The generic political spectrum generally has four regions, not counting the moderates as they’re squarely in the middle of it all. To venture outside of the middle in any direction is to engage in gradations of left or right which could conceivably result in an infinite amount of gradations. Those tiny gradations aside, there is an interesting result when power shifts from one group to the other.
Historically, the spectrum breaks down like this: If you are on the right, say half way between the end of the line and the middle, you’re considered a conservative. This means that you appreciate the status quo and wish things to remain the same. If you lived in the 17th century in France, the status quo meant living under the rule of Louis XIV with all of the rules and regulations an absolute monarchy might impose. If you were of the noble classes, or any class of influence, you’d of course wish things to remain the same…conservative…as you were the power, you were the ones in control. Peasants might see things differently, as might all the members of the Third Estate which consisted of anyone not part of the Catholic church’s ruling class or the nobility (the First and Second Estates respectively).
Should you wish change in the system, you’d be to the left of the middle, directly opposite of conservatives. If you fell here, you’d like the system to change, but with moderation. Tweak it a little, maybe get rid of serfdom or torture as a means of extracting information (torture and it’s definition were markedly different in the 17th century than today where a strongly worded letter might be considered torture). The system was intact, but there were changes from the top down…something the 18th century French philosophes preferred. Bottom up changes resulted in revolution, something to be avoided at all costs.
If you were at either extremes of the line, you were either, on the right, a reactionary, or on the left a radical. In either case, you were not happy at all with the system in place, preferring to remold it in the image preferred. Leftist radicals were all to happy to blow up the system and begin anew. Examples would be the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Chinese Revolution under Mao and yes, even the American Revolution. In all the cases cited, the “in-place” system was removed by force only to be replaced by another system…complete and radical change.
Reactionaries are similar, wishing to go the opposite direction: They prefer to go back to the “old ways”, as they used to be. Charles X, king of France from 1824-1830 was one such example. He wanted to re-impose something akin to absolute rule as it was during the time of Louis XIV some 117 years prior. Needless to say, reactionary ideals are much harder to impose for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the appearance of barbarity. Charles X lost that battle and was deposed.
The most interesting thing about the political spectrum is that once one group is in power and they’ve made the changes they wish, however radical or reactionary they may be, they then become the conservatives, wishing to remain and retain their power, keeping the system in place they’ve created, not wanting anymore change. They become the ones that once were in favor of openness, of free expression, of movements to “move the masses”; but once that’s achieved, they become the guardians of the new status quo, often unwilling to listen to or entertain ideas contrary to the new narrative or power structure. In this case, as in all cases wherein those in power wish to remain so, repressive measures are taken to ensure their power stability. Often, these measures resort to censorship, quashing of ideas that do not go along with the new narratives, often packaged under the guise of it’s for public safety or some other such excuse. Books are banned, ideas that run counter to the new narrative are labeled dangerous or mis-information, or, under any other guise in which speech can be limited or outright banned.
Consider during the French Revolution the so-called Committee of Public Safety, the Jacobin organization run by the infamous Maximillian Robespierre. They initiated a campaign to secure the revolution by disposing anyone who was perceived to be against the revolution. those deemed enemies of the state met there fate via the guillotine, a humane way (they thought) to dispose of anyone who did not embrace the progressive ideals of the revolution. Rule through fear and intimidation that resulted in the population turning on itself was the rule of the day. Ironically, the vast majority of people that were executed during this radical movement were members of the Third Estate, namely, the peasants (sans culottes), who were the very people the revolution was said to benefit the most. Those at the top, Robespierre and his minions stood to gain the most as long as the Revolution continued.
What’s even more interesting is that those who were once the radicals agitating for change against the powers that be cannot see that they, themselves, eventually become as oppressive, belligerent, and protective of their position as those they displaced. They now have become the conservatives, jettisoning their ideas for the sole purpose of maintaining their power, their idealism thrown into onto the trash heap of history in order to preserve what they’ve achieved. In doing so, they reject the notion of the free exchange of ideas, dismiss with prejudice dissenting ideas, and rebuff any attempt to engage in a counter narrative all for the sake of protecting the people when in reality they have little stomach for the food of dissent. They’ve become what they despise, and they’re too blind to see it.
People like Neil Young, Susan Sarandon, and other 70 somethings, once the voice of a disgruntled generation who protested the evils of the United States regarding Civil Rights as well as it’s involvement in the Vietnam War, were the embodiment of Voltaire’s exhortation of I don’t agree with a word you say but will defend to the death your right to say it (that phrase has been attributed to him although there is some doubt as to whether he actually said it). They were the vanguard of the free speech movements at the University of California at Berkeley. It was those radicals of the 1960’s who urged an entire generation of followers to reject the staid notions of society; Tune in, Turn on, Drop Out. Now they find they are the establishment, wishing to preserve their position of power and influence, only to find themselves engaged in the very practices of censorship and preservation of the establishment they once abhorred. They are the ones doing the silencing, the censoring, and the removing all under the guise of public safety. I wonder if they’ve formed a committee yet.
Covid narratives promulgated by the government and their chosen “experts” are now sacred cows, unable to be questioned or challenged by others just as qualified who are willing to speak out, attempting to be heard; a sin to the greatest degree. To do so is to incur the wrath of those like Neil Young who, ironically, are now acting as government shills. Go against what the government says and you shall be no more. You will be scrubbed from the halls and walls, and nary a trace will be left for anyone to know you were here.