A Free Radical

This seed of an idea just got watered, reading the works of Paulo Freire,
Who teaches radicalism.
At the core of this teaching is that outward change has to come from deep within ourselves
That we must awaken the thirst for knowledge and justice within the soil of our minds
And feed on the community around us
Entwine, and grow,
Cross-pollenating, growing with our neighbours.
A garden can’t be a garden without every flower
And every flower started off as a seed
Which grew roots.
But that word – radicalism. Where does it come from?
I remembered seeing the word in other contexts: chemistry. Linguistics. Politics.
How can a word apply to so many different fields with such different results?
So I dug around and found its etymology
Radix is latin for Root.
Of course! everything has roots.
We trace our lineage back to the first primates, the first mammals, the first fish, the first cells
Spreading out like a network
Looking like any old family tree
And with this new information, the seed grew into thoughts, and now in this writing, into action, as I spread the pollen of this analysis.

In Chemistry, a radical is an incomplete molecule
It’s out of balance
It’s charged
Full of electricity, ready to pounce, ready to steal an electron that another element is hogging
They are among the most volatile substances we know of.
For example, Hydroxyl, a single hydrogen and a single oxygen
Missing that tenth proton to make the water that we all need to live.
Released into the pollution in our rivers and upper atmosphere
It latches on to the toxins that we put there
Every single molecule effecting one single chemical reaction
Leaving the stuff of life in its wake
In other words
It is on these tiny particles that we rely
To clean up the mess left by industrial progress.

In Linguistics, a radical is a word with suffix and prefix removed
It’s the origin,
Ready to turn coat by reversing its meaning with an “un-” becoming “un-lawful”
Or sell out, adding “mega-” or “extra-” so it can get a little more.
We can say more with a radical than with a prefix,
And by increasing our knowledge of radicals
Not only do we understand where we come from
But what has changed us.
Rather than react to injustice, and be bemused by racists,
I will act.
I will be just.
I will be a muse,
And I will break the braces by embracing our singular race.
In other words,
By looking to the core of our vocabulary,
We can speak with care and precision.

For Freire, a radical is someone devoted to changing the system at its very base
Someone who rejects all form of domination used by the Oppressors who will henceforth be referred to as “The Man” that you all know and fear.
Someone dedicated to inspecting the system
Shaking it at its roots until its strange fruit drops
Pruning dead stalks
Pulling out weeds
And encouraging the growth of new systems which will bring us joy as a people
Instead of strife as individuals.
Radicals, when grouped together,
Released into these polluted systems,
Will cleanse
Every single person doing everything possible for one single life
Removing excess, filling gaps, simplifying solutions
Creating a new, diverse vocabulary
And in doing so, growing to the full potential of the human imagination
It’s not too late to be a radical
Every flower has to start somewhere
And we can’t make this garden without a lot of flowers.
In other words
By being radical,
We can plant ourselves in this Earth once more.


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