As I read Chris Hedges’s insightful and frightening book The Death of the Liberal Class, I’m continuing to ask myself, “What’s to be done?” A question that is just as apropos, if not more, is, “Why isn’t there a political organization in the United States that is doing what needs to be done?”
When the disaffected turn to the Tea Party, which bamboozles them into furthering their own destruction, it’s because they have nowhere else to turn.
And then there’s the Green Party. The principles espoused by the Green Party are admirable — and yet nobody cares. I can see, or guess at, several interlocking reasons for the Greens’ failure to accomplish or even move toward any of their larger objectives:
They refuse to accept corporate funding. As a principle, this is terrific, and I certainly wouldn’t favor changing it. But the practical result is, the Green Party is dirt-poor. They don’t have the money it would take to mount a single high-profile campaign, let alone a dozen campaigns at once.
The Greens lack charismatic leadership. This is, I think, by design. The website for the Green Party of California advocates, among other things, “grassroots democracy.” I take this to mean that ideas and actions are supposed to percolate up from below rather than being championed from above. The intent of this principle is, I suppose, to remind ordinary people that their contributions are as valuable as anyone’s. But one result seems to be that the Party lacks discipline. Everyone is free to gallop off in their own direction, working at whatever cause they feel strongly about. Things that nobody feels strongly about (or that nobody has time for) don’t get done, because there is no leadership to browbeat followers into taking on the less pleasant or less stimulating but nonetheless vital work. In such an environment, how can a coordinated political effort take shape?
Americans have been force-fed the bizarre idea that complex and intractable problems have simple, clear solutions. The very complexity of the Green Party’s social, economic, political, and environmental vision doesn’t appeal to people who want a quick fix. Remember when Barack Obama campaigned on a slogan of “Change”? Sounded good, didn’t it? A one-word solution. Two years down the line, nothing has changed. The Green Party really does stand for meaningful change, but the explanation of what the Party means by the word “change” will take half an hour, and you’ll want to read a couple of books beforehand if you hope to understand what they’re talking about. Who has the patience for that?
The Greens’ message is consistently distorted, downplayed, demonized, or ignored by corporate-owned mass media. This comes as no surprise, and certainly the Green Party is not to blame. On the other hand, the Greens don’t seem to have many guerrilla media gurus in their ranks. They aren’t coming up with programs or actions that grab media attention. Or at least, that’s my impression. Since I don’t watch TV, they could have been on Oprah every day this month, and I wouldn’t know. But somehow that doesn’t seem too likely.
I could also make a case, if I worked at it, that the Green Party is irrelevant because the entire political process is irrelevant. If elections are meaningless, then the fact that the Greens have no hope of winning elections is also meaningless. To put it another way, by organizing as a political party at all, rather than in some other form, the Greens are buying into an illusion rather than working effectively toward meaningful social change. If your car is out of gas, you don’t fix it by pumping more air into the tires!
Tonight, as I ate dinner in a local restaurant, I watched the happy, well-dressed, well-groomed people dining all around me, and I thought about the civilians in Afghanistan, who when they’re not being butchered wholesale by the American military are forced to live under a corrupt and tyrannical regime that is propped up by the American military.
The reason Americans don’t flock to the Green Party is not hard to see: We’re far too comfortable. We may glimpse those suffering Afghans for ten seconds on the evening news, but then the news commentator tells us a comforting lie that makes the suffering seem no more than occasional and unavoidable in a good cause, and we accept the lie because the reality is too awful to contemplate. No, let’s go out and clink glasses and silverware with our happy friends.