The Wages of Compromise

Oh happy day! It’s mission-accomplished time in Iraq (again), the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has evaporated into history, landmark financial reform and health care reform legislation has passed, the economy is recovering, and we’ll be out of Afghanistan by next year. What more could we want? Well, for starters, how about a glimpse of reality.

These claims are so absurd, they don’t even make for convincing satire. The real irony is that much of what passes for progressive mainstream media endorses this kind of surreal propaganda. The so-called alternative progressive media, if not embracing the lies outright, is willing to play the usual “better than nothing” game of self delusion. Look what we’ve accomplished! What a great first step!

Take the financial “reform” bill. We’ll probably be hearing a lot from progressives about the whistleblower provisions in this bill. This legislation was crafted by corporate lobbyists and works largely to the benefit of their clients. But watch as progressive apologists focus on an anomaly in the bill which provides anonymity to whistleblowers and stipulates a bounty be paid for information leading to successful prosecutions. What a tasty morsel to assuage the hunger of the starving masses! The assumption is, anonymous rewards for whistleblowers will encourage more people to come forward. In addition, costly bounties, on top of fines for malfeasance, will miraculously transform corporate behavior.

Even if one is deluded enough to believe the SEC will enforce this provision in the bill in any substantive manner, since when have financial penalties ever changed corporate behavior? Such fines are chump change to the multinationals. They aren’t deterrents to corporate crime, only additional line items to be included in future budget projections. In recent years, BP has paid more than $730 million in fines. This hasn’t prevented them from continuing to destroy our environment, killing dozens of people in the process, while at the same time posting huge profits.

Progressives have become well accustomed to compromising their core values to achieve meaningless victories. They cite minuscule gains as justification for their participation in a system which repeatedly disenfranchises them. In this way, they become willing partners in the advancement of the corporate agenda. The financial reform bill, like all legislation, is written by and for corporations. But let’s rally ´round some deceptively positive item in the bill so we can maintain the illusion of progress. What rubbish.

In 2008, in exchange for lame promises to end the war in Iraq, a vast majority of the anti-war movement not only endorsed, but campaigned for and enthusiastically promoted a pro-war candidate. As a result, Barack Obama came into office with a mandate to escalate the war in Afghanistan and expand it into Pakistan. The primary goal of the anti-war movement was sacrificed to the lunatic notion that “half a loaf is better than none.” As it turns out, we’re not even getting half a slice. Surprise, surprise.

As our consumer economy digests itself and passes the poor, working poor and fading middle class like a bowel movement into the toilet of destitution, we seem unable to raise more than a whimper from progressives. They remain happily ensconced in steerage on board the ship of state as the power elite in the ballroom overhead raise a toast to U.S. Empire and perpetual war. The so-called liberal opposition has become nothing more than a subculture of this failed system of class warfare we mistakenly call democracy.

The bloated and obscene military industrial complex indiscriminately kills and maims innocents around the world in order to maintain its capitalist hegemony. Meanwhile, our rogue partner, Israel, inflames the Middle East with its rapacious ethnocentric colonial objectives. The ongoing brutal racism and ethnic cleansing in Palestine is blatant. It takes a monumental effort on the part of progressives to ignore the horrors being unleashed on the Palestinian people using our tax dollars. But ignore it they do. They wouldn’t want to alienate the Israel Lobby. That might jeopardize progressives’ political objectives. So they forget about justice and agree not to talk about the Zionist bull in the human-rights china shop.

Many alternative news sites rarely mention Israel or Palestinian human rights. Perhaps the thinking is, if you can’t find something positive to say, why say anything at all? Have you been to lately? How about These two progressive-except-for-Palestine sites have joined forces in their mission to promote what they perceive to be a progressive agenda, for everyone but Palestinians. You would think the Israel Lobby has no impact on world affairs at all if these were your only sources of information.

As for the “liberal” mainstream media, you can probably count on one hand the number of times Rachel Maddow has used the ‘P’ word since her ascendence to the corporate media throne. What about Keith Olberman? If you catalog his coverage of Palestine over the last seven years it would make for a very short list. These progressive icons have a strict “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy when it comes to Israel.

But the blue ribbon for hypocrisy concerning Palestine goes to Thom Hartmann, the intellectual darling of progressive talk radio. His pro-Zionist mindset establishes a new standard for willful denial. Israel’s barbaric attack in 2009 on the one-and-a-half million defenseless civilians imprisoned in Gaza resulted in the deaths of more than 1400 people, 350 of them children under the age of fifteen. On his radio program, Hartmann pointed out that this was hardly what one would call a massacre. If those had been Israeli children murdered, he may have taken a slightly different position on the matter.

When criticized for their blind support of Barack “Killer-Drone” Obama, progressives produce such absurd rejoinders as, “What would you have had us do, elect John McCain?” The real question in 2008, and in 2004 as well, should have been, “Why are we working to elect a pro-war corporatist?”

Embracing honest logic is difficult for many progressives. They prefer to cling to their religion of “hope and change” and suffer the wages of compromise, unwilling to face the simple truth. The system has diverted the energy and resources of the Left from our main objectives. We have become pawns within this self-perpetuating, parasitic corporatocracy. Our voices have been co-opted to facilitate its Orwellian existence.

Uh-oh. Conundrum. You mean to say that reasoned dialogue won’t save us; the status quo can’t be amended and made to conform to our naive expectations; we can’t work from within to excise the cancerous tumor that is our government? Everyone begins to wring their hands and wipe sweat from their brows (using facial tissue made from recyled paper, of course). Minds close, eyes glaze over. The collective hard drive of the Left crashes and everyone is stunned into silence. The screen flashes the ominous error message, “What Now? What Now?”

Hey, I know. Let’s head off to the polls in the next election and vote against the most terrible option. That should solve the problem. Let’s continue marching in lockstep right over the lesser-of-two-evils cliff into oblivion. Let’s give pro-war corporatists the keys to the national treasury and watch in dismay as they transfer it into the pockets of the power elite while continuing to wage senseless wars against people all over the planet. Let’s empower yet another gang of lying, sociopathic stewards of empire and hope they don’t wreak more havoc than the previous bunch. There’s a plan we haven’t tried before!

If this madness appears to be a hopeless, downward spiral into totalitarianism and despair, that’s because it is. We are taking the same action over and over again, expecting different results. Insanity has replaced rationality.

It may seem like there are few options available to us. Certainly there are none at all if we continue to push that familiar boulder up the hill, only to watch it roll back down again. But if we can buck up and face reality, retire the usual song and dance routine which is getting us nowhere, then this will allow alternative strategies to develop. Once we disengage from the status quo, stop sacrificing our principles and resources in pursuit of pointless compromise, the passionate minds of the Left will come up with different approaches. We just need to establish a few simple guidelines to keep us on course.

First, compromise is for deciding what color to paint the bathroom. While common ground may be a great place to debate acceptable means to an end, if that common ground is in a pool of someone else’s blood, we must refuse to go there. Our objectives must be non-negotiable. They should not include the occasional splatter of the blood of innocents. Politics may be the art of the possible, but advocacy for human rights should be absolute. We cannot tolerate “some” inhumanity, nor sacrifice justice for the sake of achieving a resolution.

Second, reconciliation is an objective, not a strategy. Anger is not violence; being non-violent doesn’t require us to be passive or even peaceful.The penchant many on the Left have for “respectful dialogue” is admirable. But it’s time to get over it and get angry. We are in a very small boat on rough seas. If some posturing fools stand up, threatening to capsize the boat, there isn’t much point in having a polite discussion with them. The only rational response is to tell them, “Sit down before you drown us all!” Say it loudly, and impolitely if need be, to make yourself heard above the noise of the threatening storm. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in the water having a less-than-mutually-respectful dialogue with hungry sharks.

Third, and most important of all, stop voting! It only enables the status quo. What is this obsession we have with participating in a system which excludes the values and principles we believe in? If the menu consists of nothing but poisonous food, refuse to sit down at the table. The corporatocracy will never offer us candidates for national office who represent progressive values. Name any President and most members of Congress over the last 100 years. These are people who have participated in the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children around the globe. Their legacy belongs on trial in the Hague. Why do we continue to champion their fetid Empire, for any reason, under any circumstances?

Unyielding commitment to the principles of human rights and social justice would provide the incentive we need to abandon this cycle of capitulation and instigate a true social revolution. Once we disengage from this inhumane paradigm, no longer lend our voices to its perpetuation, a world of possibilities will be open to us. It’s not as if we would be abandoning a program of proven success. The only thing we know for certain is what doesn’t work.

In the last national election, roughly 130 million people showed up at the polls. Are you enjoying Bush’s third term yet? How many of those people hold progressive views? What would happen on election day if even as few as two percent of that 130 million showed up in Washington D.C. and cast a real vote for change. Imagine, millions of unarmed, non-violent people (too many to shoot, too many to arrest) converging on the heart of darkness to silence it, permanently.

Chaos you say? Anarchy? “OMB (oh my Buddha), what will we do now? With its head removed, this misbegotten leviathan, this bloodthirsty purveyor of terror, death and destruction, will cease to function.”

Hmmm…need we say more?

Until we refuse to endorse the criminality of our Empire, refuse to participate in our own deception, refuse to give our power to maniacs, the Left will continue to be an anachronism which pays lip service to progressive ideals. Isn’t it time we tried something new?

JOE MOWREY is an anti-war activists and an advocate for Palestinian rights. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his spouse and their three radical canines as well as the seventeen-year old anarchist cat, Holmes. He can be reached at