In defence of the Greens
For those who value our present way of life, the Greens are sweet camouflaged poison.
Cardinal George Pell, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney and Possible Pope.
George Pell is the voice of the Catholic hierarchy. His Grace used his regular Sunday Telegraph column to attack the Greens with a farrago of lies about them and called them anti-Christian. First, let’s look at some of his evidence.
In an original contribution redolent of Paul Howes he called some greens watermelons and Stalinists. Maybe he means Lee Rhiannon whose mother and father were prominent Communist Party members. This proves nothing. Evidently when Pell writes in the Sunday Telegraph his pronouncements are ex cathedra. Isn’t he getting just a little ahead of himself?
This is part of the extreme right’s agenda to attack the Greens on personalities rather than policies, on innuendo rather than outcomes.
For example Pell mentions that Peter Singer and Bob Brown co-authored a book called The Greens. He then elides into saying that Singer supports infanticide. The book of course makes no such argument and the case against Singer alone is ambiguous (although his conservative utilitarianism leaves him open to such accusations).
When the Greens are humanists I stand with them; when they descend into ‘all species are equal’ mysticism I cannot support them. Pell cunningly uses the Greens’ mysticism to attack their humanism.
An irony is that in Singer’s 2009 book, The life you can save: acting now to end world poverty, he actually adopts Catholic ‘good deed’ reasoning, or as he puts it ‘In the Christian tradition helping the poor is a requirement for salvation.’ He argues for a tithe through the tax system to do so.
Singer goes on to argue that ‘the members of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, according to the account given in the Acts of the Apostles, sold all their possessions and divided them according to need.’
This is a problem for Pell since some sections of Christianity are attracted to left wing ideas about community, sharing wealth and helping others, based not unreasonably on some of the teachings of Christ.
The Greens have a strong Christian current within their organisation. One of the ACT candidates, Lyn Hatfield-Dodds, was head of Uniting Care. The first Greens Senator Jo Vallentine was a Quaker, and another former Greens Senator, Christabel Chamarette was an Anglican and previously chair of the Anglican Social Responsibilities Commission in WA.
Pell’s diatribe began when a young adherent asked His Excellence how he should vote. Let’s leave aside what this tells us about the blind faith of the laity, not in their god but in the princes of the Church. Although the Possible Pope told the young man it was not his role to tell him how to vote, he then told him not to vote Green.
The Greens, along with the vast majority of Australians, including many Christians, support abortion and gay marriage. Pell does not.
However the main reason for Pell’s outburst was not morals but money. The Greens question funding to private schools at the expense of public schools. Pell, in defending the privileged schools, looks to me much like the money changers in the Temple.
The separation of state and church was a demand of the bourgeoisie in its revolutionary stage, that stage when it was trying to establish itself as the dominant power by overthrowing the eons of Christian superstition that humanity had become bogged down in.
The Church was a barrier to the rule of the capitalist class. As Marx put it in the Communist Manifesto:
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
Well, not quite Karl. Once it had established its power at the expense of the Church and the landed aristocracy (often the same class) the bourgeoisie conservatised itself and society and incorporated religion into its informal structures of control. This religious role was especially important in developing the myth of the nuclear family and the reality of its creation of the next generation of workers on the cheap (ie through the unpaid labour of women) for capital.
Both the Labor Party the Coalition have overseen a shift in Federal Government funding in the last 3 decades to private schools at the expense of public schools. Within that shift the main beneficiaries have been the wealthy private schools not poor Christian schools.
Instead of adopting the slogans of the bourgeoisie in the United States and France in the late 18th Century about the separation of Church and State it is my view socialists should argue the capitalist state should fund all poor schools, not rich ones.
The Greens also want to ensure that the Christian fundamentalists cannot discriminate against people on the basis of their gender or sexual preference – something that is inherent to most of the factions within Christianity. mark this down as yet another reason for Pell’s outrage.
Tony Abbott, the leader of the Opposition, has called Pell his confessor. Abbott is a product of the BA Santamaria/DLP Catholic Labor Right split and its successful move into the Liberal Party.
Pell’s attack on the Greens then was not only a defence of his position of power in society and the threat real Christian community values pose to his privilege and that of the institution of the Church, it was also arguably a dog whistle attack on the ALP, in particualr the atheist Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Gillard and the Labor Party have done their best to neutralise private school funding as an issue by capitulating to the Pells of the world with guarantees of continued private school funding till 2013, something even the normally supine and pro-Labor Australian Education Union has verbally condemned.
But Pell wants more and he sees Abbott as his best bet for increased private school funding and ‘traditional’ (ie reactionary) Catholic values.
Pell was telling his flock to vote Liberal.
So here we have a man of reaction dog whistling to vote for the Liberals, lying about the Greens, adopting guilt by incorrect association and attacking an organisation which displays more Christian values than the Liberals or Labor when it comes to asylum seekers, the poor and powerless and protection of our environment.
Thanks for the recommendation to people like me to vote Green, Cardinal Pell. ‘Vote Green against Christian fundamentalism and reaction.’ I might have to take you up on that.