Sunday, 18 September 2005

Green with Envy

If I could vote here in Germany today, I'd be able to vote Green without feeling like I'd be giving those "right of center" an advantage. That possibility led to some sticky discussions amongst friends of mine before the vote in the States in 2000, after which many believed that those Green votes were responsible for the placement of the current US administration. With the coalition politics here, however, it makes it possible for one to vote for whom they like, yet still guard against the current administration's opposition from the further-right. Unfortunately, I'm just a resident, not a citizen.

There's been press here of late lamenting the fall of Schroeder's coalition, lauding their achievements in social, environmental, and foreign policies, moreover giving them credit for their courage in implementing much-needed economic reform. It's the unemployment rate that's their undoing, they say. I beg to differ. It's my belief that it's a backlash against the current regime in America that's leading to the abandonment of the progressiveness of "old Europe".

Support for a social-welfare state hasn't been demonized here; at least not to the extent that liberalism has become a dirty concept in the US. Even the right-wing government of Helmut Kohl put off reforms throughout their sixteen year administration to their eventual, if indirect, undoing. Gerhard Schroeder delayed these as well. In the end he knew, though, that this third rail had to be touched. And he and his coalition have laid hands on to their undoing. Now Germany's version of Nader takes the form of Oscar LaFontaine. He used to be a member of Schroeder's party, but has since left to help form a new party with the further-left PDS. Consequently, the New-Left are siphoning votes away from the current administration. But the New-Left's similarity to Nader's Greens ends there.

It seems to many here, that for the economic reform, Red/Green is heartless, and this mirrors their perception of the current administration in the United States. They see Americans as clueless, participants in their own suicide. Schroeder and his Green Secretary of State Joschka Fischer's opposition to the Iraq War is no longer enough to make a difference. They want to fight the influence of heartless Capitalism on all fronts, and since the Greens form the current coalition, they are automatically considered part of that problem. The unemployed and lucky-to-be-still-working classes don't want any part of the market economy. Many see it as an extension of American imperialism. This may not be the entire truth, but they see the evidence manifest in their own market place.

Irony abounds. Thanks in part to Fischer's cooperation with Schroeder, the Germans are the world leaders in renewable energy. This currently makes up 11% of their consumption. Due to steadfast insistence on a continuation of environmental taxes, the gas price is still twice as high as the current all-time high in the US. The voters here are aware of these facts, and the fact that America contributes twice as much greenhouse gas per head than their European counterparts, but it's not enough to keep them on board.

The Green party celebrated it's twenty-fifth anniversary in Germany this year. Their achievements are clear, but their association with an economic reform program, at a time when an exaggeratedly arrogant American administration is in the headlines daily, has painted the Green Party red, white, and blue. They're all the same. Forget the reality of Angela Merkel's plan to reverse current policy, and cut funding for renewable energy, while extending the allowable lifespan of nuclear power plants. Forget the reality that a Merkel administration promises closer cooperation with the US adminisration. They're all the same.

So today, if I could, I'd vote Green, but I can't. I instead stand helplessly by and watch an electorate ripped apart by the fear of a rising tide of a world market economy - led by what is seen as it's most aspirant proponent, hence most convenient face - commit suicide.

[added in August of 2014: It's been a while already that the realization set in for me that the Greens were, in fact the same. They have repeatedly veered right and lost all credibility. As has just about everyone else. In short, this entry of mine was naive. In my defense I submit that my being fooled again took place in what seemed at the time like an entirely different political culture and structure.]