Life is all about compromise, people say. Don’t I know it. That is, don’t I know that people say it. Personally, I don’t think it’s true. When people say this, they are conflating “life” with “society” and even then, they are limiting the concept of “society” to how the powerful define it, not to how it really is, has been, or could be.
As it stands, “compromise” is nothing more than a means of preserving the status quo, which inevitably elevates greed over need. Agreeing to compromise is presented as mature, but it’s really just compliant. In this Orwellian perspective, rolling over is standing up.
When I look around at what amounts to “the left” in the US, I find it to be full of compromises, with nearly nothing be excited about.
Yes I’ll support a campaign for a $15 minimum wage. But what I really want is a world where the necessities of life are no longer monetized. Money creates artificial scarcity, and is a tool of control.
Yes, I’ll support non-discrimination in employment. But what I really want is an end to the employer-employee relationship, whether the employer is a mom-and-pop or a multinational corporation. That relationship is exploitative at its core.
Yes, I’ll support immigrants. But what I really want is a planet without borders. The nation-state is recent invention, and it’s no coincidence that its rise has tracked with industrialism and capitalism. As a means of organization, it is fundamentally inequitable.
Yes, I’ll support women going into politics and business. But what I really want is to smash patriarchy, and all the political and business institutions that go with it.
Yes, I’ll support tenant rights. But what I really want is to end to the landlord-tenant relationship, whether the owner is an individual or a bank, and whether the arrangement is a lease or a mortgage. Nobody should have to pay for a roof over their head.
Yes, I’ll support voting rights. But what I really want is a legitimate, participatory democracy, driven by people, not money or power, in which leadership is a role that is filled only as needed, not a club to bludgeon people with. Our current system excludes by default, when inclusivity is the only approach that will work for making a just society.
Yes, I’ll support Medicare-for-all. But what I really want is an approach to health that is holistic, based on plants not pharmies, and that draws on all the world’s effective traditions, not just Victorian-era European premises.
Yes, I’ll support “science.” But what I really want is a worldview that also embraces the value of the ineffable. The dismal reductionism of our day that masquerades as “reason” strips life of essential intrinsic qualities, and encourages us to act without sensitivity to that which we cannot measure or weigh.
Yes, I’ll support funding for education. But what I really want is for the restitution of lifeways where coercion is not a method for helping children learn how to live in the world. Schools are far more about obedience and than they are about education.
Yes, I’ll support cuts to “defense” spending (as if anybody even talks about that anymore). But what I really want is an absolute end to US imperialism, including the closing of all overseas military bases and the dismantling of the entire nuclear arsenal.
Yes, I’ll support a “Green New Deal.” But what I really want is to drastically curtail our consumption. No energy-producing technology is truly “renewable.” Solar, wind and water all harm the environment through their production and operation.
Yes, I’ll support socialism over capitalism. But what I really want is for the means of production to be dismantled, not merely seized by another set of hands. Industrialism rapes the environment no matter who owns it.
Yes, I’ll support fairer laws. But what I really want is the abolition of prisons and the so-called justice system. Furthermore, the punitive urge itself must be excised as a cultural fixture.
Yes, I’ll support marriage equality. But what I really want is to end the institution of marriage itself, it being a property-based relic of the Bronze Age.
Yes, I’ll support environmental regulations. But what I really want is a world in which we put the Earth First!
Yes, I’ll support setting aside public land for “preservation.” But what I really want is to return it to the Native Americans.
Yes, I’ll support organic farming. (In fact, I made my living as an organic farmer for a decade.) But what I really want is an end to the agricultural mindset, which is based on the domination of nature. We must return to a cooperative relationship with the planet and all life on it, through practices like wildtending.
Yes, I’ll support veganism because animal agriculture is so gross. But what I really want is to stop the division of living things into categories that are not okay to kill (animals) and the ones that are (everything else apparently). Only by recognizing the legitimacy of all forms of life can we eliminate cruelty.
Yes, I’ll support the arts. But what I really want is a culture where music doesn’t belong to musicians, singing to singers, dancing to dancers, painting to painters, sculpture to sculptors, and poetry to poets. By elevating the “artist” we have stolen creative expression from everyday people and everyday life, and have manufactured something individual and rarefied from what should be common and communal.
Yes, I’ll support individual freedom. But what I really want is to focus primarily on collective responsibility. How our choices affect others should be the first consideration of any decision-making process, with those “others” being not just other humans.
So yes, I’ll support all these things, in part because I respect that the people working for them are driven by compassion. But what I really want is much more, although in another way of considering it, much less: This project we call “civilization” is too much. Our task now must be to scale back, power down, and simplify. Each additional day of compromise is another assault on a liveable environment.
And this is the key point that is nearly always forgotten: All the non-humans creatures on this planet are subjected to our “compromises” but they are not parties to negotiating them. In that way, nothing at all—nothing!—that we civilized humans do is ever truly a compromise, but is always an imposition.