Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Greens And Me

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It’s a blazing hot day when I arrive at Greens headquarters, something which seems to please my host as he lets me in — “It’s always a good day when it’s hot,” he confides as he leads me into the freight elevator hidden inside the base of the statue of Lenin that leads to the party’s vast subterranean compound. “Scares the hell out of the punters.” He chuckles as the elevator rumbles to life and begins to descend towards the earth’s core.

I have to confess, I’m feeling nervous. When I pitched the idea for a piece on the inner workings of the Greens to The King’s Tribune editorial team, I’d thought I’d spend a pleasant day sitting in a field holding hands with nudists and praying to the corn-god, as the party’s official website depicts. But now, here I was, a mile beneath the ground, wondering just what I’d got myself into.

The man leading me into the belly of the beast is Hector Flowerton, communications director for the Australian Greens, and the country’s highest-paid environmentalist. A slight, pale man, his appearance belies his fearsome reputation for political hardball and shocking acts of violence. As we step out of the elevator and proceed along a corridor, I idly wonder how many of the human heads hanging from the walls were fellow Greens who fell victim to one of Flowerton’s power plays (Flowerton himself, naturally, maintains that they are all simply right-wing bloggers who questioned one too many climate studies). Although the inner workings of the party are frustratingly opaque to the outside world, it is widely accepted that the Greens sort out their differences in a much more robust manner than other parties, and the last three communications directors before Flowerton have yet to be found.

Yet in person, he is a warm and personable presence, inviting me to sit down in his office on a chair made entirely of moss, while he himself squats on an intricately woven Indian hemp rug, and lights an enormous scented candle to illuminate our conversation. He answers all my questions politely and directly, albeit slipping into the occasional trance, and his insistence on holding a welcome to country and smoking ceremony after every response slows the interview down somewhat. But these are the ways of the Greens, and I accept that while I’m in their house, I must follow their rules.

 Of course, the entire point of the Greens is to make their rules our rules – according to their latest manifesto, released to the mass media inside concrete slabs on Christmas Day so as to avoid unnecessary press attention, a Greens government will enforce mandatory welcomes to country for all official government events and visits to private homes. I ask Flowerton whether this might be considered an unacceptable level of government intrusion. “Well I suppose you might think that,” he agrees, smiling reasonably, “if you were a racist.”

He’s got me there, and I apologise for my thoughtlessness, but Flowerton has gone to the heart of the Greens’ push for power: their controversial “Everyone is a racist” policy. I ask him how that came about. He eyes me carefully, and waves away the Native American pouring the bark tea. “Come with me,” he says, beckoning seductively, and reminding me just how much the Greens’ political success owes to their animal sexuality.

We leave his office and proceed on hands and knees through a complex series of tunnels, brushing aside spiderwebs and charred photographs of Christabel Chamarette. We seem to be crawling for hours, the air getting warmer and more stifling with every turn. “I think I can feel something crawling underneath my knees,” I tell Hector at one point. He turns and nods reassuringly.

“Don’t worry,” he says, “that’s just Lee Rhiannon. She lives down here.” As we keep crawling, I hear the unmistakable Rhiannon croak and feel a tomato hit the back of my head.

Finally we come out of the tunnels, and I find myself in an enormous glittering cavern, with curious bats peering down out of the shadows and massive papier-mache Bob Browns dangling from the ceiling. I decline Flowerton’s offer of a baseball bat to hit a Brown and release the sweet candy within, and instead ask exactly where I am.

“This is the Green Room,” he declares impressively. “This is where every Green policy comes from.” He leads me over to an enormous bubbling vat, from which strange fumes are emanating. On a stepladder, stirring the mixture with a long pole, stands a skinny teenager in a Sea Shepherd t-shirt. As I near the vat, she offers me a How-To-Vote card. I take it, and notice that “vote” is misspelt. I point this out and she spits in my face. “Liberal!” she hisses, and rushes off into the darkness.

“This vat,” Hector informs me, unperturbed by his staffer’s flight, “is the nerve centre of the Greens. Currently we’re using it to formulate our tax policy. Would you like a taste?” He holds out a ladle, and I cautiously lap at the steaming policy. It is tangy and salty, but with a distinct aftertaste of stagflation. “It needs work, of course,” Flowerton admits, “but when we’re done we’re sure it will fly. This is the same vat we cooked up our policy to lower the age of consent for orcas, and the decision to attach an amendment to the mining tax that specified all children must receive professional masturbation lessons from the age of three.”

“That amendment caused a certain amount of moral panic,” I observe.

“Well, obviously the lunatic fringe of the extreme right-wing don’t want our kids to know how to masturbate properly,” says Flowerton with some heat. “They’re so fixated on the profit motive they can’t see the need to safeguard our future. The Greens have always been the party of sexualising children and giving them drugs, and I’m happy to say we’re starting to make headway.”

“But what about the racism? Do you really think everyone is racist?”

“Look,” Flowerton says forcefully, pointing at my eyes to illustrate, “it’s not that everybody is racist, it’s just that nobody is not-racist enough. You see this?” He thrusts a golliwog into my arms. “Don’t you see we’re at war?”

I am speechless. I have never been in a place that makes me feel so alive, and so guilty, at the same time. As I stare into the golliwog’s accusing eyes, I see the truth: I am racist. I look at Hector as the tears well up. He nods wisely. “You’re feeling it, aren’t you?” he says. “The guilt.”

I nod. “I’m so racist!” I wail, as the last shreds of my journalistic integrity disappear in the face of the Greens’ overwhelming compassion. Hector takes my head and lays it on his shoulder. “I know,” he whispers. “It’s all right.”

“And I’ve been destroying the environment with my car!” I scream, causing a flurry of bats to flap, startled, out of the room.

“This is all true,” says the wonderful man I’ve got to know today. “But there is a way to fix it.”

“How?” I plead. “How can I fix what I’ve done?”

Flowerton hands me a press release headed One World Government: How The Greens Will Unite The Planet With Gay Marriage And Unemployment. “Read this,” he says warmly, “and you’ll see.”

Suddenly there is a screeching noise and everything goes black. When I wake up, I’m lying in the branches of a mighty gum tree, wearing nothing but a woollen beanie, while koalas lick my feet. I look out over the forest, at the scampering rodents, the brightly coloured budgies, and the protestors setting fire to logging workers, and I realise: we can change the world. We just have to try.

Sliding gracefully to the ground, I throw away my press gallery pass, pick up a flaming branch, and stride into the future.

Last modified on Friday, 12 October 2012
Ben  Pobjie

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