datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Year: 2020

My Pride

Pride is an odd thing. A deadly sin. An award unlooked for, yet keenly felt. I look back at the Repeal campaign with nothing but pride. I try to be angry. The vituperation. The calumny. The stakes. Such high stakes. Not a wager I could lose, for my body was not in the game. A proponent yes, an active participant in the contest, but for my part, necessarily a mere game. I stood to gain nor lose anything of me or my rights. I am left with my pride. I helped. And nothing I ever do in life will ever have such consequence. I helped where others wouldn’t. I helped where those that needed help, risked all.

I am prouder of this than I can express in mere words. It comforts me now, no matter the vicissitudes, the normalcy, the ennui, there was a thing I did. And did well. It was both process and instances. I was there from the beginning. I suggested it. “Why not Kerry?” I said. Why not Kerry? Then Paula made it happen. The details, the innumerable details. All these, she met and ticked and identified the next. I am proud of my question.

I am proud of every door I knocked on. I am proud of every canvasser coached and every door they knocked on. I am proud of their politeness when politeness was not deserved. I am proud of every evening spent in expectation of abuse. I am proud of the mountains scaled. I am proud of the tallying of the count. I am proud of the reserve. I am proud that I now know people I scarcely deserve to know.

All this pride but there was this single moment where all that pride was distilled. When I tasted the purest form of pride. When I knew I had achieved more than I am ordinarily capable. I gave a speech at our celebration. Of course, I did. For weeks I had been preparing in my mind two forms of consolation. The lesser, a national victory but a local defeat. The greater, utter ruin. My sense of duty was such that I felt it my responsibility. That was pride and that was vain. It was not my place nor would I have had the words. The stakes were beyond my comprehension.

We were all there. Well fed. Exhausted. I thanked them all. So vain to think they required my gratitude. Then I referred to Paula. Who carried us all. Who made all possible. There was applause. Such applause. Even now my hackles rise at that great sound. Our leader given her due. And oh, the pride I feel still. That sound is my pride and joy. Her sacrifice of health and well-being. The scars still carried. If I live to be a hundred that sound will carry me on. My pride.

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In The National Interest

There are many who think it’s the Green Party’s duty to enter government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Similarly, it is thought Labour and the Social Democrats should do what they can to facilitate a FF/FG coalition. Obviously, we need a government. The columnists insist that this be a strong and stable government. Strong and stable are words that appeal to their readers. No one speaks of coherent though.

The general election left us with two blocks in our parliament. For the first time since the creation of the State, we have a group of left leaning parties that have almost the same number of seats as the right leaning parties. This is amazing. For a political nerd like me it’s the realisation of a dream. Of course, for most of my life I had counted myself as being on the right of that divide, but more on that anon.   

This is no small thing. This is not esoteric naval gazing. At the heart of the left-right divide is the role of the State in our individual lives, in society and in the economy. It had appeared that the right had triumphed and for the last several decades we witnessed the retreat of the State. Something I was very happy about. Then there was the Great Recession and I had to reassess my ideology. I thought everyone would be doing so but ideological nerdishness is apparently a minority sport.

The smaller State allowed private enterprise run amok. Greed and inefficiency meant the State had to pick up the pieces. Something it periodically has to do whenever it leaves capitalism off the rein. I wasn’t happy coming to that realisation. Unfortunately, too many of us wear our ideology as an identity as opposed to a position constantly changing as more information becomes available. I had to accept that left to their own devices, people, will put self-interest so far in front of everything else, it’ll eventually burn themselves as well as everyone else. Much like what happened in our housing bubble.

As this pandemic burns across the globe we see which countries are doing better. Generally, they have well developed public health systems, there is some level of trust between the populace and their politicians and there’s an agreement that perhaps saving lives is more important than the economy.

That is not to criticise our caretaker government’s handling of the crisis. I’ll be honest, if Leo Varadkar retired from politics and ran for the presidency, I’d probably vote for him. Or at least give him a high preference. His dealing with the pandemic merits praise. He has proven himself to be competent enough to listen to experts. That may seem like a low bar for praise but look around the world. Listening to experts is no longer the norm. Graft and ideology are more important than mere facts.

But Varadkar and to a lesser extent, Michael Martin are of a mindset that has meant we are not necessarily in a position to save every life that needs saving. Our under-resourced health system is dealing with a generational crisis when it can’t even deal with seasonal flu. Yet a lot of people are making a lot of money off of the health system. The thousands of homeless people, needlessly homeless, are being sheltered, but why can’t they self-isolate like I do? In their own homes? How much money did landlords and hotels receive in the last ten years? Men, women and children stuck in Direct Provision Centres for unending years? Unable to self-isolate. Unable to social distance? Unable to cocoon? An industry created by our politicians.

It is a mindset that lauds the monetisation of misery. I wish this industrialised callousness was the result of corruption. I’d feel a lot better about the world if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians were found to be profiting from this misery. But they are not. This distortion of the social contract is ideological. They genuinely believe they are doing the right thing. They genuinely think they, and their parties, have been doing the right thing for the country. Ideology is their identity.

I joined the Green Party because I think if we don’t prioritise the environment today, then things like ideology and coalitions and duty to govern will soon become moot. And to prioritise the environment we must be in power. The dramatic changes that are necessary cannot be coaxed into existence from the opposition benches. But the change required to deal with the climate emergency will make what is happening now appear like the most minor of minor blips. We don’t have half a century of incrementalism left to us. We need the State to make decisions and take on responsibilities that make even a convert like me shudder. Because please remember, I may now be on the left but do I feel comfortable with the chancers we elect making vital decisions on my behalf? Fuck no. I’ve met several politicians in my life. The number that have impressed me I can count on one hand. And even then, I thought most of them were wrong.

The Greens could do very well in government. We’d have ministries, extra senators and access to hitherto unimaginable resources. But we would achieve so little with these two parties in charge that the whole point of being the Green Party would be lost. We want to save the planet. Yes, that sounds naive and saying it attracts scorn. But just like Varadkar, we listen to experts too. The planet does require saving. That’s not a left or right issue. It’s just a fact. Why most Greens are, in my experience, now on the left, is the realisation many of us have had, that unfettered capitalism is incapable of achieving our most basic goal, preventing the collapse of our civilisation due to climate change.

I don’t see how Green Party participation would contribute to a coherent government if its core ideology is so at variance with its coalition partners. I can’t see it. And if we are able to coalesce successfully with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, what does that say about us?

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Greens and Government Formation

We don’t have a government. Well, technically we do, but it wasn’t chosen by the current Dáil. Negotiations to form a new government have been interrupted and/or given an added impetus by the coronavirus pandemic. Varadkar and his caretaker cabinet have been doing ok though. He knows he can’t do anything that doesn’t have the overwhelming support of the Dáil so we have, in practice, a national government in place. It’s obviously not sustainable, but for now it’ll do. And while all organs of the State are bent on saving lives, politicians have to find the time to put together some sort of arrangement that will allow, sooner rather than later, for a new Taoiseach, a new cabinet and a new suite of policies to be elected by this Dáil.

I’m a member of the Green Party. Before the election I had hoped we would be required by either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail to form a government. We would drive a hard bargain and walk away if we couldn’t get exactly what we wanted.

I joined the Green Party because it is a coalition. All serious political parties are coalitions, but I think the breadth of ideologies in the Green Party is quite something. There are sections of the party I’d really like to see get in the sea. Some I’m glad didn’t win seats. But I don’t care about them. I joined the Green Party because it is a coalition of people who’d like to see states, societies and all humans begin to treat our planet as being the only planet we can inhabit. You know, the reality. I’ve no love for, nor loyalty to, the Green Party. I can’t even see it existing in ten to twenty years time. Either we’ll be so successful that our continued existence will appear anachronistic. Or we’ll fail and have nothing to contribute to the End Times but our lettuce.

I don’t care if we go into coalition with either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Fianna Fáil was my first preference as they have no actual ideology other than a burning need to be in power. Fine Gael have an identifiable ideology. It’s wrong but they have something. And I say that as a former member of FG. That they learned nothing from the Great Recession astounds me. Their constant need to monetise misery, through Direct Provision and HAP, appals me.

Either would have been useful to us if they’d been suitably motivated. But together? In power with one of them, we’d have suffered at the next election. But together? We’d be wiped out at the next general election. Being wiped out isn’t the worst thing in the world. It would be inconvenient yes, but the inevitable lack of progress in moving the country towards dealing with the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis? Now that would be criminal.

Which leaves us with Sinn Féin. I despise Sinn Féin and everything they represent. I’d hoped they would never get into power in my lifetime. Then they unquestionably won the last election. They may be criticised for their election strategy but every poll indicated they would have to work very hard to just hold what they had. No one predicated that the consistent failure, the ideologically motivated failure of FG and their cheerleaders in FF would move so many people to vote SF. I despise them but any government that doesn’t include them is a government the Greens cannot be a part of. They care as little for the environment as FG and FF and they are as desperate to be in power as FG and FF. But they won the last election, morally and in first preferences.

FG and FF cannot countenance including SF in government. I understand that. For ideological reasons for the former and existential reasons for the latter. And I dare say some would also argue for moral reasons. Instead they will throw money at certain constituencies to bring Independents on board and they’ll muddle their way through, for a time. Particular constituencies will end up with better roads than their neighbours because screwing over your neighbours is ok in this country.

The Greens will be in opposition. This is a good thing. So much bigger with vastly increased resources and a motivated base. We have a maximum of five years to prepare, to campaign, to educate, to learn and to be in a position where serious environmental policies will no longer scare and confuse the larger parties. Come the next election we will be asked to support either an amalgamated FG/FF or a Sinn Féin led administration. We won’t have lost ten years by being tied to the disastrously parochial government we are about to see cobbled together.

(But if there was to be a genuine national unity government that included Sinn Féin and at least one of the left of centre parties then I’d support the Greens being in that.)

 

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