28 January 2006

Dear Gerrard Winstanley (2)

I'm not done with you yet.

As happens every so often, yesterday I tried to align myself with one of our political parties. First I went to www.politicalcompass.org, as a crude measure of whether my views have changed in the year or so since I was last there. I find I've got a bit further to the left, leaving very little room to go travel any further, and ever so slightly less liberal, though there's very little in it. This is a little alarming given I tried to err on the side of moderation.

The only British political party even in the same quartile as me seems to be the Greens. I suppose the Socialist Workers or some similar bunch might be, although my instinct is to assume they're socially much less liberal. Maybe this is unfair. It seems likely that in actual fact I'm put off by either their extremism, their gang mentality, or (most likely) their spelling. Bizarre really that extremism should be a problem given that economically I'm slightly to the left of Stalin. But there's something tremendously unattractive about the rabble-rousing qualities of extreme left or right. Why can't "extreme" positions be couched in rational language. As far as I'm concerned my position is a perfectly rational one. I don't feel the need to rant or thump tubs.

So I'm instinctively more attracted to the Greens, who are both economically left wing, socially liberal and ecologically responsible. They are right to say that the saving of our planet is probably the most pressing challenge the next couple of generations will face. But again, I find their rhetoric unattractive. Their statement of core beliefs opens them right up to the hoary old charges of tree-hugging and they can do better than that. Instead of getting at why environmental issues are so pressing for everyone, they disappear into hippy mode using the environment as a metaphor for every issue. It's tub-thumping by other means. To be taken seriously they need to diversify, otherwise they'll be seen as an interest group as narrow as UKIP.

Essentially I'm in agreement with them on almost all issues except Europe. They also have an over-optimistic view of local government, aiming to create more without any ideas about how to dynamise it. Maybe they think giving more power to local authorities will improve the quality of those represented there, but the best people are still going to want to go to Westminster where more gets done. Maybe promising young things should be forced to do a stint in local government before being allowed up the greasy pole.

The argument runs that only by joining the party can you effect change within it. So I still consider signing up with the Greens. But transforming them into a party where environmental issues are only the most important plank in a broad policy ship rather than its whole hull seems an remote contingency given their name and origins.

So frustrated with all of this (and the fact that West Leeds seems to have no Green Party despite the fact that I voted for them in the General Election), I speculatively entered into google "find me something to believe in". This was probably rash as by far the most likely result was a Christian website. Instead I got a blogging site called 43things, where correspondents list the 43 things they want to achieve and blog about their success. Several people have "blog more regularly" without any posts on the subject, an attitude I sympathise with. But a few had "find something to believe in." Those who had done so successfully recommended the quest, which is heartening, although I couldn't quite work out what it was they had found. God, presumably. One girl had instead put "define my philosophical beliefs", which is nearer to what I ought to have googled except that I know what I believe. What I'm looking for is someone who shares my beliefs, in order to vote for them.

Why am I telling you all of this, Gerrard? Because you got off your arse and acted on what you believed in. You didn't need a party. You just got on with it. I admire that. Sadly, as an academic and theatre practitioner, forming a political party in the modern world is outside my skill set. So I suppose I ought to join the Greens.


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