“…the 21st Century is going to be the century of inter-connecting – that will be the theme (and) it will be how we relate together. Which is why I think The Greens are the most important political party at the moment.
Professor Anne Boyd, composer and (then) head of the Music School at the University of Sydney, in an interview with Andrew Ford on the Music Show, Radio National
First founded in Tasmania and New Zealand in 1972, today, Greens have been elected to thousands of seats around the globe in local, regional, national and international parliaments. On the national level, Greens hold a total of 296 seats as of July 2011. This includes 229 seats in 17 European nations and another 67 seats in Australia, Brazil (14), Canada (1), Chad (1), Colombia (8), Madagascar (2), México (22), New Zealand (9). There are also 46 Greens holding seats in the European Parliament. More than 1.6 million Australians voted for the Greens in 2010
Their basic principles – social equality and economic justice; ecological sustainability; grass roots democracy; peace, disarmament and non-violence – are easily expressed and grasped.
Yet, for me, there’s something missing. I understand the philosophy – the background thinking – of Communism, of free market Capitalism, even of Fascism. But what is the philosophical underpinning of Greenism? In other words, what does it mean to be Green and how does Green differ from other, to my mind, outmoded ways of political expression?
I’ve been a member of the Green Party in Spain, and now Australia, and I’ve been pondering this question for some time. It was, perhaps, the events of September 11, and the woeful, wicked and wrong-headed response of practically every government of the world, that broughtme to the point of trying to write down what I think Green means.
I brought this up at a Greens Sunday meeting in Sydney not long after re-joining. Tentatively I advanced a theory that I had formulated in Spain. It seemed to me – and still does – that the basic problem with the ‘old politics’ left and right way of looking at the world is that the fight is still being fought over who owns the world, worker or boss. (This being my rather crude distillation of Marxist theory.)
My point is that we must arrive at the realisation that no one owns the world, and what we should be arguing over (or, even better, discussing) the best means of looking after the world for all its inhabitants, and its own health. For want of other candidates, humankind has stewardship over the planet. So far, we have not been very good stewards.
This analysis was greeted with real anger by one party member who obviously still saw the world through class struggle consciousness.
I respect that, but am a little confused as to how it is possible to continue with that vision. To my mind the lines have been blurred class is out of the picture (at least in this country where class can be purchased), and we have to discuss and create a new political alignment.
How, for example, does one put a simple left/right matrix over the tragic and senseless conflict in Israel and Palestine? Is it really simply because Israel is the dominant economic force in the area who, supported by the United States is grinding the poor working people of Palestine underfoot? Well, no. Until the creation of Israel, Palestine was the most successful economy in the Middle East.
In the Australian context, you only have to look at the blurring of the distinction between the two major parties in Australia – the Liberals and Labor – to see these distinctions no longer make a lot of sense. As Frank Moorhouse points out in his book The Inspector-General of Misconception, we no longer have two parties with widely differing ideologies, we have two parties with management teams offering different strategies for winning power. And sometimes there’s not a gnat’s dick of difference between what they’re offering: witness the shameful refugee policies on both sides.
My second revelation came after listening to an old friend of mine, a lifelong conservationist, one time colleague of the late Milo Dunphy, and, along with Milo, one of those responsible for the creation of the
Blue Mountains National Park.
Some years ago, my friend moved to an old banana plantation on the north coast of New South Wales where he is engaged in re-establishing
the rain forest that would originally have grown there. He has also joined the local land care group and, in that capacity, went on a field trip to Ballina where he was shown around the town and its environs by two members of the local Aboriginal tribe. My friend realised that this was the first time in his life that he had met an indigenous Australian. ‘As he (the local Aboriginal guide)showed us around the streets and suburbs of Ballina,’ he recalled ‘he pointed out, quite casually, the ancient significance of these places to his people.
‘Then it occurred to me we’d trampled all over these sites, without a single thought for what they meant to the indigenous people but ultimately, that didn’t matter to them. Because whether there were houses or football fields or supermarkets on these sites, they remained important. In other words, there had been no separation between the people and their place.’
As my friend recounted this, I realised that it struck at the heart of the biggest problem facing The Green Party in communicating to the
Whether we Greens like it or not, our party is – still – seen as a single-issue party: the environment being the issue. Greens (or even worse, ‘greenies’) are seen as somewhat feral tree huggers, whose only interest, sometimes fanatical, is to save forests and ring tailed possums.
The truth is that the environment isn’t a single issue, it is the only issue. The Greens Party is the only political party that has always recognised that people and their institutions are a part of the environment, which sees and recognises the inter-connectedness of things.
How can you put public education in that corner and the ‘environment’ in another? The same with drug policy, public hospitals and responses to terrorism, refugees and public transport.
The planet is our environment. And that includes New York City and the Amazon. Wagga Wagga and Woy Woy. Every issue can be run through those four principles I set down above. There is a Greens response to every problem that arises.
And it is a response that recognises, first and foremost, that we live in a society, and not an economy: the economy is there to serve the society. Unfortunately, the two major parties have lost sight of that simple truth.
Examples? The NSW government closing schools and crippling TAFE to balance the budget. The Western Australian government approving the James Price point gas project over the environment. Barangaroo.
As to my title, why was Kermit wrong? Those of you who deign to watch television might remember Mr Kermit said “it’s not easy being green.”
Well, he’s wrong because it really is – you just have to run every decision, personal and political, through the four principles which are, to remind you: social equality and economic justice; ecological sustainability; grass roots democracy; peace, disarmament and non-violence.
And when I say the two major parties have no principles, this is not a criticism, but a fact. If they did, well, we’d know what they stood for. Besides winning.