Back of the brain niggles

First, let me say I thought the Green’s campaign team ran a strategically awesome campaign.  It was smart, nuanced and pitched very elegantly.  It was the best run campaign of the election (with the possible exception of Winston Peters late-finishing ‘smell of an oily rag’ campaign. Congratulations to the whole team.

However…

I’ve had a few niggling concerns at the back of my brain throughout this campaign. I understood that the ‘highly unlikely’ positioning thing was important in terms of being an independent party and positioning ourselves as separate from Labour. But let’s be honest – No party has been more diagrammatically opposed to National in their voting record over the last three years that the Greens (92 percent voting against the National Party vs Labour’s record of voting 58 percent against the National Party).  Much as we may be sick of it, our role for this next three years must staunch opposition to the National/Banks/Dunne government. Getting people to vote for us under the pretence that we might be able to work with National felt deceptive.

But the ‘highly unlikely’ thing didn’t bug me too much – it was relatively honest if we ignored the dog-whistling to soft National voters and looked at in a purely analytical way.

But more concerning for me has been the general tone of the policy presentation for the campaign. Instead of climate change we talked about holidaying people being able to swim in rivers.  Our advertising defined poverty purely in terms of children, and we presented a Green economy as some utopia where we need make no sacrifices, and everyone has jobs building windmills and goes camping every summer.

When ‘Vote for a richer New Zealand‘ first came out I thought it was cleverly ironic – undercutting our traditional beliefs about the value of economic growth. But, as the campaign went on it felt less ironic, and more divorced from an accurate reflection of what I understood Green economics to be. I believe a true Green economy will take away some people’s jobs.  It may create other jobs too but it will involve some hard choices that will hurt some sectors of the economy and benefit others. A Green economy should be challenging, because it is radically different from the current capitalist economy that both National and Labour support.

I know the party’s policies have not changed. But it felt to me that what we offered people to vote for us on was sun-drenched holidays swimming in rivers, pink batts for children and jobs for everyone constructing windmills.

What worries me is that our new MPs now face a tough choice. Do they represent the traditional Green values or do they represent the Green-lite values for which I suspect large numbers of voters voted? I hope they (the MPs), who will have talked to lots more voters than I, feel they have a mandate to be more than the advertising presented them as.

Speech by Hamilton West Green candidate to Campaign for Better Transport in Hamilton

What follows is my speech as the Green party of Aotearoa New Zealand candidate for Hamilton West, delivered at the first public ‘Meet the Candidates’ meeting held in Hamilton NZ by the Campaign for Better Transport.

“Kia Ora, good evening Hamilton.

My name is Max Coyle and I am standing for the Green Party in Hamilton West.

Cars have ripped apart my family, and ripped apart communities. Over three successive years an entire branch of my family was wiped out by car accidents leaving 5 people dead and 2 of my cousins orphaned. The car culture which see’s a car as an aspiration and symbol of wealth in our country today is unhealthy, and also unsustainable. Cars kill and they are inefficient. With the rising cost of fuel and the environmentally destructive methods needed to obtain the black gold, this culture has to end, but that’s not really what I’m here to talk to you about, I’m here to talk about a healthier and more cost-effective and economically beneficial solution, excellent public transport.

Public Transport is about community and you always meet amazing people on trips. On the other hand, motorways are barriers that all too often cut through the heart of communities. Where public transport brings people together, motorways keep people apart.

When my son is older I would like to take him to the beach, or to one of our rivers (once the Greens have made sure they are all cleaned up) and on our trips there I would like to spend time with him, entertain each other and make sure that every moment together counts, I want to be able to look my son in the eye, because the day he was born I realized that those eyes are where I find the most powerful unconditional love in myself I never knew existed. Instead I have to watch the road for fear of killing us all. One of the great things about public transport is that I can actively engage with those I am traveling with, you can not do that in a car traveling at 100km’s an hour.

I often have to travel to Auckland or Wellington and currently that time is wasted. It will be great when I can get my laptop out and connect to the net and get some work done on my journeys. It would not only make me more productive, just imagine how much more productive our whole country could become. Has anyone been to a city overseas where the public transport was effortless? How amazing does it make your trip? I’m sure tourists visiting our 74% pure country would be stoked to have the same experience here.

With amazing public transport which is both cost-effective and comfortable, efficient and timely, well planned and well run, we CAN change the car culture we live in. Being stuck in traffic could become a thing of the past. Every day around Hamilton West I see people driving cars with no passengers. It doesn’t make sense to be lugging a couple of tonnes of metal around by yourself on most trips and it will make even less sense when petrol is $5 a litre.

We must plan for a city of the future Hamilton. We must grasp our opportunity to be an accessible and economically successful city, now and into the future. Which is why I am standing for the political party of the future in the city of the future. My name is Max Coyle and I’m standing as the Green Party candidate for Hamilton West and on November 26th I invite you, to PARTY VOTE GREEN”

I visited the Waitangi Tribunal Library for the first time ever last week. Not to do some research on ‘Wai 262’ though I heard from the receptionist things had been busier there over the past 2 days. My visit was to see something on one of the walls, not in one of the documents, or books on one of the many shelves, well taken care of by a wonderful team of dedicated people.

One of those people was my Uncle, which brings me back to my visit. When I was quite young over the space of 3 years a complete branch of my family was wiped out. 2 Uncles, 2 aunties and 1 baby cousin. The first accident was a drunk driver crossing the centreline and crashing into my Uncle’s car. The other car following my Uncle plowed into the back of his car, causing my Uncles Ford Capri to be crushed betwee the two, I can’t remember whether he died instantly or minutes later. Hamilton West Green Party candidate Max Coyle and his Uncle the late Brett Sinclair

Exactly a year after that, 3 days before my Uncles unveiling, his mother, my Great Aunty Rangi died. The clinical diagnosis was a heart attack, though the rest of the family talked about her dying of grief, even at 14 I was quickly learning how powerful grief was. I believed my relatives, that it was the last year since the death of her beloved son, Brett Sinclair, that had taken too deep a toll. Having seen Rangi 4 months previously for what would be the last time, I remember seeing the shadow of a woman, standing where a once vibrant, warm and welcoming aunty once greeted us with baking and soup and a hug whose absence leaves me cold even today.

Fast forward a year and the family is having another reunion, this time on a happier note and we are preparing for an Uncles wedding. Our grandmothers large house in Gore is full of relatives from all over NZ and all the young cousins/brothers/sisters/nieces/nephews are playing upstairs.

A knock at the door see’s a policeman at the door, cap in hand. he has come as death’s messenger and informs us that My Auntie Lee, Bretts Sister, her husband and their 1 year old son have been killed in a car accident en-route to the wedding after my Uncle fell asleep at the wheel. There two older boys, my cousins, survived the crash, and were never the same again.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time during my speech to tell this story, I wish that I had. National both during the public meeting and through their policies are saying that the numbers just don’t stack up on funding public transport. David Bennett the chairperson on the Transport Working group refused to accept the 11’500 signatures from Waikato people calling for a passenger train to Hamilton. My number is 5, 5 dead, and I wish that number counted for something.

The reason we don’t have “Progressive” Greens

Over at Shakesville they have an article on the increasing trend of objectification of women for “green” causes1. Thanks to the work of some of our very talented and practically inexhaustible Green women, I find it really hard to imagine the idea of a green movement that isn’t something of a safe space, and that’s something all of us (men and women) should be thankful for.

However, the USA is showing us how we very easily could have gone down an “enviropop” path had we been willing to strip out the truly progressive part of our message- that the limited availability of resources dictates immediate progress towards social equality. In the USA, however, that philosophy doesn’t appear to have caught on, and instead the Green movement has widened faster but is making slower progress- encapsulating more reluctant greens on their own terms has opened up the floodgates not only to misogyny, but also a weakening of the environmental message in the name of “prosperity”- or rather, not-quite-as unsustainable growth.

While I’m all for a broad tent, and I don’t think you have to be progressive or leftist to be an environmentalist or a supporter of aggressive action on climate change, I think that this sort of behaviour within Green movements actively damages them by compromising the integrity of the whole. Not being a progressive or a leftist is not the same thing as being a misogynist, and letting new people into our tent shouldn’t mean objectifying some of the people who are already behind us.
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Thank you Simon Upton

Thank you Simon Upton for a trip down memory lane, and a reminder of where my green roots came from. Simon Upton wrote a moving article about his recently deceased father, musing whether self-professed greens had a monopoly on green values, or whether there should be a place for representatives of the older generation on the billboards he admires. “Without even having heard of sustainable development, he lived on the basis that his choices should not foreclose those of his children’s generation. Doing that required prudence, thrift and a measure of self-denial. It seems a world removed from the debt-fuelled consumerism of our times”, he writes of his 87 year old father.

I think you would find, Simon, that many many greens were influenced by such examples of good living by our older family members. This one anyway owes a huge debt to her Auntie, too singular to ever need a qualifying name – she’s “plain Auntie”, my sister famously told a visitor. She and my parents were all products of the depression, and my parents were also frugal by necessity, but it was Auntie who best expressed that passion for frugality and making a game out of making do. I remember laughing at her in my callow youth for washing and reusing the gladwrap from round the supermarket celery. We were equally amused, embarrassed and excited by the steady stream of second hand clothes that she picked up for us kids, and later, our kids, from the op shops in Newtown decades before op-shopping became chic. Continue reading

Nader’s humourous soliloquy

I love it when a politician doesn’t take himself/herself too seriously. Ralph Nader, who is not the Green Party candidate in the US this time around, delivers a very humourous soliloquy. It does reflect how it used to be around here, before MMP. When a minor party candidate couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Thank god things have changed here!

Build your own billboard

With billboard season upon us, the internet is giving us th opportunity to culture jam our favourite party’s billboards. Needless to say I was ecstatic to be sent a link to this site this morning. After a couple of fizzers, I am proud of my new National Party Billboard:

Please take a moment and vote for my billboard. It is #117 on the site and then you can surf all the other hillarious send ups!