Written By: - Date published: 6:25 am, February 3rd, 2018 - 65 comments
Categories: activism, community democracy, democratic participation, greens, political education, Spying - Tags: #greenthegovt, Golriz Ghahraman, green paradox, how change happens, Schrodinger's government
For those of you who still need a 101 on why it's okay to protest the government when your party is in government, Golriz has graciously obliged. https://t.co/RPXO06fcB8
— Matt J. Whitehead (@MJWhitehead) February 1, 2018
I protest because dissent & diversity are essential to our democracy, because it is Green, because Kiwis always have. And this government respects that because we are friends.
In this 2 minute video Ghahraman covers “protest, and dissent, about diversity of thought in politics and why we’ll be staying loud and proud on green issues”
For those a bit confused about it, here’s the transcript of the video,
I want to talk about protest, and dissent. About a diversity of thought in our political system.
Recently I spoke at a protest against mass surveillance at Waihopai spy base where Green MPs have spoken since the early 1990s – even while we were in that other little confidence and supply agreement with Helen Clark’s Labour Party.
But I realised that people now think that we can’t do these things as Greens because of our role in government. That was alarming to me. Especially coming from those within our political system.
Last year the Green Party helped form the new progressive government we have today together with our partners Labour and NZ First. It’s been heralded as the first ever true MMP government. As Greens we give Confidence and Supply to the government. For the first time we have Green Ministers which is exciting!
But some of our MPs like me are outside of government. That means we have more freedom to voice Green positions even when they don’t accord with Labour or NZ First policy. In fact, that’s our duty on important issues. It’s something that I for one value greatly. Which is why I proudly spoke at the Waihopai spy base, standing proudly side by side with other protestors.
The issue of mass spying is a big deal to me personally, as a human rights concern, which is why I am a Green. And our government partners are well aware of our different views. They knew I’d be speaking out against the TPP, against the spy bases. In fact, most of my portfolios involve oppositional issues.
They know I’ll be loud on those issues because they’re important to the Greens. They know when I’m going to protests. There are no surprises here because we’re friends. In fact, our new close relationship means that we’re in a great position to talk about our differences, including on protest issues, and make progressive change.
I believe the right to protest is fundamental to our democracy. It’s a huge part of our kaupapa as Greens and we will all be upholding that precious mantle handed up to us by the giants of our movement. New Zealanders have a loud, proud tradition of protest, against nuclear testing, whaling, apartheid.
That’s how change happens, and this government respects that.
This is how adults behave. They talk to each other. But it’s also how the Greens do politics that is different from the macho, ‘leverage and power are all that matters’ politics. Build strong relationships so that you can work together even when you disagree. Then allowing dissent ceases to be a problem. Kudos to the Greens’ partners in this. I’m writing about the Greens here, but Labour and NZ First are part of the structure and process that make this work (I think Jacinda Ardern is a big reason why this is possible).
Just as importantly, this is how the Greens remain a distinct party and not get subsumed into the FPP mentality politics that has driven much of MMP in the past 20 years, and has cost smaller parties dearly. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Greens landed on their feet after last year’s fairly brutal election campaign, and that the ‘in government but not in government’ position is probably pretty close to the ideal for them given the election results.
The Greens are an activist party and that doesn’t change by becoming part of the government. Valuing and taking part in protest while in government is also one of the ways that the Greens maintain their commitment to their founding document, The Green Charter.
Last week Ghahraman was tweeting that she’s not part of the government and is thus free to criticise government policy. This is true, and it’s time to get passed the temptation to imply that the Greens should be pure and stay out of all government if they don’t get everything they want, simply because that implication suits a certain political agenda (it’s a fundamentally dishonest argument). What the Greens are doing is good for NZ and our democracy.
I'm not in gov. We have a confidence & supply agreement with the Labour led gov and some Green Ministers. Where our policies differ, I can represent the Green policy openly. That's what makes our gov representative.
— Golriz Ghahraman (@golrizghahraman) January 27, 2018
And so we can say that the Greens are part of the government and not part of the government, just to keep everyone on their toes. It’s the Green Paradox*.
I think it’s also safe to say that how people perceive this is their choice and reflective of their politics and how they value the Greens. In other words there’s nothing wrong with what the Greens are doing except where it challenges some people’s ideas about what is proper (or where some people will use any excuse to hate on their political enemy). Watch the criticisms and see how few have any substance.
We may as well get used to the paradox, because this is how MMP will work for this term, and the Greens aren’t going to fit into the establishment designated boxes. They’re there to green the government and that includes changing how things are done.
Bonus, these apparent contradictions are useful to break us out of the western dualistic mindset, which is probably a prerequisite for getting out of the mess we are in.
None of this is news, the Greens are being consistent with who they are. I’m glad Ghahraman has clarified these points, because it’s going to make a great reference going forward. Perhaps we can be generous and allow that otherwise well informed political commentators were unaware of how coalition government in NZ can work, but thankfully we can now assume that people still telling confusing stories about this issue are probably just shit stirring.
*or humorously, Schrodinger’s government.