Tag Archives: green politics

Not for Profit

I’m currently reading Mark Steel’s ‘What’s Going On’ – fast becoming my revolutionary handbook of preference. He makes the point that the idea of profit seems to have taken over everything else. We’ve become obsessed, as a culture, with the money that can be made from things. We devalue the things that have no price tag on them, and if it isn’t making a profit, it goes. When the only value available is profit, how can you protect the habitat of a newt, or suggest that clean drinking water ought to be a human right? What price love, or companionship? What’s the economic worth of not having a shitty day? Who cares? We’re selling our quality of life, and all too often we sell it to the lowest bidder for the least possible return.

Being Green is not just about the politics. For me, the politics are the least of it. Lifestyle, culture, personal change and community are a more important manifestation of the Green agenda than getting bums onto political seats. Not least because a bottoms up approach to things is always better than a top down solution. Imposing things on people is not part of a Green agenda. We have to BE the change.

So I’d like to issue you all with a small challenge, and it goes like this: Every day, very deliberately do something that has no economic value whatsoever. Do it for love. It can’t be online, because of the electricity you use and the advertising revenue your presence generates. That’s all about the money. You can’t pay to do it, and it cannot lead to something you will be paid for doing. If that seems difficult to figure out, it will be a measure of how economically informed your life has become, and this is something you need to know about.

Small gestures are fine. Gaze out of the window for half an hour. Go and sit under a tree. Have a little dance. Sing a song – you do not have to be good, you just have to like singing songs. Rescue something you might have thrown away and turn it into some other things. Even better if those things are sock puppets or of no real utility. Play. Mess about. Turn the phone off and climb into a big chair with something warm and soft to cuddle. Have an extra hour in the duvet. Re-read a book you already own.

We have to stop being good little consumers, and we have to stop letting every part of our lives be turned into someone else’s profit. Or our own, for that matter. We have to stop letting profit be the most important thing, or we are going to trash the planet in the name of GDP. The way to do this is not through top-down politics, but through each of us quietly undertaking to rebel in small ways. Do something irrelevant that you enjoy. Rest more. Play. Practice religion or philosophy. Make love.

If you can get that into the mix once a day, you can expand on it. You can add value to your life- value in a warm, human sense, not in the sense that goes on a balance sheet. You can also do this and be useful – that’s actually easy because many of the things that most need doing, no one will pay you for anyway. Read a book to a child, pick up litter, give away things you no longer need. Contemplate what strikes you as being economic activity, and what doesn’t, and have a look at the interesting grey areas in between. How monetised are your life and perceptions?

And, next time someone tells you it’s all about the bottom line, laugh at them. Please. Laughter is powerful, and this obsession with profit is ridiculous, and destructive. We need to start mocking it as the lunacy it so clearly is.

 

(For the other side of the argument, about the need for paying fairly for things, there is Creativity for love and money)


Working Green

There have been a lot of dramatic shifts in my life lately, and one of them is that I’ve just taken on a new job. I can’t call it ‘conventional employment’ because it won’t be – odd and variable hours, a lot of working from home, occasional periods of frenetic activity punctuated by quite bits, probably. I’m going to be the local press officer for The Green Party.

I’ve been a quiet member of The Green Party for about four years now, and for me it’s an important aspect of my being a Druid. The ancient Druids were, by all accounts, advisors to rulers. While I believe very strongly that the state should be separate from religion in terms of systems, as individual people we are both political and spiritual, or at least can be. I cannot separate the need for responsible political action from my spiritual life. The planet needs compassionate politics with an eye to the long term. We need social justice. Generally speaking, good environmental policy and social justice go together easily. We all need clean air and safe water, by way of obvious examples.

With the terrifying prospect of fracking on the agenda, with social justice pushed right out to the margins by a mainstream politics of short term greed, there is a real need for a Green agenda.

For me this is a dream job, because it enables me to take my writerly skills-base and put it to good use. One of the things that I struggle with, often, as a writer, is whether I am sufficiently useful to be making a difference. I got into writing in the first place because I wanted to make a meaningful contribution, and I believed that sharing words would be a good way to do that. I still do hold that belief, but these are different times from those in which Dickens raised awareness of the poor, or Blake challenged the dark, Satanic mills.

Putting my language skills to work for a good cause feels like a step in the right direction, for me. There’s also scope to work on making Green issues more acceptable, trying to reach out to a wider audience, not by ‘dumbing down’ but by finding accessible language, and engaging ways of telling the stories.

There are many things I love about Green politics. My job explicitly requires me not to do anything that looks at all like spin, or for that matter, that *is* spin. There is also a policy of polite and positive engagement. We don’t spend our time attacking individuals, it’s all about the ideas. We also don’t run campaigns full of negativity and misery. A big part of the idea is to try and inspire people, to facilitate individual responsibility, helping people who might not otherwise speak up, to engage with politics and make changes.

For a small party, the Greens in the UK punch well above their weight in terms of making changes. We get things done. Much of this happens outside of parliament (just the one green MP). There are a lot of Green councillors in the country, working quietly at a local level to try and improve things. I’m really proud to be stepping up to be a part of that.