Are you an Unlikely Radical?


Have you ever wanted to shake your world up? Do you despise the phrase “that’s just the way things are” and want to remove it from our vocabulary? Do you come to your own conclusions?  Do you question everything in your life? Do you wonder why others don’t question things the way you do?


Do you feel like a relatively “moderate” person? Do you not align yourself with extreme causes, either because their proponents seem too full of themselves, or it doesn’t seem practical enough? Do you want to rock the proverbial boat, but “under-the-radar”, working for change quietly and inconspicuously?

Congratulations, you’re an Unlikely Radical.

Being an Unlikely Radical means questioning, not being satisfied with other people’s answers, other people’s beliefs, other people’s lives. But you are this way while not having to do something romantic and exotic like living off the grid (unless you want to), or spending your life marching in protests (again, unless you want to).

When you’re an Unlikely Radical, you might seem “just like everyone else”. But when others take a closer look, they see that you’re serious. They know that you’re not posturing to make yourself feel better. They see the firs inside you.

An Unlikely Radical offers an alternative to both the traditional radical and what I call the Accepter. The traditional radical is one who many people ignore because they don’t identify with their extremism. And the Accepter is someone who sleepwalks through life, being told what to do and acquiescing. There is a third way.

I spent years wanting to fit in with my more “radical” friends, the ones who would stage protests in community gardens, do tree sits, and gather signatures for various causes, but I always felt too “normal” and “well-adjusted”. I didn’t dress in a particularly avant way, I held a full-time white-collar job, and I felt skeptical about their tactics.

I also didn’t feel like I fit in with the “normal” crowds either. People who hated their jobs and talked about “working for the weekend”, while never questioning what they did Monday through Friday. People who spent more money than they owned in order to look good for the people around. People who got married young and talked about their “ball and chain”. People who did what they were told, who took the generic life plan given to them through TV and the media, and followed it to the letter. I wasn’t satisfied when people said that “this is just how it is.” I’ve always believe that such a response was a cop-out, an excuse to be emotionally and intellectually lazy. I always felt like there must be more than this.

For a long time, I felt like these were pretty much the only paths available to me. Either shake off the system entirely, or accept the system entirely. Neither one seemed right. Gradually, I learned to accept that no system is truly binary. There is never only two options. There is always a third way.

Here is an abbreviated list of some of my beliefs:

  • I believe that we should all live within our means, get out of debt, and tell the big banks that profit from our pain to go fly a kite.
  • I believe that we should all travel as much as possible, to gain a broader perspective on the world and to break us out of our routine.
  • I believe we should redesign our cities and towns to be more walkable and transit friendly, with much less car-dependence.
  • I believe that we should feel able to love and have feelings for anyone in whatever way we want, that we don’t need to compartmentalize our feelings for others based on what conventional society dictates.
  • I believe that we should all be strong enough to be joyful, to open up our hearts enough to help others in meaningful ways.
  • I believe we should all strive to be fulfilled and work toward our own happiness, not because we either do or do not deserve it, but because it is our responsibility.

To some, this may feel pretty radical. I’m okay with that.  But I bet that you feel this way, at least in part.  Welcome.

But here I am, on a public forum in which to talk to and interact with other people who feel similarly. Me: quiet, reserved, introspective me, allergic to social media, and very skeptical of public soapboxes. That I am here posting these words is probably the most unlikely act of all.

But enough about me: Do you feel like you’re an unlikely radical? What does that phrase mean to you?

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