Sidebar – Red herrings

29 April, 2012 Columns0


The watermelon curse. By dubbing The Greens as watermelons – “Green on the outside but red on the inside” – Warren T Brookes effectively created an enduring link between The Greens and socialism that resonates with the electorate. Because of the greens fundamental commitment to restrict global economic activity that is harmful to the environment, the target is an easy one.

Socialism is an industrial solution to a capital constrained world and is a twentieth century tool to negotiate the competing interests of labour and capital. There are no negotiated solutions for the environment. If we damage the ecology we die. That’s it.

The similarity between the Greens organisation of the economy and the socialists is limited to the fact that markets must be managed. The founding fathers in the US designed a constitution to prevent economic monopolies on the basis that allowing the market to determine the outcome leads to profit seeking behaviour rather than good management. That is as far down the road to socialism that any Green platform needs to go to ensure economic management.

Conversely, there is little advantage in the Greens confusing the Greens economic message with the socialist messages of the past. It is obvious from first principles that governments must control the worst excesses of markets. It is also obvious that global economic interests are often at odds to the interests of the Australian people and the environment that supports us. Neither of those necessarily has any relationship to socialism and any such assertion in the interest of political advantage should be swiftly set aside.

What about innovation?

It is completely obvious that economic growth and the improvement of the conditions for living has relied on innovation. In fact the only way that a given set of economic circumstances can improve is by raiding the neighbours, increasing the rate of extraction (raiding the future), increasing population or innovation. Of those four, only innovation is sustainable or, in this world, even tenable.

Given that, any Green economic solution needs to be based on the assumption that innovation will play an enormous part in continuing to benefit humanity. This basic observation is very different from suggesting that innovation is somehow going to allow us to feed the global economy by consuming at ever increasing rates.

Yes we need innovation, and yes it is the key to creating technical solutions required to govern wisely while marshalling our resources for future generations and for the ecology as a whole rather than for our short term dreams of wealth. It is not, however, an alternative to implementing governance based on those principles.

Anarchist, atheist destroyers

The Green movement is often depicted as a bunch of destructive, unprincipled, non-believers out to tear down society. While this sort of criticism is always directed at progressive political movements as they move toward real power, it is worth understanding the basis of this specific example so it may be readily countered.

In the main text I referred to an Anarchist creed that embodies many Green moral principles. That creed concludes:

I set my own standards and I alone enforce them.

I am an atheist.

These last two lines could just as well apply to an anarchist as an atheist creed. I would suggest that Greens are probably somewhat divided as to whether Green morals are purely logical or are externally dictated by a quasi-spiritual force of nature.

The division is irrelevant.

Whether Greens are driven by a fundamental belief that the planetary ecological systems are important in their own right, or by scientific evidence that destroying those systems will destroy civilisation, the outcome remains that we must govern to prevent the continuation of that destruction.

The next red herring might be dubbed cynical activists.

There is a publicly stated loss of faith in the political process. It shows in surveys about faith in politicians, but is not directly reflected in voting patterns.

While it has always been true that only a small segment of society (usually estimated at about 25%) cares passionately about politics at all, the vast majority have usually been accurately characterised as a silent majority who do not care, so long as their basic needs are met.

The disengagement of some percentage of the progressive component of those who care is concerning but at a philosophical rather than a political level. It is a pity to lose the genuinely compassionate input from those people, and they can hurl wounding barbs at the worst possible moments, but their numbers are small and they provide an extreme alternative to the more structured and constructive Greens.

The third red herring to be eliminated is the notion of an inner-city elite. If for no other reason, this tired and untrue taunt is worth the effort of building bridges between The Greens and rural communities.

Three of the ten federal electorates with the highest Green vote are outside the major metropolitan areas: Denison and Pedder in Tasmania and Richmond in NSW.  There are environmental hot spots wherever there is a population attracted by environmental values. Other areas are driven by high value and intense organic food production. Some areas include: The original forest battlefields of Northern NSW and Tasmania, the hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine and Gold Coast, the tropical north, south west Western Australia, the central gold towns of Victoria, areas of East Gippsland and Orange in NSW.

The Greens need to do more to promote these rural heroes and use them to break down the stereotypes much beloved by the redneck shock jocks.

This is part of a longer article  Green gold | Redneck Rage | Rusted on Reds | Clear directions | Sidebar – Red herrings | Greenslanders? Not!


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