Saturday, 27 October 2018

Who Do The Greens Think They Are?

On Life Support: Most activists would assume that an ecological party of the Greens’ pedigree would be in the vanguard of the struggle against climate change: advocates for the most radical and uncompromising means of defending the biosphere. Most activists would, however, be wrong.

“WHAT WE THINK, we become”, observed Siddhartha Gautama, the Enlightened One. What then, have the Greens, particularly their parliamentary representatives, been thinking to become the confused collection of MPs we see today?

The easy answer would be to say that thinking is the one activity the Greens have not been engaging in since facilitating the formation of the Coalition Government. In part, the party’s shambolic unmindfulness is the consequence of sheer panic. The destruction of Metiria Turei caused considerable collateral damage. The party lost a lot of talent – much of which it has yet to successfully replace.

Even more serious than temporarily losing its collective head, however, was the Green Party’s loss of direction. Ever since the 2017 election, the Greens have been spinning around in their own aimless eddies. No longer caught up in the strong currents of ecological activism which had propelled them forward since entering Parliament in their own right in 1999, the Greens energies have been swallowed up in the constantly multiplying micro-conflicts of identity politics.

Such appears to be the fate of all left-wing and progressive organisations that lose the impetus supplied by a single, unifying cause. In the absence of the latter, all the essentially irresolvable conflicts of identity politics – Male vs Female; Black vs White; Cis vs Non-Cis; Trans vs TERF – rush in to fill the vacuum. Regaining the movement’s forward momentum is never easy in these circumstances, but without effective and inspiring leadership it is practically impossible. Tragically, this is precisely where the Aotearoan Greens have ended up: unmoved by a great cause and uninspired by ineffectual leaders.

On the face of it, the Greens predicament is absurd. Most activists would assume that an ecological party of the Greens’ pedigree would be in the vanguard of the struggle against climate change: advocates for the most radical and uncompromising means of defending the biosphere. Most activists would, however, be wrong. The Green Party of Aotearoa is not in the vanguard of the struggle against climate change: it’s best and its brightest are holding down ministerial jobs outside of the Cabinet; diligently toiling in the bureaucratic vineyards of mainstream politics.

In spite of the fact that the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls for massive sacrifices from the world’s wealthiest nations and a fundamental transformation of the global economy, the Aotearoan Greens have committed themselves to “the technological fix” that will, somehow, allow the planet to survive without its most dangerous species having to change very much of anything.

This is nothing short of tragic. Defeating anthropogenic global warming has always depended on humanity treating it as the moral equivalent of war. But, instead of green warriors urging their fellow citizens to fight and, if necessary, die for the planet, Aotearoa has been blessed with a party of conscientious objectors. To the question: “Is anybody standing up to the big corporates? The farmers? The road transport lobby?” James Shaw, Julie Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage reply that they are doing the best they can. That politics is the art of the possible. Moreover, there’s the Budget Responsibility Rules to consider – not to mention the wishes of Labour and NZ First. Not to worry, though, because Marama Davidson is rehabilitating the word “cunt” and sticking it to the misogynist “bros” on social media. Right-on, sister!

The Green Party’s key strategic error, post-election, was to want anything to do with ministerial warrants – or coalition partners. They should have told Labour and NZ First that if push came to shove on the floor of the House, then they would always vote to keep them in office and the National Party in opposition, but, beyond that, all bets were off. They would wield the hammer of justice, ring the bell of freedom and sing the song of love between their brothers and their sisters exactly as they saw fit – while fighting for the planet with all their might.

In the end, the increasingly urgent need to keep Planet Earth liveable is going to burn off the denialists and the compromisers; the incrementalists and the technological fixers. And when that moment comes there needs to be one party that has steadfastly refused to buy into the dangerous optimism of the she’ll-be-righters and the let’s-hope-for-the-besters. A party ready to step forward with the hard answers where all other answers have failed. A party that is willing, after many, many years in the political wilderness, to offer a terrified electorate the same terse instruction that Kyle Reese gave to Sarah Connor in The Terminator: “Come with me if you want to live!”

If the Greens think anthropogenic global warming is real; if they think that only ecological-wisdom-in-arms can defeat it; then that is the sort of party they will become. Sorting out the bros can wait until the planet stops burning.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 26 October 2018.

18 comments:

kevonz1 said...

I was a member of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand yet struggled with many of the issues they support like raining chemical weapons down on our forrests.
The 'Tipping Point' for me was when the corporate co-leader came back from #Copout21 in Paris waxing lyrical about a non-binding 'agreement' that guarantees the extinction of most if not all complex life on the planet.
I am villified about pointing at the 6th great extinction unfolding before not just me, all of us.
Because the Greens have pussy-footed around downplaying the severity of the crises we face it allows the Torys to kick the can further down the road.
Hows that working for you all?
https://kevinhester.live/2016/10/28/a-critique-of-the-green-party-of-aotearoa-n-z-climate-change-policy/

Wayne Mapp said...

Being in ministerial positions and having a consistent ecological position on climate change is not inconsistent. In fact James Shaw Julie Anne Genter and eugene Sage seem to be all focussed o environmental issues.

What the Greens lack, at least as far as I can see, is a comprehensive easily understandable plan on climate change. That should be the main focus for a Green party, and the thing they would most talk about. Instead the Green MP's talk about all sorts of things, and many of them barely mention climate change, or at least are not reported as doing so.

With all their parliamentary resources, they could set up a Green Party Climate Change Commission, that is a Commission of themselves. With sub groups for each sector of the economy and society. It would involve their membership as well. If the Greens did this seriously we would get to understand their plan.

All of this is perfectly compatible with holding ministerial positions, particular given that they are mostly in the environmental space. In fact such an approach would enhance their ministerial positions.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Identity politics? I'm beginning to form the opinion that people who use this word don't understand politics. Which is a sad thing to say about you Chris. Because so-called identity politics arises out of the different experiences of different groups of people in and with the political process. If they didn't have different experiences there wouldn't be any identity politics. The economic experiences of working people led to the formation of left-wing political parties – which we seem to have abandoned by the way – and that was just as much identity politics as Maori or gay people's politics. And judging by some of the comments made on this site on different posts lately there is still a need for gay identity politics. And this is doubly true in the US, judging by recent developments there. I mean have you ever wondered why there are so few log cabin Republicans?
As it is, politics has traditionally been white male identity politics and the hell with everyone else. If you don't like identity politics and want to get rid of it, you should work towards making everyone's experiences with the political process, its rules its regulations and its laws the same. Until then, we are stuck with white, male, wealthy, identity politics.

Kat said...

The Greens think they occupy the moral and intellectual high ground. Oh well, keep calm and carry on, 45% + 7% works.

Jays said...

The greens have never been anything close to a purely environmental party. Rather they have always been an unholy alliance of environmental and left wing ideologies (there is after all nothing specifically left wing about environmentalism).
What we are seeing now is being observed around the world, which is left wing parties racing to place various groups in a hierarchy of privilege based on any number of insane criteria.
I agree that it would have been a smart move for the greens to sit on the cross benches, but the greens cannot be accused of being smart.
They seem to be populated by simpletons including the "inclusive and tolerant" Julianne Genter who wants old white man to get out of the way of her own personal protected species.

thesorrowandthepity said...

The left is too mired in identity politics to do anything on climate change. As for the Greens.... it's as Rod Oram pointed out several years ago, that they're just a left wing party that uses the environment as a vehicle to get elected. I have no doubt that when they're not busy shooting their own (as the left always does), that they do care about the environment; but the cold hard truth is that they lack the skills, knowhow, talent or ability to come up with the "hard answers" that are required.
I also note there's quite a bit of hostility in this piece towards "technological fixers," the left needs to drop its hostility towards scientists, engineers, & technology in general.
If we're to stand any chance with lessening the impact of climate change (stopping climate change was doing something 25 years ago, that option isn't on the table anymore), then every part of human society needs a radical infrastructural & technological shift, energy & food production, resource use & waste from human activity, transportation & production materials, not to mention population growth.
The Green party just doesn't have the people in parliament with the background nor talent to offer any real "hard answers" to any of the above issues

Nick J said...

Technofix, well put. Having our cake and eating it. Techno narcissism, believing that the problem can be cured by more of what caused it. How many of us are now in electric cars? Who questions the carbon embedded in their production, or the carbon footprint of power generation? Or the environmental destruction of lithium mining? Huston, we have a problem, and it is between our ears.

John Hurley said...

Socialists are soft on human behaviour as power is the cause of inequality. All you have to do is spread people around, educate women and stop the US interfering in world affairs. One thing in favour of nationalism is a country can develop an ethos within a border that is "green". This was the case up until Labour's epiphany about diversity (1987)

Tom Hunter said...

To ask the question is to answer it. The Greens have gone for Identity Politics because their purported "solutions" to the problem of AGW have simply failed.

International treaties and agreements like Kyoto and Paris, backed up by an international group like the IPCC, combined with massive and unending public relations campaigns over at least twenty years, together with the support of almost every culturally powerful person in academia, journalism and mass market entertainment, plus uncounted hundreds of billions in subsidies, tax credits and price protection for renewable energy, have resulted in this:

https://i1.wp.com/redd-monitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-10-10-153523_987x1040_scrot.png?resize=567%2C512

Global CO2 emissions rising from about 15Gt/year in the mid 1970's to about 45Gt/year now, with no prospect that the growth will stop, aside from the hideously laughable "pledges" by nations like China, India and others in the Paris Agreement.

Faced with that failure I'd want to focus on other things as well.

Here's a thought: maybe go back to 1970's local environmentalism like that of the Values Party. The Greens do have some of that and more of it would likely catch New Zealanders attention and support than trying to scare them about a global catastrophe that will hit sometime in the 21st and 22nd centuries.

On second though, since I want them to fail, keep banging the AGW drum to demand the end of fossil fuel use in NZ: $5 or even $10/litre petrol. That's the ticket! :)

Phil Saxby said...

Right. So the Greens should become an anti-system party.

A bit like Bernie was urged to stand aside from Hillary Clinton, instead of what he actually did- all in his power to elect her. As we all know, even with Bernie's full support, Hillary very narrowly lost. Imagine what the Dems would be saying about Bernie if he had not taken the principled stand he did!

And tranlate that into NZ terms: imagine what the rest of the Left will say about the Greens if they become de facto allies of National in bringing down our government?

greywarbler said...

I like your second to last para Chris. Because beyond the petty politicking, the career pollies giggling about being tortured by what gets done 'in the comfy chair' is a fixed and escalating problem. To again use a well-worn cliche' that happens to be perfectly apt, the 'elephant in the room' remains as stalwart as one of Terry Pratchett's. It is the deterioration of reliable climate patterns and also of reliable, reasonably ethical government for the people's good and their appreciable benefit.

This seems to be forgotten in all the personal, real gripes about the non-delivery of government services, the misuse and misdirection of government
attention. The failure of government to make up for centuries of unfairness to some citizens so they can be perfectly happy fills the airwaves and the screens of the nation. I don't know what the percentage is of those who keep an eye on everything but keep the looming, gathering crisis in the back of their minds where 'there be dragons'.

You say Chris we need to cut to the chase: In the end, the increasingly urgent need to keep Planet Earth liveable is going to burn off the denialists and the compromisers; the incrementalists and the technological fixers. And when that moment comes there needs to be one party that has steadfastly refused to buy into the dangerous optimism of the she’ll-be-righters and the let’s-hope-for-the-besters.

The Green Party's principles and policies as stated in Wikipedia are:
The Green Party was founded to counter what it sees as the threats to the natural environment and environmental issues remain its main focus. In recent times, it has expressed concerns about mining of national parks,[13] fresh water,[14] climate change,[15] peak oil[16] and the release of genetically engineered organisms.[17] The party also spoken out in support of human rights[18] and against military operations conducted by the United States and other countries in Afghanistan and Iraq.[19]

In its economic policies, the Green Party stresses factors such as sustainability, taxing the indirect costs of pollution, and fair trade. It also states that measuring economic success should concentrate on measuring well-being rather than analysing economic indicators.[20]
The party said that if it formed a government in the 2017 election, it would legalise cannabis.[21] It would also "remove penalties for any person with a terminal illness, chronic or debilitating condition to cultivate, possess or use cannabis and/or cannabis products for therapeutic purposes, with the support of a registered medical practitioner".[22]


Are they able to rise to the occasion in Government; their dream for so long? You have yourself Chris pointed out how the weight of historical practice as purveyed by the civil service can have a smothering effect on those keen to use their experience and abilities to advance better systems once in government. Marama Davidson getting caught up in the tender point of lack of respect for women which is endemic I think in most countries; that was unwise and renegging on the whole job she had been chosen for.
Perhaps one or two noticeable mistakes can be admitted in discussions amongst the leading group.

They need to remember that the Greens are in a position of realpolitik; the members are full of ideas many of which can never fly. The people below can't know, or don't want to know, the reality the leaders face. But the smarts the leaders were elected for must result in making decisions that may not please any, until the full situation is explained and unpicked, and even then the hard-liners will cling to their notions of what's right rather than what is the best possible at this time.

Tom Hunter said...

Here's Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek to talk about this:

https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/slavoj-zizek-hillary-clinton?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

Žižek recently sat down with political commentator Owen Jones for an interview that covered the changing nature of global capitalism, the successes and failures of modern leftist movements, and the best ways to change existing political structures.

Žižek, a frequent critic of both capitalism and the shortcomings of the modern left, said liberals focus too much on social issues, such as LGBT rights and racism, and on new right-leaning factions. The cost? The majority of working-class voters may not hear what's in it for them.

"The crucial event today is not the rise of the New Right," he said. "The crucial thing is the disintegration of the central-left welfare consensus. This is why the crucial battle in the U.S. today, it's not against Trump, it's what happens within the Democratic Party.


And within Green-Labour. You have a like-minded foreign friend, Chris.

The funny thing is that when it comes to working-class voters, it was actually Trump who listened. Most Lefties angrily reject that premise, even in the face of voting results - but not Bill Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

greywarbler said...

@Tom Hunter
Here's a thought: maybe go back to 1970's local environmentalism like that of the Values Party. The Greens do have some of that and more of it would likely catch New Zealanders attention and support than trying to scare them about a global catastrophe that will hit sometime in the 21st and 22nd centuries.

Well said. Except the time line is hopeful; I detect no hope that we have even to end of the 21st century - the changes are here somewhere in the world, destroying land, crops, people, and what nature doesn't destroy warring nations will take care of.

One gets driven to cynicism by the reports of the lack of political will to adjust policies worldwide and even nationally that will only ameliorate the effects of climate change. Meanwhile reports come in of it advancing with more debilitating effects faster than before. What's the appropriate response for a Greenie, which every citizen should be?

I think the local thing. And start thinking of quiet heroism, as this is a noble task - to soothe Nature and be the cavalry trying to save the vulnerable people of the world. I put up a video of the looming trolley car disaster positing should one person be sacrificed to save others. One possible action is to push a nearby fat person onto the tracks so slowing, derailing or stopping the runaway railcar. (Because fat has more bulk, not because of any lack of respect for fat people.)

I noted it didn't suggest the observer considering throwing him or herself over; a personal sacrifice, rather than a murder. Personal action - it is time for older people to step forward to help youth as we have had the best decades that NZ ever had. We thought they would last for ever, but...sigh. Now is the time for all good men and women not only to type their thoughts, but act to help the young ones.

This needs to be in a dual-stream way; firstly things for now, apprenticeships for work at industries perhaps subsidised to produce things aimed first at domestic sale, second for some export, not the other way round. And the other stream is for government to use their financial resources for the people, to take cuts in government pay to a pre-determined ratio of top to bottom pay of 5:1, up progressive taxation, encourage saving with good interest rates, lower GST to 10% and bring in a tiny financial transaction tax of say .0001%.

Government to agree to gather information and disseminate advice on all things pertaining to preparing and coping with climate change with only a small charge, perhaps to pay for photocopying; also having a quick help line, perhaps encouraging people to use the Citizens Advice Bureau who are good. At the same time, having groups researching information advising how to face climate change on various key matters, with citizen involvement, not through some poncey non-government agency or public-private partnership. Recently I read how the earthquake scientists were withholding information which might spook people or could be an income-earner for the particular agency. Met Service also has had this thought, to our detriment. Government for the people, that should be the slogan, and lets encourage people to briefly address Councils, and also have well managed Town Hall meetings for the citizens to be well informed. Our news media is addicted to tragedy reporting; usually from the USA. That does not seem to strike a warning bell in their ears, it deafens mine.

Charles E said...

Greens are well left of Labour so clearly unelectable, except for their pretence that they care about our planet, and therefore they scare about it. They don't care about us. They just want to destroy the successful. They hate humanity and would like us gone, since they openly refer us as a plague. They are genocidal, like the national & international socialists of the 20th century they most resemble.

The people who care about our world most genuinely are few, and are conservatives. Conservatives wisely resist change unless proven to be progress first, and then only done slowly so the established order is not thrown to chaos. Greens, like all on the ideological extremes, long for chaos. They resent the world as it is because they themselves are failures in it. So to hell with it! They share the thought of the terrorist.

Further proof they are part of the dangerous hard left is their identity politics. It is poisonous, but fortunately self-destructive ultimately. The Greens of the world are almost entirely Europeans but fawn before anyone not, due to their self-hatred. They see the world as made up of ‘white privileged’ at the top (except for them of course), and all below subjugated. Funnily the people in China and India and Africa don’t see it this way at all and they are the majority. Laughable to believe this white privilege nonsense. Whites (who actually) ‘dominate’ in the West because they are the majority and founded its world beating cultures! Of course they hate successful men most. They think it is down to power, whatever that is. Men predominate at the top of some fields because they have more successful personality traits at the margin. Exactly as they predominate in prison numbers in the other direction. This is scientifically proven yet the idiot left (& dumb right too actually) believe such irrelevancies as race and power rule the world. They do not. Competence and conscientiousness are the main determinants of successfully getting up the hierarchies. Applying yourself with a fixed direction and great determination is what works in every field. Ask Helen Clark, Angela Merkel or the late Mrs Thatcher how they succeeded and it is nothing to do with group identity. They succeeded exactly as most humans (and most creatures too) have always.


Geoff Fischer said...

Guerilla Surgeon wrote:
" identity politics arises out of the different experiences of different groups of people...The economic experiences of working people led to the formation of left-wing political parties.. and that was ... identity politics"
Wikipedia defines identity politics as "political positions based on the interests and perspectives of social groups with which people identify".
As such identity politics characterizes the fatal fracturing of now dysfunctional western democratic political systems.
Politics in the western world has degenerated into the blatant pursuit of sectional interests which is both confusing (each one of us belongs to more than one type of self-identifying "group" based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, class and so on) and divisive.
Although working class myself, I acknowledge that the political glorification of the working class which was a feature of certain left parties (mainly Marxist) was every bit as dangerous, destructive and open to abuse as the current emphasis on feminist and homosexual identity politics.
To be working class by choice is to take a moral position to live by the labour of one's own hands, and to take no income from rents, interest, dividends or any other form of return to capital. That however is a minority position, and most of those who we label working class are simply creatures of circumstance who would be capitalists if they could.
One can take pleasure and pride in being working class by choice without needing to elevate the interests of the working class above all others and without needing to assert that working class people as a whole are in some way more moral, worthy and deserving than other classes of people.
Many political parties of both left and right have found profit to be made from promoting and exploiting the interests of the involuntary working class, but there is no honor in it, and by the same token there is no honor in the political patronage of groups on the basis of the gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
To be constructive politics must aim at establishing an order and a set of rules which is fair and just for all members of society, irrespective of class, gender or ethnic identity. Particularity of identity should not come into politics at all. Politics should transcend our differences of gender, race and sexual orientation. Our different experiences can inform but should not dictate our politics.

guerilla surgeon said...

"Ask Helen Clark, Angela Merkel or the late Mrs Thatcher how they succeeded "

"Men predominate at the top of some fields because they have more successful personality traits at the margin."

Ask Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman about what men tell them they have to do to succeed. Is that part of men's marginal traits? Takes a lot more "determination" to succeed and keep the men's hands from under your skirt at the same time I imagine.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"To be constructive politics must aim at establishing an order and a set of rules which is fair and just for all members of society, irrespective of class, gender or ethnic identity. "

Yes, and until you have them and they are properly enforced, you will have identity politics.And rightly so. You have obviously misunderstood almost everything I said. Not to mention the fact that rules are often bent in favour of those in power even if they are not originally skewed in their favour. The rules are often honoured more in the breach than the observance anyway.

kiwidave said...

Thank you Geoff, good points. This thing with identity politics is quite scary, some of the vitriol directed at men (for example) is difficult to distinguish, in style and in substance, from the Nazi's on Jews.
https://youtu.be/s5gh0PSfIyU