The Google Dictionary defines mainstream as “the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or the arts.” In conventional use, this definition of mainstream works, but we can get confused and use the term improperly.
The use of the word “mainstream” implies it to be in the middle. That’s the mental picture we get, anyway, and this middle requires two extreme ends. But that delivers the wrong impression: go out on the street and ask people if they like “extreme views”. Be they Tea Party or hard line Socialist, they’ll likely say no. This connotation of “extreme” is not helping anyone. What is extreme in America is commonplace in Europe. What is commonplace in Europe is liberal trash in Singapore. Extreme is bad, follow the majority! Follow the masses. So the saying goes.
Now let’s pretend we’re all in school…in the hood. Most of your classmates have smoked pot or sniffed crack, at least once or twice before. That’s mainstream for you. Extreme isn’t being a nerd or a suck up…it’s not smoking pot. Not doing something that the mainstream does suddenly makes you extreme – and that’s ok.
Back to reality. When we hear the media’s rambling of the mainstream, we must caution ourselves, especially when its from a region of the world other than our own. When we hear of the notorious “radical” Hugo Chavez, remember that Venezuela elected him. Many times. Peacefully. Fairly. The socialists of Venezuela are mainstream. Radicals are us, intruders who want to provide them with some sort of weird foreign capitalist concept. When we scream and cry about the world being radical because they are different, we think we are mainstream. And we aren’t, not always. When the UN voted for Palestine to become a nonvoting member of the chamber- effectively a semi-nation (whatever the hell that means) – we were the radicals. Only 8 radical extremist countries voted no to the proposition, and we were one of those countries. And to say we are wrong because we are extreme is, well, wrong.
To call the mainstream as who agrees with us is flawed logic. To say that following the middle is the best idea is ludicrous. Our progression as a species could not have happened without radicals: from the left and the right. To turn people down because they have widely varying opinions from ours is stupid, a word I will use more and more as I write. Our media pampers our flawed logic in this regard. CNN wouldn’t dare interview a communist on live prime time television – only on mini editorials that you’ll never find on the front page. Let alone Fox. This is despite the hundreds of millions of communists out there, who have opinions we must think about. The danger of not doing so is losing sight of values another part of the world may have that we don’t. That leads to bigotry, hatred, and ignorance. We must learn to embrace differences and learn them where they are, lest we confuse our values for the world’s. “Learn, even unto China”, the Islamic Prophet Muhammad once said. There is no reason to not do so.