Monday, November 21, 2011

Forget roots, trees die, no longer Green

Russel Norman's quick as a flash decision to turn in Green Party member Jolyon White for political "vandalism" of National Party billboards was a slap in the face to the activists who have spent years building the Green Party from the grass roots to where it is now. There's three main reasons for this:

1) The defacing of political billboards is a New Zealand tradition.
When parties put up their billboards they expect a number of them to be defaced. Even National Party president Peter Goodfellow admitted this in an interview with morning report the day after the co-ordinated defacing of over 700 National Party billboards. The Sunday Star-times this week ran a good natured article on the different forms of defacing that have occurred so far and listeners to Radio Live are encouraged to send in photo's of defaced billboards. It can be a form of political activism, satire or art, but however you want to view it, it is a time honoured tradition of elections in New Zealand.

2) It had nothing to do with the Green Party.
Russel Norman went before the media and apologised "on behalf of the Green Party", but what did it have to do with the Greens? Nothing. That's why Norman also went on to state that White was "not an active member of the Green Party". By tying the actions of an activist to a political party just because that person was a member and then going a step further and expelling that person and turning them in, Norman essentially says that activists have no place in politics - the two cannot co-exist. Either you have to be an activist outside of the political system or join a party and behave. The problem with this stance is that it is inconsistent with previous Green Party stances.

3) Inconsistency
In 2002 the Green party copped a lot of flack for refusing to condemn activists who destroyed GM crops. They said they did not agree with the action, but Jeanette Fitzsimons made the Party's line very clear "we are not prepared to condemn in a blanket way all forms of non-violentdirect action" (and you can bet that a number of these activists were or had been Green Party members). In 2008 the Green's supported the actions of the Ploughshare activists who attacked the Waihopai spy base. Both these actions far outweigh putting some stickers on some billboards to make a political statement, yet Norman instantly came out and said the Green's "believe it [White's action's] is vandalism and condemn these actions".

So let's quickly recap. A popular past-time of activists and humourists is adopted on a large scale by someone who is a member of a political party that supports direct action. The activist takes part in direct action, but in no way under the banner of the party. Said party turns him in and takes responsibility for the action, apologising and paying for the damage. Confused? I'm sure middle New Zealand think it was the responsible thing to do, but I'm also sure there are a large number of dedicated Green Party activists feeling betrayed and lost right about now.