The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution. – Hannah Arendt
What do you think of when you hear the word “radical”?
It brings to mind revolutionaries, change agents, Che Guevara like figures.
But it also relates to the ordinary everyday, and that’s where it’s relevant to our lives.
I learned yesterday, that when you get given more choices you tend to choose less radical options.
That’s an interesting thought.
For example, right now energy prices are high and people are struggling with the costs of paying their bills.
The radical option might be to fund a programme of insulation to help with energy reduction.
A less radical option is to give people money to help with the bills.
They still use the same amount, but it costs a little less.
The radical option of reduction or rationing or prioritisation is avoided because it requires changes in behaviour.
I’m not saying that the radical option is the right answer – just that it’s avoided for as long as possible.
A few weeks back I wrote about knowledge locked in research papers behind paywalls and suggested that research should open access and smartphone friendly.
That’s a radical idea but it’s being done already.
For example, Ephemera is an open access journal that is self published – it’s independent and free.
It’s critical – meaning it questions the status quo – and it’s radical – which means it’s outside the mainstream.
Think of the mainstream like an elephant that plods on – it’s what most people do and think.
Think of the radical like a bee, poking away at the mainstream.
Most of the time, the mainstream ignores the radical.
Often it swats it away.
But every once in a while, the mainstream changes direction, incorporating the ideas of the radical.
The whole move towards sustainability is a story of that change, first started at the fringes and now part of mainstream thought – a story we just can’t ignore as the world heats up around us.
Change, it turns out, happens at the fringes and takes time to filter through to the rest of us.
The trick, or rather the challenge, is being radical enough to propose change, while being effective enough to implement it.