I spoke last night to the Values - Green Party party, and book launch. This is, more or less, what I said.
In February 2010, as she was leaving Parliament, Jeanette Fitzsimons lent me Values’ first manifestos from 1972 and 1975. They were still alive, and speaking - in some ways speaking even more loudly today, than 40 years ago - and I wanted more than anything to see something like it from the Greens. I wanted to give these books a voice again, in 2012.
I asked Jeanette for them, because I wanted to know where her political story had started. When I read them I understood: this is not history. This is about us, and about today.
Today was all about Values. It was a privilege to be here with you today, and hear some more of your stories.
It was also all about the Greens.
This book - a values story - is the Green party’s story. It celebrates Values, and says that the Greens should too. Not just any values: all politics is about values, of one sort or another. By values, I mean: ‘Green Values’.
Everyone here from Values tonight, you all know the story: you’ve lived it. For those who haven’t lived it, to my generation, and those coming after, here is some of it, written down.
On the Greens’ 40th birthday, it says Values is a history of which the party should be very proud. Values achieved some important and remarkable things. Green values are the new way forward.
Tonight I want to say thank you to everyone here from the Values party. Thank you to Tony Brunt for his insights in 1972 - to Jeanette, for taking the baton from him with such a sure grasp and never ever letting it go - to Norman Smith, for getting excited all over again about this book, and every single one of the rest of you.
Thank you for trying, and thank you for what you achieved. In so many ways, not much has changed - a lot of things have changed, but not enough. But the Greens are here and all over the world because of you, and people like you. You were all out in front.
Thank you to Russel and his colleagues. Your support for this day, and this launch, was a brave and generous thing.
Some of you will know about Green Day - the day on which, in 1999, after waiting 10 days for the special votes to be counted, the Greens arrived in Parliament, lifted by the specials to 5.2 percent, an extra MP (Keith Locke), and a win in Coromandel.
Today is Values Day. I hope this reunion is exactly that - a reunion, remembered in another 40 years as the day on which the Greens and Values joined political forces.
It is 40 years since the Club of Rome published its own book, called The Limits to Growth. Now, in 2012, the Club of Rome is talking about values, and stories.
On March 7, I decided that this book needed a new title - its current title - Beyond Today: a values story.
Two days later, on March 9, the Club of Rome posted a blog, and this is what it said:
“When you introduce yourself to someone new, you don’t tend to tell them the data of your life - how much you weighed when you were born, not even usually the date you were born; nor how tall you are or what size shoes you wear. You tell your stories.” - and its author went on to talk about values. He said: it’s stories and values that make a religion, among the most transformational human forces.
To put that in secular terms, it’s the same things that make a culture, and politics - it’s the same things that make us human. I think that being Green is about what being human means.
In offering this book to the Greens as a 40th birthday present, I want to suggest a few things about what it means for the party today.
1. The importance of remembering what it’s about, and telling the world why we’re here. Everyone has a favourite bit, a part in the drama they can play. Everyone comes to green politics with some assumptions, intuitions, about what it means. It was described to me a year or so ago as a sort of Rorsharch blot, on to which people - voters, party members and candidates - project their own ideas, preferences, and also, their prejudices.
That’s not good enough, for me. If Green politics means anything, it’s about something bigger than self. Bigger than any one policy. Bigger than politics. I firmly believe that the story - the whole story - matters.
For you Members of Parliament, that may mean doing some things a bit differently - and I have some ideas about that.
2. Never forget that it’s a radical story. If implemented, it would change everything, from global governance, to small parts of ecosystems that we don’t even yet comprehend. It is a shift in political thought.
3. What do I mean by values? An example of different values is respecting nature’s boundaries, putting nature first. The Green charter says in its first principle that “ecological sustainability is paramount”.
That changes the economics: the Greens are a party with different economic ideas. That in turn changes the values: conservation, not consumption - ecological analysis and consciousness, not class - although, the results of the two analyses may be much the same.
It’s why the book begins as it does, where all green politics should. It offers an ecological perspective, which is bleak, because we really are now on the edge of the abyss.
But it promises a future, and that brings me to the final and most important point.
4. This is a book about bringing policy and people together. It explains how the parts fit together.
This is an ecological, not a binary approach. This is not about a choice between the environment and humanity, or the environment and social justice. These are the same things.
To explain what I mean by that, here is one quote from the book. It says:
“Enough” is one of the clues to Green policy. It is the thing that binds conservation and socialism and sustainable society, for all of these, simply expressed, are the same. I have enough now, they say. This part is yours.
Finally, I just want to take a moment to respond to a conversation I had this morning.
This isn’t, and doesn’t purport to be, a “history” of the Values party. It doesn’t name all of your names - nor could it. I haven’t spoken to all of you; I hardly know any of you.
This is all about, and written for, the Greens. The Values chapter is a snapshot, that is all. I figured: if I could catch even a glimpse of the spirit of Values’ early years, that would be power and magic enough.
Tony’s remarks this morning, about how he came to start the party, struck a chord. He said that he had an idea - that something, politically, was missing. No one else was going to do it, he’d have preferred it not to be him. But it needed to be done.
Writing this took many hundreds of hours, in the moonlight mostly, evenings and weekends. I wanted and tried hard to write something beautiful but simple enough to do justice to the story.
It doesn’t set out to be definitive; it might not all be right; it doesn’t have to be perfect actually, although I wish with all my heart that it were.
It is one chapter in a wider story to which we don’t yet know the ending. It’s a catalyst, that’s all - to start a conversation, within and beyond the Greens, about what green politics means in 2012, for the next 40 years.
I thought about it a lot; I hope it makes you do the same.