I’m autistic. I found that out earlier this year. I can’t speak for all autistic people, but I can tell you that I personally need to know the truth with a capital T. And I’ve read a lot of research on autism that suggests this is a fairly common trait among those of us on the spectrum. Living in a post-truth world is an endless source of anxiety for me. Every day, I’m bombarded with conflicting messages. Which do I believe? Any attempt to answer that question inevitably leads me down a rabbit hole of articles, hot takes and videos, all of which are just as suspect as the claim I set out to research.
Four years ago, my platform was a little larger than it is now. I had a prominent role in the Zeitgeist Movement, which appeals to many leftists. I tried to convince my American friends to vote for Hillary Clinton because I believed that we have a moral duty to elect the lesser evil.
I’m not American; I can’t vote in their elections, but I had a platform. A lot of Americans listened to me, and therefore I had a duty to use that platform responsibly. So, I told them to vote for Hillary. In so doing, I wrote apologia for fracking, for war crimes. Here’s a screenshot from an article that TeleSur never published. Thank God. These are my words.
Most people lie. In many cases, they don’t even realize they’re doing it. The correct way to make a decision is to analyze the situation and then choose the course of action that produces the best outcomes for everyone involved. In the words of Jacques Fresco, “We don’t make decisions, we arrive at decisions.”
But most people don’t do that.
Instead, they start with a decision that they’ve made for dubious reasons, and then they try to convince themselves of whatever would need to be true to justify that course of action.
For four years, I have lived with the constant, nagging guilt of my lie. It didn’t help that I was in love with a Clinton supporter, and I had to convince myself that Lily would never turn a blind eye to war crimes. My motivations were impure. I made the wrong choice.
I promised myself that this year I wasn’t going to do that again. No lies, no apologia. I would set a basic moral standard, and I would not use my platform — small as it is — to endorse any candidate who failed to meet that standard. No war crimes, no history of sexual assault. If you can’t meet even that bare minimum standard, then you don’t deserve to lead. It doesn’t matter who the competition is.
Biden fails that simple test.
To meet the standard I set for myself, I would have to denounce Biden and endorse Hawkins. Anything else would make me a hypocrite.
And yet despite that fact, I’ve gone back and forth several times. I’ve told my friends to hold their nose and vote for Joe. I’ve also come out in support of the Green Party. I kept asking myself, “Why can’t I just pick one?” I don’t even have to vote in this fucking election, and I’m tied up in knots! Why can’t I just choose?
And then it hit me.
I keep bouncing around, going back and forth, because I’m not trying to win an argument. I’m not trying to justify a decision that I’ve already made. I’m trying to find the truth.
I can’t choose a side because there aren’t two sides here. There never were. There’s only one side: humanity. What is the final answer? Lesser evil or vote your conscience? Biden or a third party? I can’t find one because this is the wrong question.
If we want to avoid a climate catastrophe, if we want to stop the evictions or get the pandemic under control, then there is only one relevant question: what is the most effective method of organizing and taking direct action? What is the strategy that puts the Left in a position to make the changes we need?
I can’t answer that question here because it’s not a question that any one person can answer on their own. It really comes down to the most basic tenet of Bernie’s philosophy: not me, us. We have to answer that question together.
To do that, we have to stop sniping at each other and vilifying each other. AOC is not a sellout because she chose to support Biden. Chris Hedges is not a Russian plant because he chose the Green Party. We have to entertain the ghastly notion that the people who disagree with us might have good reasons for taking the positions they do.
I think the most grievous thing capitalism ever did to the Left was teaching us to embrace the Marketplace of Ideas. Different factions fight it out, and the strongest idea wins. Because it’s a dominance contest. And solidarity is fundamentally antithetical to dominance. Solidarity requires empathy, compassion and the willingness to understand someone else’s point of view. The ability to care about someone else’s problems.
If Sarah thinks people should vote Biden and I think people should vote third party, then the way to deal with that is for me to listen to Sarah’s concerns and really care about them. And then she should do the same for me. And together we chart a new course.
That’s my final answer.
Stop fighting with each other and start caring about each other. Stop treating those who see things differently as corporate shills or petulant children. I finally get what Chomsky was trying to say: voting is only a small part of your activism. The rest is building solidarity.
If the Biden supporters are afraid of the spread of fascism under Donald Trump, then maybe we elect Biden to prevent that. And if the third-party voters want a voice and a party that represents their interests, then we immediately start working together to build up a genuine left-wing alternative. That’s not the course of action I’m advocating. It’s merely one example of how we could work together. Maybe we do something completely different. But whatever we do, we do it together. So, let’s go.
Rich Penney is a science fiction author. You can check out his work here.