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Saturday, July 30, 2016

They also want to monopolize your pity

There needs to be a better term to describe the messianic tendencies of the extreme white liberal. The kind of person who’s turned ‘inclusiveness’ into a sermon. The type of sheltered suburban dweller who wants to invite a rainbow of different ethnicities into formerly white enclaves, occupations, institutions and clubs.

I call this ‘Passive Aggressive White Supremacy’, the unspoken, and mostly subliminal belief that everything that’s been built up white people must be shared with non-white people of the world, except Asians, because it’s so wonderful and the lack of access to these expressions of whitetopia are what is holding down the brown man. The subconscious belief that all ethnicities must validate that which white people created, because denying them access to this rich world is the greatest sin.

I think something deeper than self-hatred drives inflames their passions. People hate themselves, accept their defeat in resignation and disappear, never to be heard from again. Into the absolute freedom of having no hope. They self-destruct through drugs and mindless rebellion, they don’t devote their lives to helping people who never asked and probably will never return the sentiment in their lifetimes. People wallowing in self-hate don’t volunteer to teach URMs in ghetto schools. Defeated people don’t spend their youthful years dreaming of community organizing and fighting for ‘social justice.’

Behind the desire to invite the world non-whites into spaces that are identified as white is an implicit assumption, never articulated, that these worlds are the best expressions of whatever ideal they represent. Kids fighting for inclusiveness at Ivy Leagues aren’t trying to destroy it but to invite everyone else into the awesomeness that is a bunch of colleges built to train clergy in pre revolution America. It certainly isn’t to do anything for the HBCUs or to even understand their role in black America.

There’s a streak of condescension behind even the most altruistic seeming acts and gestures of charity. You help people because they are beneath you and you can do something that they cannot do for themselves. To give charity, however benevolent the intention, you’re establish where both of you exist on the status hierarchy. If you truly considered them equals, you wouldn’t need to help them and you wouldn’t think of doing so in the first place. Once you see the mindset in that way, a lot of the social justice warrior meme makes a lot more sense. Their starting point is not that white people have sinned against the world, but that we haven’t invited everyone else to bask in the great world that white people built and kept the rest out of.

Think of the sheltered white women who spend years working in Africa, generating thousands of Instagram pictures with smiling third-worlders. Think of prep school kids trying to make: tennis, golf, mountain climbing, and even polo more ‘inclusive’. Think of square white kids fighting imaginary fascist University administrations whom they imagine are keeping hordes of desperate black and brown teenagers out of their hallowed gates. Think of the idealistic white lay grads who fill the ranks of public defenders offices, underserved public schools, ‘community out-reach’ programs and the like.

These kids certainly aren’t out there getting into rap battles, or customizing their low riders to cruise around in. They aren’t going to trashy Sunday church services in some non-descript neighborhood. They’re not watching Univision, or the Steve Harvey show. They’re not hosting quincea├▒eras in their back yards. In short, they’re not taking part in a foreign culture in the way that people who’ve lost faith in their own would do. They love the white world and think everyone else will succumb to its’ superior ways once we do away with ‘Structural Racism’ or ‘White Privilege’.

The philosophical underpinnings of white privilege never deny that, for the last few centuries, white people have been doing most of the ‘winning’ on a global stage. This is winning in the way defined by Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen. The winning of conquering and not being conquered, of spreading your culture and mores, not absorbing them. This is a subject that I’ll deal with in another piece.

Passive Aggressive White Superiority is merely an expression of the White Person Messiah Complex that’s tailored for our more sensitive age. Generations ago, Jesuits and Missionaries spanned the globe to save the downtrodden from Sin. The British made it their mission to ‘civilize the world, while the Chinese were content to keep to themselves, implicit in their superiority over the world. Of course, white people just can’t come right out and bask in their superiority by trying to save those they subconsciously consider inferior, so they have to code it, even from themselves.

So they make a new religion with its’ own original sin, the failure of historic white people to include the world’s other races, except Asians, into his great legacies. Inventions, economies, legal doctrines, institutions and cultures that are thought to be superior to all else by the very assertion that everyone else would’ve thrived had they been given access. It’s a form of racial pride expressed in the passive-aggressive language of today's sheltered youth that makes the white man superior by demoting all other races to mindless victims of his machinations. Even when they try to make it about the downtrodden minorities, the Passive Aggressive White Supremacist still shunts the objects of their pity to the role of a supporting character.

It may seem insane to blame white people for ‘structural racism’ for all manner of ills that plague URM communities and third-world hell holes, but it makes perfect sense if you believe, deep in the soul of your being, that only white people have the power and moral authority to fix it. It seems like compassion, but it’s really a form of condescension, as are most of the expressions of Passive Aggressive White Supremacy.

At least real White Supremacists just come out and state their beliefs.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Accidental Classics: Robocop II

What’s an ‘Accidental Classic’?

It’s not the opposite of a classic film but one that achieves lasting artistic merit by accident. A film like ‘Apocalypse Now’ or ‘Casablanca’ achieves classic status by measure of some alchemy and talent. Luck played a role but the films achieve more or less the aims intended by their creators in both formal elements and in greater thematic reach.

An accidental classic is a film that becomes more than the sum of the parts by being less. Where half-assed interpretation of an idea or a failure to grasp the depth of a subject makes a film that’s far more interesting than it would have been had the creative team been firing on all cylinders. Where not getting the thrust of idea leads to a far more interesting take on that theme. Films like this typically appear during transitions in the business model of the entertainment industry where the idea people and the production staff aren’t on the same page. Usually this results in nonsense and drivel, occasionally insanity gets filtered through a team of staid professional and you get something like ‘Robocop 2’.

Robocop made a lot of money in 1987 so the studio heads wanted a sequel but the Jesus Allegory slash satire of 80s excess didn’t lend itself to a sequel. The original writers came up with some Zardoz like concept that involved Robocop reanimating from metallic dust in a dystopian future that suggests they’d spent too much time on hallucinogens. Orion pictures then hired ‘dark’ comic book auteur Frank Miller to write the script and an art house picture director to helm it. The pressures of budget, impending release dates forced everyone to move forward before a clear concept was in hand.

Tim Hunter left the production over ‘creative’ differences to be replaced by Irvin Kirshner (Empire Strikes Back) at the eleventh hour and hack screenwriter Walon Green was hired to ‘punch up’ Frank Miller’s insane original script. But there wasn’t enough time to come up with a coherent concept so most of Frank Miller’s insane, teenaged misanthropic ideas made it through to the final movie, albeit filtered by a sober group of professionals who treated them as perfectly normal story telling conventions. The end result is suggests a great depth of vision that probably wasn’t intended and a detailed world through casting and little character bits that grounds a funhouse view of America vision of the future in a mundane reality.

Now that dorks have taken over large swaths of pop culture it’s easy to forget that genre films used to be made by normal adults who did normal adult things. Instead of obsessing over comics concerning some dude in a bat costume fighting another dude in clown makeup, they went to parties, they had hobbies, they read books and enjoyed theatre. They had affairs and a curiosity about the wider world, even if it was shallow. In fact you could make a time line of batman interpretations to show the progression/decline as adults left the room.

The Adam West batman series was made by men who had living memories of depression era America and serving in World War II. If you remembered real poverty and survived that to storm the beaches at Normandy or survived Japanese night attack on a Pacific destroyer at Guadalcanal, the concept of a grown man in a bat costume with boy side kick whose chief villain is a grown man who wears clown make up can only be interpreted as high camp. No batman movie was made in the seventies unless you count ‘Death Wish’ and other vigilante movies that came with the urban crime wave. That movie’s about a man with a gun and the will to use it, what Batman is once you strip away the toys, the lair and the costume.

A generation later gave us Tim Burton’s batman made in the cocaine fueled 80s, a film which offers some peeks into the mind of an adult with a bat costume but was set in a surreal impressionistic fantasy world that at least side steps the ridiculousness of the entire concept and maintains some of the camp humor inherent to the idea of the Batman. Then came Christopher Nolan’s dead serious philosophical treatises about justice, the rise and fall of civilizations and dystopia which feel like having a fourteen year old in a trench coat giving me a lecture about the corruption of the world. The Dark Knight is a film by comic book nerds, reviewed by comic book nerds and deified by comic book nerds who need themes underlined and equate ‘dark’ with quality.

Robocop II was made when people who’d never cared about comic books in the first place were still making summer blockbusters. The original Robocop was made before Paul Verhoven’s nasty mean streak overwhelmed his critical faculties was remarkably prescient in predicting looming pension crisis, the spread or urban blight and with ever increasing militarization of the police with Robocop as a stand in for S.W.A.T teams, armored personnel carriers and the like. Robocop was more or less the movie that its’ creators wished to make, even if the crime lord presented in the film is a balding middle-aged white man with glasses who’s called Clarence Boddicker.

Years after the events in the original Robocop, Detroit is on the verge of bankruptcy, the police are on strike due to their pensions getting cut (did someone involved with this film have a time machine?), and a new drug is accelerating the descent of Detroit into full blown urban blight. Mega corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) wants to take Detroit private in a foreclosure and introduce the heavily armed Robocop Mark II to clean up the slums to pave the way for a gleaming gentrified future.

Based on Sin City, Frank Miller has the worldview of a really smart thirteen year old boy who absorbs a lot of pop culture but doesn’t have any deep interests beyond that. He also writes women from the perspective of a guy who views them with a mix of lust and terror. There’s a difference between a precocious teenager’s view of a corrupt system in decline and grown adult’s view of the same process. Unlike the kid in the trenchcoat, the grown adult gets the joke. Adults all around him are bluffing and pretending to care, but then people go on with their lives and have a drink at the bar. It’s the difference between your teenaged fantasies about role playing a pure hero on the work stage and the reality of savoring a minor victory after five years on the job.

This is a film that has more than many scene of grown criminals taking life and death orders from a foul mothed fourth-grader with no explanation or commentary. It’s just presented as mundane reality in the off-kilter world of the film. The drug gang includes a guy who dresses like Elvis and a Paul Abdul clone for no explainable reason that lends a great deal of depth to the group that clearly wasn’t there in the script. The aforementioned drug gang is led by an ex-hippie Jim Jones like style cult leader, a conceit that shouldn’t work except they cast Tom Noonan, a man so good at playing people who’ll skin you alive that he’s probably suspected of every murder that happens within ten miles of him, as the insane drug lord Cain. His equation of Robocop’s vendetta to the persecution of Jesus hints at depths of delusion.

On paper, Frank Miller was probably imagining something closer to gang out of Sin City or something a latter day Quentin Tarantino would imagine. The actual film presents these characters with no background or explanation as if they were familiar archetypes. The cognitive dissonance creates a subconscious illusion of a world gone off-kilter.

It’s a film that takes an insane giant corporation conspiracy that leads to putting a psychotic murderer’s brain in a killer robot and presents it is it were the corporate equivalent of buying a competitor to hide undisclosed debts on a stock report. The evil corporation is presented as an enabler of petty one-upping, passive aggressive sabotage, ass kissing and career agendas that suggests Enron if it had ever gotten into the killer robot business. The depths of corruption between OCP and the city of Old Detroit were largely implied due to time constraints, but that rather than making the backstabbing seem perfunctory, it has the effect of weaving into the web of the story like a Robert Altman film about city politics.

Robocop II features a big city machine mayor who seems influenced by Marion Barry but gets his moments of heroism and humanity while remaining a figure of ridicule. In one scene, after being offered fifty-million dollars in cash from the aforementioned fourth-grade kingpin to stop Detroit’s foreclosure he tells a skeptical underling ‘Why do you have to label people? You know that I hate labels!”. It’s a great throw away character bit that grounds a scene that is surreal only in retrospect, and that speaks volumes about the wacky mayor of Detroit who was a character before his real world counterpart Kwame Kilpatrick was ever elected (again, the makers of this film appear to have predicted the future). Even the denouncement when the corporate villain gets away with it in the end is presented as the result of petty corporate governance protecting its’ own, and not as some grand statement about the corruption of man.

It’s here that Robocop II of all movies make for an interesting comparison to ‘The Dark Knight’. Christopher Nolan makes his statements in grand operatic gestures, announcing the theme, then revealing the theme and then making sure that you appreciate the genius of him having made that theme. The Joker’s evil villainy is revealed during a HEAT ripoff style heist and PG-13 Jigsaw killer pranks that are underlined at every moment. Robocop II features a scene of Tom Noonan’s cult leader Caine calmly watching a man get vivisected with a calm Budda smile in a scene that gave me nightmares and more casual cruelty that’s made more shocking by understatement.

The difference is that Dark Knight takes place in the adult world you imagined when you were fourteen and you were the righteous hero in all your mental stories and the world didn’t understand you. A world that’s darkness is a reflection of you disappointment in realizing that adults actually lie to you and your parents can save you from every bad thing. ‘Robocop’, ‘Robocop II’ and even ‘Darkman’ take place in the real thing. A world of adults take their dystopic surroundings as normal life and develop a sense of humor to deal with it. A world where corruption is rationalized after the fact as something that was the lesser of two evils. A world where normal people do make a difference, even if they’ll never be recognized for that quiet heroism.

More importantly, Robocop II takes presents a world where some people are just insane and evil. Cain isn’t given an origin story that would make his psychotic villainy comprehensible. We learn nothing about Hob, the foul mouthed fourth grade lieutenant, other than his function within the gang, no peeks to his home life, who his parents are what he was like in school. Teenagers really care about what pain drove someone over the edge, adults know that it rarely matters. You deal with people as they are, right now and some are so far over the edge, there is no reasoning with them.

Robocop II even features in Anne Lewis (played by Nancy Allen) an interesting take on the feminist girl power character made potent for clearly being unintentional on ideological grounds. Anne Lewis is depicted as being a heroic cop on the Detroit PD but she’s never shown doing anything wildly beyond the real life abilities of a street smart female cop. She plays a crucial role in two different police gunfights by taking the initiative in a flanking maneuver rather than doing anything specifically badass. She wins her one fist fight by not losing, but she ends up gasping for air on the ground instead of using fantastical karate skills to win the day. With her unremarkable appearance and cheap haircut she even looks like someone you would bump into in line at the local mall. The lack of any background given to her about her personal life, similarly mirrors have your work friendships actually go. Anne Lewis becomes a far more potent feminist statement than the white knighting fantasies of comic book dorks by understatement. She’s a far cry from women from ‘Sin City’ or ‘Iron Man’.

There’s one scene in the film that has tremendous dramatic resonance where an amoral corporate psychologist, Dr. Faxx, convinces Robocop to deny the humanity within himself. Systematically she convinces him to accept that he can never live as a normal human. It’s one of a few scenes where the frantic pace of the film slows down and the camera focuses on faces. What’s left of Alex Murphy needs the hope of human affection and a meaning to go forward and Dr. Faxx needs Robocop to perform like a programmable corporate widget. Clearly intended, originally, as the femme fatale of the piece, is toned down in the final film into someone you’d recognize giving a presentation on risk management at a corporate seminar. She’s meant to be evil, but it’s a subtle evil that goes undiscovered for years as long as it serves the needs of her paymasters. Nor is she ever shown being incompetent. It’s Faxx that identifies a strong sense of duty as what kept Alex Murphy alive once he was reborn as a cyborg and who plants the idea of using a drug addicted cult leader’s brain to power the film’s titular super cyborg.

Robocop Mark II or Robocain is the highlight of a film that was an interesting mix of satire, drama and action film prior to its’ entrance. Realized through stop-motion animation, canny cinematography and inventive sound effects, Robocain comes alive as a menacing mechanical character with a distinct personality. At time resembling a stylized medieval knight, and others, a piece of Imperial military equipment from a nightmare version of the Empire Strikes Back from others, it’s never less than wholly convincing piece of fake military equipment.

The robot villain from the first Robocop, ED-209 was never plausible as a piece of urban combat equipment. It’s too clumsy to handle unimproved surfaces, too large to enter industrial spaces and too heavily armed to be effective at anything short of full blown combat in Baghdad. ED-209 is a bit of corporate satire that’s far too exaggerated to work on the level of the rest of Robocop.

Robocain is a far more plausible extrapolation from the world of Robocop that’s as convincing as Yoda and probably the most terrifying cinematic robot in the history of film. First revealed in a terrifying warehouse massacre that’s more frightening than most scenes in out and out horror films, Robocain has a head, with no face and style of movement that can only be described as ‘swagger’. The overly complicated design keeps you from getting a fixed mental image of the thing, the ratchet like sound effects give it a unique aural signature, and the small flaws in stop motion animation mimic the hyper precise movement of assembly line robots.

The scenes featuring Robocain massacring scores of cops and civilians should be the answer to anyone wondering why Storm Troopers in Star Wars can’t hit anything, and why their armor is useless. This is especially true in the long climax of the film which may be the finest insane robot goes on rampage scene ever put in a motion picture and one that features far more dead heroes and bystanders than typically shown in an ostensive comic style movie.

Again, it’s the insane, adolescent ideas filtered through an adult viewpoint that make the set piece work so well. Robocain is first presented at a corporate press conference by the corrupt Chairman of OCP and then starts a gunfight with Robocop right there in the convention hall. After Robocain mows down bystanders and desperate police officers, the old man scolds the two robots to behave themselves in a surreal moment as if they were children having a water gunfight on his lawn. It’s a hint at the entitlement complex beneath his kindly old man demeanor.

The battle spills out into the streets and the Detroit PD wages a desperate gunfight against the killer robot. Kirshner handled this scene following the convention of a disaster movie instead of an action movie, focusing on the frantic actions of the overmatched police department to protect scores of frightened civilians from gunfire. Civilians are shot trying to flee, television reporters are shot right off their station van, an ambulance is blown into flames. What on the page were probably intended as black humor is treated with dead seriousness lending a degree of terrifying randomness to its’ wrath. However the epic gunfight predates MTV style editing and confusing shaky cam in action scenes and there’s a clear sense of the ebb and flow of the tactics in the gun battle even when Robocop is trying to pull the monster robot’s brain out.

There’s a fantastic moment, after the monster has seemingly been defeated when there’s a pause in the action. People try to wake their dead loved ones, emergency workers carry shell shocked colleagues to safety, police officers tentatively come out from behind the wrecked cars that they were using for cover. It looks like the aftermath of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack with that strange comradery that binds strangers in intense experiences and it’s jarring in an action thriller that usually ignores these moments.

Then there’s a sign that the monster is still alive. Exhausted police officers guide the civilians away from danger and the reporters who are still alive call their stations that they have to leave and make a frantic exit before Robocain re-emerges and, for lack of a better term, pimp walks back into view. There’s a brief shot of the Dr. Jaxx watching her creation with a mix of aww and fear, oblivious to everyone fleeing around her. The only odd thing about the scene is part of the Robocop franchise, what do people keep shooting bullets at the bullet proof object?

All the while there are brief cutaways to the corporate team planning their next PR move while watching their corporate product gun down scores of police officers before news cameras. The focus on desperate humans over flashy action was probably dictated by the limitations in late 80s special effects technology but it works. A lot of the more practical special effects in films made during the mid 80s and 90s hold up because the directors were forced to find the most evocative way of conveying the impact of their difficult effects.

I’ve always thought that a great opportunity was missed by the makers of Robocop III. Imagine a rival mega corporation mounts a hostile takeover after the public relations disaster of Robocop Mark II’s rampage and then uses the news footage to see the combat robot to foreign governments worried about revolutions and coups. Imagine the joke adds ‘Even a paramilitary police department couldn’t stop the Robocop Mark II! Don’t you deserve the same protection?’

Robocop II is a film that’s surprisingly re-watchable. Some of the most surreal moments are treated with such nonchalance that their oddness is clear only in retrospect. It presents realistic view of political corruption and big business collusion, made more convincing because no message was implied. It grapples with issues of identity at oblique angles and presents the kind of ‘slum ambiance’ that films have a hard time presenting anymore. The overly busy plot forced the film makers to imply a great deal of background information through short hand and a series of quick moments that creature a coherent texture to a fictional world cobbled together out of comic book ideas and action film clich├ęs.

More importantly, Robocop II is an eerily prescient movie. Issues involving the what happens when cities go bankrupt and the fear of gentrification have only become more pronounced in the quarter century after its’ release. The depiction of a police force militarization itself up to fight increasingly violent criminality is now influencing national elections. The use of robotics in combat situations too dangerous to send humans into is now part of military industrial complex contracting.

It’s a far more interesting movie than whatever would’ve been produced by following Frank Miller’s vision in spirit or following the will of the corporate suits.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Libertarianism: The Dream of Politics without People

Everything goes back to High School, especially if you couldn't wait to get out of high school, hoping the greater world was less obsessed with who's cool. The Libertarian movement in American politics seems, over time, to have become a gathering place for the type of people who love the idea of being politically active, but never found a way to master the most important part of politics... people.

I think this is behind the Rand cults that are still with us. Neurotic kids, mostly boys, who never really found a way to click with a group of social peers finds promise in a utopian ideal where reason, logic and book learning win the day, and then clings to that ideal ever more when he gets out into the world and finds that it’s still dominated by what he perceives are the backslapping guys and mean girls he detested in adolescence for having an ease with persuasion he never had.

In real life an Architect’s main job is selling a project and building up an emotional demand for some ‘vision’ he, mostly he’s, will come up with. The Howard Roarks of this world lacked the social skills to rise up to a destiny they felt was owed to them, and were shunted to the back room drafting tables while the Tony Robbin’s like ‘starchitects’ schmooze the big money clients and get all the glory of the personality cult.

Similarly, the ardent libertarians cling to their principles when they realize that politics is dominated by connected insiders and socially adept social climbers like Bill Clinton. Managing any large group of people is about persuasion and persuasion is all about people, not ideas. Casual personal relationships and shared belief in some abstract ideal.

The rub is these social skills aren’t evenly distributed through the population. The truth is, the kids who were popular in high school are popular thirty-years later. The kids who excelled at bamboozling the adults in their sphere of some non-existent virtue, grow into adults who can bamboozle their peers into following them into following them in all kinds of directions. The awkward kids who couldn’t figure out the secret code to seduction find identity in Utopian movements and the Libertarian movement is Utopian in nature.

Here I take a pause and describe what Utopian really means. Forget the discussions you had in AP English when you read Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’ and focus on the real matter. Utopias are idealized worlds that posit that promise that everything will work perfectly and that you, yes you the awkward kid with an overbite will be perfectly set up to be at the top of social hierarchy come the revolution. Not just the social hierarchy, but the hierarchy of sexual desirability. If you’re Tom Brady, Donald Trump, Idris Elba or even Bill Clinton in his prime, you’re already living in a Utopia that has put you at the top of the heap based on those talents. If you’re not, the world looks more and more like a dystopia the further down the social ladder you perceive yourself to be, and the more your fail to receive sexual validation.

Back to the Libertarian party connection. Realizing the nitty gritty of politics has more to do with personal savvy, finding loyal associates and spending lots of time on seemingly pointless social niceties, than studiously studied ideals has to be supremely frustrating. A realization that you’ll always be on the outside, nose pressed to the glass, looking in at the smiling people you both envy and despise. Joe Biden probably can’t name all the articles in the bill of rights and George W. Bush probably couldn’t name more than five Supreme Court cases that had a profound impact on American jurisprudence, but they were both very savvy at spotting talent and seducing that talent into devoting their loyalty to the big man. Richard Daley was an uncharismatic machine pol who’s talent for running a political machine, an engineered network of people, was far more important than knowing how supreme court precedent influenced city government.

Sticking to highly abstract political ideals (the gold standard, the second amendment), and topics of great visibility but little real import (legalize weed), the Libertarian party follower can ignore the fact that policy is made by electing people who get other people into positions of influence. It’s not the candidate and the ideals, he or she claims to promote, but the team of people who come in his wake. One reason that I was sanguine about Mitt Romney in 2012 had little to do with misgivings about the man himself, but misgivings about the fact that he came with a team of Neocons as part of the package deal.

What it’s really about is stating that you think that you’re above the process, that you’re better than the regular rubes who play the regular game because you need to reassure yourself that it’s actually true. Because the truth is, you’re right. If the political world was restricted to highly literate bookworms from the right-side of the bell curve who enjoy polite debate concerning the proper tax rates over a doobie, their libertarian paradise would actually work for a while. Unfortunately, they have to deal with a sea of people who couldn’t care less about those ideals, and the left side of the bell curve who get the same vote that they do. What’s worse is that many of these folks have more friends, more money and more sex than the striving idealist.

Growing out of high school is about accepting that you were in a really emotional time of your life. The kids you thought hated you, probably didn’t really care about you in the grand scheme of things. The kids you envied are probably friendlier and more accepting in adulthood than they were when we were all still kids. Growing out of high school is about accepting that behind every movement are normal people who accept the compromises working with other people.

Growing out of the libertarian movement is about realizing that you're not above the fray where the rubes pick sides in a two party system, you're just too proud to admit to lowering yourself to it.