Friday, June 5, 2015

Don't do it if it hurts inside

Here's what I find about compromise -
Don't do it if it hurts inside,
Cause either way you're screwed,
And eventually you'll find
You may as well feel good;
You may as well have some pride...

- Indigo Girls, Second Time Around

Compromise is, in many ways, a wonderful and necessary thing that enables people to live with each other without resorting to an exhausting non-stop dominance war. (Although, that happens, too). Being able to give a little to get a little, being able to seek for and find a middle ground, is a vital skill  to have, living in the world. Understanding that you can't always get your own way, and that this is actually OK, is an important part of adulting, and I am all for it.


Compromise has another connotation, one that I think is a lot more insidious and damaging than  "let's find a solution we can all live with" pragmatism. Compromise can also be about making choices that you know are wrong, or at least suboptimal, in order to gain something, or fit in, or keep the peace, or not feel awkward feelings, or not have hard conversations. It's no coincidence that describing someone as "hopelessly compromised" is not a compliment, or that personal corruption often begins with seemingly small compromises.

Those are the kinds of compromises that hurt inside, because they damage something very real in a person's ethical sense. Make enough of them, and empathy and self-esteem start to decay. I have met people throughout my life who are so compromised in themselves that they seem to have lost all sense of not just who they are, but who anyone else is either, and why decency even matters in how they behave to others.

Look, it's true - not compromising on your ethics and beliefs will have consequences too, and some of them really hard ones. Either way you're screwed, indeed. But if I'm going to pick a side to get whipped on, I will try as much as I can to pick being attacked for positions, actions or speech consistent with my ethics and my beliefs, rather than deal with the moral rot that follows suppressing, hiding or lying about them in order to keep an even keel.

So, no, I won't stop posting on Facebook and Twitter about asylum seeker torture. Actually, I'm not inclined to let homophobia and transphobia pass quietly when I hear it. As it happens, I won't go along when people make racist and classist chitchat, even when it's hella awkward to call it out.

I may as well have some pride, y'know. That's what it comes down to, in the end.

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