mistakes and try to learn from them.
To be completely honest about it, and while we do try, we fall short of this ideal
again and again. Hopefully we are no worse than anyone else, on good days perhaps
we come close to our ideal, but regardless there always is room for improvement.
And we know for a fact that human beings will always make mistakes. But as we
understand life, looking for lessons to be learned from the errors we are responsible
for is a good way to make lemonade out of lemons. Being forthright about one’s
mistakes is vital to Radical Centrists because our philosophy is based on seeking
what is best from among different political causes which, by definition, themselves
contain mistaken views of many kinds. Since all of us started out with sentiments
that had little to do with anything that is now Radical Centrist in character,
all of us have parts of those outlooks within us, giving us useful ideas to work with
but also acting as sources of any number of questionable ideas which really
don’t stand up to testing by the standards we now have. So, while no-one
overdoes it, we all ask ourselves whenever advocating some bright idea,
“what did I miss ?,” “are there holes in my case that I simply cannot see ?,”
or “have I really taken into account other viewpoints that I should
take into account ?” Finally, we believe that it is worthwhile to
study the human processes that result in error so that, in the future,
we will make as few mistakes as possible.
9. We seek to focus on creative ideas that can actually be implemented
in the real world. For sure, like most people, we spend a good deal of time
discussing questions that arise among friends, including our views about current
politics, the meaning of selected news events, and personal matters that come
and go in ordinary life. However, the overreaching objective is to develop ideas
that could actually make a major difference in society. Any particular discussion
may be more “social” than anything else, but we all agree that whenever it
may become possible the purpose of what we do is to set the stage for
10. We regard diversity as a good thing but our attitude is approximately
180 degrees the opposite of that of multi-culturalists. Not everyone is equal
and not every culture is equally good. People differ in talent, character, and
achievement ; some go to lengths to educate themselves or to always be truthful.
But others devalue education and seem to think that lying is perfectly OK.
Some cultures provide numerous healthy opportunities for people while others
are best characterized as “sick societies.” All human societies have limitations
and some may produce many criminal elements. Societies, like individuals,
are a mix of many things, good, bad, ugly, and also noble or inspirational.
It is essential to be as ruthlessly realistic about this as possible, not to argue
for some kind of intrinsic genetic or ethnic or racial superiority, but to become
as honest as it is in us to be about our commonalities –against an understanding
that our differences are also important and must be taken into account if we are
going to accomplish anything in the political or cultural realms. We are multi-ethnic
and multi-racial but judge each other –and all others– by the same standards,
especially standards of excellence. We also are open to ideas from many different
sources, from cultures all over the world, but , again, only on a basis of objective
merit as we understand it. We do believe that even the least among cultures has
something to contribute to the common good, including sometimes really profound
Good, but we will not play games of “let’s pretend that all cultures are equal.”
And, with all due respect to many other countries, some of which we think
extremely highly of, we believe that America has a special place in the world
and has a responsibility to provide global leadership in as many areas of life
as it is in us to provide.