This Guest Post is by The Standard regular commenter Incognito.
This post is about the Green Party, mainly … (1)
It is written in a state of puzzlement by opinions I have read from both Left and Right. Opinions that suggest or strongly argue in fact that the Greens should do a coalition deal with National, that the Greens should go back to their roots and be again (!) a party for the environment only (!), that the Greens should split and their more socially conscious faction should go with Labour, etc.
None of these views make much sense to me.
The first counter-argument relates to diversity. Diversity is vital in many areas, e.g. in biology & evolution, for a properly functioning immune system, for balanced ecosystems, in psychological development, etc. Without diversity life is beige, bland, and boring and in a primitive state – imagine all the cells in your body being undifferentiated and the same; we would be less evolved than a jellyfish (the oldest known multi-organ animal).
Social diversity is also important. For example, immigrants bring different cultures and perspectives with them and cultural pluralism is a hallmark of a rich and diverse society. However, not everyone shares this view. A recent election survey suggested that quite a few Kiwis expect immigrants to assimilate and adopt the Kiwi way and lose their unique cultural identity rather than integrate into our society and add something new to the mix. Interestingly, there has also been a push for teaching a second language at primary schools and whilst language offers a window into a culture the reasoning behind this push is likely to be less cultural and more economic, i.e. speak the language of your customers which is good for business.
Politics should reflect and represent diversity in society. To me it seems counterintuitive to advocate mega-parties, i.e. one on the Left and one on the Right, or so-called ‘broad churches’. This kind of FPP thinking seems to be very resilient in NZ; the majority rule (‘tyranny of the majority’) does not justice to the democratic principle of equality. I would argue that we need more not fewer small political parties and that we much more adapt to MMP thinking (it is about time).
The second counter-argument is uniqueness. The Greens have a unique view of the world and this translates into a unique way of doing politics; even their internal party politics is quite different from other parties. In essence, this view is that environmental and social issues have a common root cause (i.e. humans and economic activity) and simultaneously have a huge impact on all humankind, i.e. they are inextricably linked, two sides of the same coin as it were. The main cause is economic and vice versa unfettered capitalism and the compulsive drive for economic prosperity and growth addiction through state-sanctioned if not state-protected (through regulation and laws) free markets. However, the impacts are not evenly distributed. For example, the social and economic impacts of climate change will affect the poor much worse. It is only logical, in this view of the world and the present and imminent global issues & dangers that we are facing, that any seriously intelligent attempt to address these issues follows a three-pronged approach; tackling only one at the time or a emphasising one over another is flawed from the outset and destined to fail – an exercise in futility and a waste of resources and precious time.
The Greens’ unique view & voice need to be heard. Not just because it is unique but because it currently offers the best if not the only way forward. Splitting the Greens will spell the tragic end of this voice with dire consequences for all of us. When going into a coalition with a much larger partner the danger is that the voice will become a quiet whisper or simply disappear into the background noise of a loud and domineering (macho) coalition partner(s).
National’s view of the world is diametrically opposed to that of the Greens. However, they think they can buy themselves a little ‘environmental conscience’ at an affordable price – everything and everybody has a price. Indeed, the Greens could fall for a tantalising offer(s) by National, but trading off social justice against environmental policy gains, for example – the horse-trading that National would propose in coalition negotiations – would be doomed as I have already argued. A tax cut of $20/week is not going to make any difference in the medium-to-long term. A water tax of 2 cents per cubic meter is not going to do much either – they are just little plasters. Even if any real gains were made in one area they would be off-set by deteriorating conditions in another and overall we would be no better and probably be worse off in the long run. (NB remember time is precious)
The Green Party is currently the only party that proposes a
holistic comprehensive and integrated approach to the social, environmental, and economic issues of our time. Other parties talk up their environmental policy platforms and their social justice ‘credentials’ but they all tend to be quite modular platforms, i.e. various policies can be deleted or bolted on like Lego pieces (or Minecraft blocks) that can be used inter-changeably. More importantly, other parties treat environmental and social policy platforms as largely separate modules too, like flat-pack homes that can be easily transported and constructed – the emphasis is on quick, easy, cheap (read: politically pragmatic and expedient solutions to a hugely complex set of issues). This is the fundamental point of difference with the Green Party policies.
It is essential that the Greens continue to develop their own unique narrative. Narratives do evolve unless they are dogma. The Greens, and other small parties with a unique voice, should resist calls to conform to expectations and political pressure from others with a competing or opposing agenda. If they do no resist they will be assimilated and we would all be the poorer for it.
(1) Disclaimer: these are my (personal) views & perceptions as an ‘ordinary’ voter with no connections to the Green Party. If I have misrepresented anything or anybody I apologise beforehand and will stand corrected.