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Thursday, 29 October 2009

Greens in government - Its not whether or not you sup with the devil, just how long is your spoon

Ocassioned by another conversation with my good friend John McCormick - who also feeds us since its his organic fruit and veg that feeds my family and I every week - discussing the all too common statement that the 'greens have sold out' by being and continuing to be in coalition govt in the Republic with Fianna Fail (FFers). You hear and see it everywhere the all too glib refrain of 'the one ethical party has sold out', 'I'll never vote for the Greens again'; 'I feel betrayed by the Greens' and other statements along similar lines. This dilemma was forcefully brought home to me (not that it needed any reinforcing for me!) at the meeting on 10th October in Dublin where the party took the decision to continue in govt on the basis of the revised programme for govt. Some party members were saying similar things - and the issue of NAMA seemed to act as the lightening rod for various concerns members had about our continued participation in govt.

I want to outline my own take on all of this. I believe politics is the 'art of the possible' which also means its the 'art of compromise' - those who niavely think that one can get all one desires politically within the modern liberal demcratic system are well....naive. If they don't want to play the game of liberal/bourgeois party politics, then well...don't play the game. Go and play a different one, and while of course this does not mean those who refuse to play the game cannot criticise those of us who do, at least acknowledge that we who play the game know the game's rules...we're not naive. We know and accept its about compromise, and negotiation and at root about the politics of 'good enough' or 'second best'. So yeah I'm a full on 'realo' , realist but with principles and often wonder if people who do criticise do so on the basis of full knowledge of the game and rules thereof. Just as in Norn Iron I'd much rather a (very) bad peace than a (moderate) good war, likewise south of the border ('down Mexico way'....) I'd much rather the FF-Green coalition than FG-Labour alternative. Does anyone who cares about the need to decarbonise the economy, begin the long-overdue step change in the transition away from unusustainability seriously think this will happen in the Republic without the Greens in power?

A lot of anger has been directed at the Greens as if a) the junior member ofthe coalition that b) was not within an ass's roar of being in power during the Celtic Tiger period which laid the causes of significant aspeces of the current economic jocker the Republic's in, as if the Greens were responsible for the crisis or somehow that it is entitely appropriate for them to be judged by different criteria which means they must bear a disproportionate amount of the blame and atract a disproportionate amount of public ire and anger for the current mess. If its a junion coalition party people want to blame its the PDs not the Greens they should be after, and if they wish to direct their anger at the political authors of the current crisis - look no further than the FFers. But, and in conclusion, there is also another party that is not being factored into the conversations about who is blame for the current crisis.

Consider the following:

We bought bigger cars for the status that it gave. We built bigger houses with X number of bedrooms and bathrooms, regardless of how we were going to heat these massive properties. We flew to New York in a way that turned Madison Avenue into our latest Grafton Street…Let us be honest with ourselves that is the phenomenon that occurred… In the last decade China and India started to produce our goods for us at a fraction of the cost. That brought down inflation in the developed world and allowed the central banks to lower interests internationally, which led to easy lending, bad lending. (Irish Times, July 11th, 2008).

Who said this? An astute social and political commentator like Fintan O'Toole or David McWilliams? A member of the Labour or FG party? Someone from CORI or David Begg of the Trades Union movement? No, it was Green Party TD and Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. And what he was saying - namely that people in the republic need to look closer to home (as well as seeking other causes) for causes of the current economic crisis. While irresponsible lending by banks certainly happened, while developers built thousands of houses for the 'buy to let' market, while various Irish companies made money from promoting the puchasing of houses and apartments in eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey and elsewhere - no one 'forced' Irish people to do any of this (if compulusion was anywhere it was for those for whom the 'Celtic Tiger' economic boom was something they read about rather than experieced themselves). People (by which of course I do not mean ALL people - since not everyone engaged in the orgy of debt-fuelled consumption, spectulative house buying for a quick buck and all the rest of it. Yes, perhaps one of the reasons why the Greens attract a disproportionate amout of the public anger about the end of the Celtic Tiger and the curent pain is that to publicly admit that the responsibility lies sqaurely with the FFers, the PDs and their active encouragement of consumption, debt, housing speculation etc is to also have to face the fact that many people did so knowing that this was too good to be true, that maybe there was something wrong with the developer-FF coalition on the back of which so many Irish people made a lot of money snd had a high old time. Maybe, just maybe, focusing anger on the Greens is a way to avoid looking at the FF mirror in which a lot of people currently slagging of the Greens will find their own reflection. After all, its only when the tide goes out do you know whose naked, and to hide their embarassment people will use any fig leaf....Green in this case.

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