Amid opposing positions, political centrists have the tendency to stake the middle ground. It is a compromise that appears sensible on the surface. Sometimes, it can be sensible deep down in a substantial way. It can even be the best path forward.

Not always though. Not all compromises are sensible and it can be even outright nonsense. A chronic centrist would do so anyway, and then has the gall to call those who see a square peg in a round hole as extremists.

There is no guarantee that centrism equates sensibility. Sensibility depends on an entirely different consideration altogether. It might very well be the seemingly extreme position that is the most sensible and right.

A chronic centrist does not believe that. He is a person who works like a mindless average machine. Take any two diametrical positions, average it out and there you go: a solution. Move on to the next issue, take any two positions, average it out and then there you go again: another solution. It goes on and on forever.

They rarely make introspection of the averaged positions. There is no thinking behind it, except some kind of blind elementary arithmetic applied onto issues in the public sphere. The only real argument they have to offer is that the middle path is a compromise. A win-win some would say. And a compromise is always a virtue, so say the centrists, who are also probably self-proclaimed political moderates.

Of course there are compromises that need to be made on a case-by-case basis. We live in a society where give and take has to happen and where we end up treading along the middle path. It indeed happens every day.

A musician practicing his trade living next to a neighbor who likes a quiet evening would have to talk to each other so that both can live comfortably without too much bad blood, for instance. On a bigger more concrete scale, the relevant landowners in Kuala Lumpur, the developer of the Mass Rapid Transit system and the government have to compromise to get the project going.

Or maybe in election seat negotiations among parties which have a common interest to defeat yet another party by combining resources instead of fighting each other, it is in their best interest to reach an amicable solution and refrain from engaging in wasteful squabbling.

By contrast, there are principles and ideas that cannot be violated. If a thief steals an apple from a person, one does not cut the apple to give half of the fruit to the thief and the other half to the owner. That is injustice. If a racist proposes a policy and a liberal advocates the opposite view, one does not just write a compromised policy that is half racist, half liberal. That is confusion. There is nothing sensible about such an unjust confused judgment.

It is a half-measure that the mindless and the gutless would take. The mechanical, automatic centrist is mindless because he does not make sense. He is gutless because he takes no real position. The centrist is an automaton. Feed in the input. Average it out. There you go: a moderated position.

We do not need automatons to solve our problems. We especially do not need mindless, gutless, automatic centrists to do the thinking for us. They tell us nothing of value. We need thinking beings, ones who reason from some position of principle, inducing and deducing through tough propositions to reach well thought-out conclusions. This is stuff that is likely beyond the mental capability of these automatic, mechanical centrists.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved
First published in The Malaysian Insider on January 30 2012.

2 Responses to “[2497] When the middle path is a waste of time”

  1. on 04 Feb 2012 at 12:19 hamzah

    Saudara hafiz,

    I got one question. sorry, because it might sound stupid. I’m a young exec in KL earning less than RM3k permonth, and I have to pay for Income Tax. What I know is, those oilpalmers, rubbertappers etc especially those in FELDA (because they have 10 acres of land) can easily earned more than RM5K++ income. I believe most of them are not paying any income tax. But I’m not so sure they are obliged to pay or not)

    Is it fair for those like me living in KL with higher cost of living,need to pay for tax, but those farmer need not. Living in KL today with income less than RM3K is just enough for basic living.

    any comment?

  2. on 05 Feb 2012 at 22:02 Hafiz Noor Shams

    I don’t know whether they don’t pay income tax (they probably do if they earn more than RM2,500), but it’s reasonable to say that the living cost in KL is higher than (most) elsewhere. A person can be worse off living in KL despite higher wages (even without tax consideration).

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