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On Leadership

By Stuart Hertzog
June 18th, 2007

Some seek power over others, others offer empowerment

Leadership is important for any political party. Lacking a leader, a party is viewed as rudderless. Global warming and the environment are uppermost in people’s minds, yet here in British Columbia and in the USA, the Green party has had virtually no presence on this issue in local or national media. Visionary and dynamic leadership opn this issue would provide much-needed political focus and a compelling media presence.

But effective leadership is more than just a matter of personality and performance. Green politics was never supposed to imitate the ‘top-down’ authoritarianism of the mainstream political parties. Green politics – true green politics – is based on grassroots activism, It rests on the belief that everyone in a free and democratic society has the right to voice and vote in decision-making.

Kings and dictators

There are basically two kinds of political and social leader. There are those who seek power over others, and there are those who lead by example and empowerment. History has thrown up many examples of the first kind – the warlords, emperors, kings and dictators who use intimidation and fear to suppress dissent. With this leadership, power and wealth are vested only in the ruling class. The peasantry are treated with disdain and regarded as mere servants.

We have just a few examples of the second kind of leader, one whose primary concern is for the well-being and prosperity of all. Mahatma Gandhi was one of these, and Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama are held in high regard as modern examples of truly compassionate leadership.

It’s this second kind of leadership – leadership by example and empowerment – that is sorely needed if we are to become a peaceful, democratic, egalitarian, and ecologically-balanced, “green” society.

Self-satisfied governing élites

But today, a sense of entitlement pervades our self-satisfied, affluent, governing elites. Although mainstream politicians pay lip-service to the ideal of democracy, our political institutions are still strongly vested with the authoritarian attitudes of the privileged and the power-hungry. You can see this in the Bush and Harper administrations, and in the so-called ‘Liberal’ BC government.

We are becoming a managed democracy in which public opinion is increasingly and cynically manipulated by propagandists and the corporate media, while public access to information is stealthily restricted under the guise of commercial trade secrecy. Citizens and NGOs increasingly are being excluded from policy consultations and decision-making processes.

You can see the same tendency even in our own party. In recent years Green parties everywhere have swung too far towards the secretive end of the progressive/authoritarian spectrum. Instead of inclusivity and transparency, party processes have become closed, covert, and exclusive.

This has to change. Green parties must remember from whence they came, and why they exist.

Cynicism towards politics

It’s not enough to believe that we can grow as a political force by strengthening internal party controls and fund raising to hire professional help. With the current cynicism towards politics and politicians especially among younger generations, and even among older, ecologically-concerned folks, that’s not going to get us very far.

There would be no essential difference between the Green party and the others, and with the mainstream parties actively laying claim to the ‘green’ environmental agenda, there would be no compelling reason for people to vote Green.

Green parties must rediscover their political roots and recapture their authenticity if they wish to appeal to citizen activists, progressive thinkers, value conservatives, and conservationists.

We must govern ourselves as we would be governed, or we can be no example to others.


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