Each of our individual actions is like a single spider web, fragile perhaps but, when united with others, capable of halting the lion of war.Although the Third Side is in its infancy in our modern-day societies, it has been used effectively by simpler cultures for millennia to reduce violence and promote dialogue.
Extremism is a complex phenomenon, although its complexity is often hard to see.
Most simply, it can be defined as activities (beliefs, attitudes, feelings, actions, strategies) of a person or group far removed from the ordinary.
Ultimately, we must leave this for the reader to decide, hopefully in a manner that is informed by the specifics of the situation they face, and mindful of the relative values of the different perspectives outlined above.
Depending on one's perspective, extremism can have both positive and negative consequences.
In conflict settings it manifests as a severe form of conflict engagement.
However, the labeling of activities, people, and groups as "extremist," and the defining of what is "ordinary" in any setting is always a subjective and political matter.Extreme acts, even if committed by a small minority within a group, are often attributed to the entire group, and elicit an escalated response from the other side.At times, such responses are desired, as in the case of "spoilers" whose aim it is to stop peace processes which they believe to be exclusive or a betrayal of their cause.Frequently, extremists are fringes that represent what the larger community is unable (or unwilling) to represent.The dichotomy is particularly relevant when violence is used.Violent extremism is one of the fundamental concerns of much of the world's leadership and general population of today.This article was written before the development of ISIS, though al Queda had recently made its presence much more salient in the US with its attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9-11. No more critical challenge faces each of us, and all of us together, than how to live together in a world of differences.Ultimately, extremist ideologies, actions, and hostile inter-group interactions lead to a hardening of oppositional identities and deep ingroup commitments which contribute to the perpetuation of hostilities.There are a variety of approaches used by leaders, diplomats, military experts, third parties, and others to address extremism, which fall on a continuum from total elimination of extremists to total engagement.The Third Side is the community -- us -- in action protecting our most precious interests in safety and well-being.It suggests 10 practical roles any of us can play on a daily basis to stop destructive fighting in our families, at work, in our schools, and in the world.