PO Box 2 Blackball

Paul Maunder's blog


Green Party

Heroes and thieves

A nasty cartoon-poster appeared in a local shop window attacking Metiria Turei: ‘When the left needed a hero they got a thief’ read the slogan and I suddenly realized this whole episode has revealed the sub- fascist side of things that can appear as an underbelly of NZ political culture, with beneficiaries a hated marginal minority supposedly ripping off the system and needing to be punished – not too distant from Aryans jeering at Jews forced to scrub footpaths.


photo: radio nz

The persecutor-victim-rescuer dynamic has been at the heart of this story: Metiria set herself up as spokesperson and example of the beneficiary victim, thus inviting persecution. She got that alright and then needed rescuing by the left. But meanwhile, family members felt they’d been, in turn, made victim and therefore needed to persecute in order to rescue themselves. The newly energized Labour Party also felt persecuted by the whole episode and needed to rescue themselves. On it goes. The Greens should of course be familiar with the dynamic: after all, the planet is victim and needs rescuing – that’s core business.

It’s actually a terrible pattern, for it keeps on spiraling down – ending up in ethnic cleansing and death camps.

In human interactions the solution is simple: adult negotiates with adult and in this instance the adult position is clear: Every civilized society has a benefit system to ensure subsistence to those who cannot gain satisfactory paid work: the unemployed, the disabled, the solo parent, and the aged. If there is no system or if the amount is insufficient, these people are stressed, leading to dysfunctional family situations, hunger, violence, crime, kids unable to learn, prostitution etc. The facts are there. The only question is, having known for thirty years or more that the present regime provides insufficient benefit levels, why, as a society, we haven’t taken steps to alleviate the stress? When research shows clearly that we should do something, we don’t do it. Why do we persecute these people?

Metiria tried to dramatise this situation and failed, perhaps not failed, but it wasn’t a good outcome, as a sort pf martyrdom followed. Is there an adult on the other end of this negotiation? Unfortunately, no. And that’s the real problem. The persecutor remains adamant. It will probably take the Universal Basic Income to disappear this persecutor, to put in place an equable regime of subsistence, rather than rags to riches stories, crime stories, celebrity stories, the usual lies that people are fed.

When it comes to the planet as victim, the dynamic is complex, for the planet doesn’t care, even if it became a barren rock flying through space. Caring requires consciousness, so this is actually a people to people issue. Are we prepared to make the sacrifices, the adjustments required to stop further warming or are we going to create millions of victims, who will then persecute us by becoming refugees, boat people, terrorists, beggars? And who we then, in turn, persecute.

We know this, yet we do nothing much, for behind these dilemmas is an economic and political system based on the persecutor-victim-rescuer dynamic and the ‘there is no alternative’ mantra. When we need heroes we get thieves.

Back to the drawing board.

Green dilemmas

The Greens have the aim of becoming more than a minor party stuck at around 10% of the party vote. In order to do so they have to become more of a broad church, covering a number of tendencies. Occasionally they have the dream of supplanting the Labour Party which, as the working class becomes fragmented consumers or clusters of identities (women, Maori, PI, Gay, Lesbian…), can seem nostalgic. For the Greens encompass social justice issues –  have workplace and social policy that is progressive – as well as being focused on the environmental issues that resonate with younger generations. They also see the possibility of growing their Maori vote, their role seamlessly linking  with the concept of kaitiakitanga.

Yet growing the vote proves a stubbornly difficult task. What are the problems? The first is a cultural one. Typically, Green party members will be middle class pakeha (with more than a smattering of Europeans, Brits and Americans), politically correct, healthy out door recreationalists, well-travelled, vegetarian, versed in conflict resolution, smile a lot and have a PhD. There’s nothing wrong with any of the above, and perhaps everyone should be like that, but somehow there are a lot of people who aren’t. They didn’t get their PhD, they work with their hands, they can have strange beliefs, they eat meat, go in for chemical abuse, get angry and sad and sometimes obese, stuff up, have arguments, blow the budget, watch crap on television, scowl and curse, drive diggers and dump trucks and deliver the junk mail, and find transgender a difficult concept. It’s not easy to get them to the Green church because they’re not going to feel comfortable. And like any church community, the Greens are capable of closing ranks and intuitively promoting their own kind.

The second issue is the default position of most Greens and the public perception that results. Green = environmentalist = jumping up and down over proposals for development, whether it be buildings or mines or factories. A miner once said to me, You can’t do anything without digging a hole. The perception becomes that whenever anyone wants to dig a hole, or build a building, the Greens will start jumping up and down. This widens to forestry, farming and fishing – there’s always an environmental impact. Of course this perception of the Greens as anti everything that provides a living is not true, for what they are advocating Is sustainable production. But with that concept, the issues are even more difficult (and the PhD starts to become useful). Will a sustainable economy produce enough food for the present level of population? Will the same number of jobs be available? At what rate of pay? Who funds the transition? Is this transition possible under a capitalist regime?

Probably a revolution is required, rather than a reform of the system. Yet the Greens want a broad appeal. The result is the mystification that religion produces: a wished for world which can only be achieved in the after life. Meanwhile, in the real world, the congregation continue to worship the ideal and do some good works. This position is not easily shared, requiring moments of revelation to energise it.

The third issue stems from playing the modern parliamentary political games: of branding, identification of voters as consumers- of politics as marketing, which doesn’t sit well with the Greens. It doesn’t sit well with Labour either. It’s politics as commodity rather than process or praxis, but the only game in town. It produces the false smile and leads to disenchantment. The people at the bottom know about disenchantment and they don’t want any more.

At the same time, disenchantment of gigantic proportions looms in the form of climate change and species loss. We are burning up, flooding up, freezing up, cycloning up at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, the infrastructure is still working, or being rapidly repaired, so the same old shit continues. 21st century capitalism seems to be able to cope with extraordinary stresses – so far. And the Greens oscillate between trying to resolve conflict with a smile and playing a Cassandra role by issuing dire warnings. The prophetic role has the energy, yet is a marginal one.

Are there any solutions to the above problems? It is essential to attract a broader range of the community and to adjust the culture accordingly. And then what? What do party members do? Any political party has an inevitable hierarchy and a sado- masochism that accompanies this: the leaders pleading for money and voluntary labour (pleasure and pain) and the members giving money and voluntary labour (pleasure and pain) – the goal the orgasm of power (and often a melancholic aftermath). This is not a comfortable fit either, even though the Greens pride themselves on their democratic processes (processes which generate a reasonably dense bureaucracy).

It’s possible that a healthy parliamentary party is actually impossible. Yet the current mess in the US points to the need to maintain something resembling functional representation.

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