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They Call It Democracy – Part 6

By Stuart Hertzog
October 29th, 2009

Lessons learned

Politics definitely brings out the worst in people

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They say that what doesn’t destroy you completely makes you stronger. Well, I’ve survived challenging the leader of the Green Party in Saanich-Gulf Islands, so I guess the experience has made me stronger. What did I learn from it?

  • Politics seems to bring out the worst in people
  • Power-seekers always take over a power structure
  • An élite doesn’t intend that its rules apply to them
  • People are easily fooled if you promise paradise

Seriously, though (you thought I was joking?) the experience of presenting myself as a nomination candidate has reconfirmed my opinion that politics is organised nastiness (as opposed to disorganised nastiness, which is what happens in big retail stores on Boxing Day, or in the USA, on Black Friday).

It’s all about power: about grabbing it, abusing it, and keeping it. Politics has nothing to do with ideals, or with creating a better world. That’s the realm of idealists and dreamers, ecological activists, and the alluring promise of religion.

Politics is entirely the realm of the power-hungry. It’s not for ordinary mortals, or even about policy, although politicians hide their lust for power behind policy planks and platforms. Policy belongs to the policy wonks; they and their experts are the only ones who really understand what they’re policying about.

E. Most Green Party members do not understand Green politics

It has become very obvious to me that although there is a considerable body of literature on the philosophy of Green politics, for most members and even for the party élite and staff, this doesn’t translate into an understanding of what this means in practice. Either they haven’t ever read it, or they don’t get it.

There’s a hefty gap between the Green Party’s professed values, which are written into its constitution, and the attitudes, actions, and even the policies of the Party on an ongoing basis. I’ve been particularly incensed by its flagrant disregard for participatory democracy, but that’s just only one of the Ten Principles of the Global Greens Charter on which its constitution rests.

This glaring dissonance is partly due to the influx of former Red Tories and dispossessed progressive Reform Party members who joined the Greens because of their concern about the environment or toxic pollution. That’s OK—any political party includes a range of political views. The problem is that there’s no ongoing education or even debate about what it means to be Green.

F. The Green Party has become very middle-class, small-c conservative

As a result, party Greens now are mainly small-c conservative, light green environmentalists, mostly middle-aged or older, and very middle-class. The hoped-for massive influx of young people into the Party hasn’t happened—yet, but this may happen later, like when they become middle-age and middle class.

There’s nothing wrong with being middle-age and middle class. I used to qualify for both these categories myself. Most Green Party members are mainly “nice people” in human terms, but let’s face it, most of them would qualify as what Margaret Thatcher and British slang called “wet”—Canadian-style, of course.

The problem with this kind of unfocussed, vague level of wetness is that such people tend to accept politics the way it is presented by the media, as being basically a spectator sport in which citizens can occasionally play a small part. There’s no in-depth analysis of root causes or attempt to change the system.

G. Most Greens are in denial about the realities of political power

“Wet” Greens come out with statements such as “Can’t we just be nice to each other and co-operate?” and “Together, we (who is this “we”?) can stop global warming” and “We (again!) can change things by being positive and banishing criticism, which is negative,” and other examples of political denial.

Most Green Party members believe that if they can just get some Greens elected to Parliament—even just one Green will do—all will be well. Magically, political co-operation will ensue and all problems will be solved. Global warming will stop, the skies will become clear, and all toxic pollution will end forthwith.

This is specious nonsense. Without a political vision that includes an analysis of industrial economics, the human power structure, and the relationship between humans, other species, and natural ecosystems, the Green Party is condemned to being a useless participant in a pathological and predatory industrial culture.

H. Elizabeth May is the worst thing that happened to the Green Party

I started this series by explaining that I had no axe to grind against Elizabeth May. I still don’t have a personal axe to grind; I just think that she’s the worst thing that has ever happened to the Green Party. It’s my view, shared by many others, that Elizabeth May is the Little Monster Who Ate The Green Party.

Sorry to have to come out and say it, but I think she’s awful. Yes, I know she is knowledgeable about global warming and many other environmental issues, and can be a very inspiring speaker. She’s a woman, and a lot of people—especially women—get turned on by seeing her confronting the Old Boys.

But the way she has converted the Green party into her own personal political path to Parliament, I believe goes against the very essence of Green politics. In empowering herself, she has disempowered others. In my view, she has the pathological need for power that I referred to at the beginning of this post.

Can the Green Party survive Elizabeth May?

Ibelieve that getting Elizabeth May elected to Canada’s Parliament will destroy any hope of returning the Green Party to its Green political roots. It will be finished as a genuinely ecocentric and progressive Canadian political influence.

The Elizabeth May Party could become successful electorally— after all, those wimpy “wet“ Greens occupy a position slightly to the right of the dead (so true!) centre of Canadian politics. But it will not connect to the heart of the matter.

I may be wrong, of course. In some ways, I hope that I am. But from what I have experienced and learned during my nomination campaign in Saanich-Gulf Islands, her manipulativeness, her nepotism towards her supporters, her poor strategic judgement, and her unrestrained lust for power, do not give me hope.

All that remains now in this story is for Elections Canada to deliver its verdict.

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Next: Part 7—The Verdict

Read other parts of this series:

  • Part 1—Challenge
  • Part 2—Green Politburo
  • Part 3—Follow the money
  • Part 4—Denial of Service
  • Part 5—Formal complaint
  • Part 6—Lessons learned

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