Greens Derangement Syndrome was alive and well in the aftermath of the NSW state election, and what a delicious array it was, a fair trade buffet of self-deluding bullshit and self-pity, a continuation of the process that has helped the Greens take seats from every major party in the past five years.

The shock of the Greens taking a possible four seats in the lower house sent the spinners spinning out of control. First out of the gate was Princess Miranda Devine, beneficiary of the hereditary principle at NewsCrap, from whence she lectures people about the elites. The Greens were a “bunch of smelly hippies and dole bludgers” etc, she said, channeling ’70s cliches — unsurprising, really, since all her views are simply her dad’s, and that’s what they thought in the ’70s.

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But this view was now a problem, as some of the less addled members of the Right’s Scrubs-level “brains trust” seem to realise. First out of the box was Nick Cater (Essex University, reading sociology, then straight to the BBC), who implicitly reproved Devine for her self-indulgence. The Greens weren’t a bunch of marginal confused hippies, he said; they were the wily, smart new class, living in suburbs where there were more journalists and lawyers than there were plumbers.

Cater’s article had a few requisite swipes at this “new” class as “rootless cosmopolitans”, etc, but most of the article was analytic. The Right has to be analytic about the Greens now, but they hate it. The best example was Chris Kenny, who fought it out in one article. He couldn’t decide whether the Greens territory of Newtown was “a bustling, cerebral, energetic … patch in our wonderfully diverse nation” or a place where “voters earn 40% above the national average, indulge post-material concerns from a comfortable material base” and there are “French film festivals, Earth Hour parties (Peace, Love and Candles) …”.

Elsewhere, he mused on people there “queuing for gelato, wearing black and getting inked”. Good god, is having a gelato now the mark of rootless cosmopolitanism? When you have reached a level of debate this tail-chasingly moronic, something has happened.

It’s obvious what. The Greens have now taken seats from each major party. The class of which they’re a political expression — knowledge producers — are now so numerous as to constitute whole areas of the major cities and regions. Their increased power and confidence comes from the increased class-consciousness of their base — and that comes from their increased economic power. Education, as an industry, for example, is now responsible for $14 billion in exports — greater than any single agricultural crop, for example. The knowledge producers are gaining power, as every other class loses it, to varying degrees. Newtown isn’t a place of consumption, it’s a place of production. The Right hasn’t worked that out yet.

Labor is equally confused, of course. The McKell Institute’s Sam Crosby reached a pitch of fury denouncing the Greens as “anti-democratic” and “parasites”. That’s deranged, the voice of frustration by a party elite who don’t have a clue about the way society is changing and how to respond to it. Kenny and others suggest that Labor can only prosper by abandoning Newtown and other areas to the Greens.

They should, but that won’t be the end of their problems, for the simple reason that the culture of the inner city is spreading. House prices and the numerical rise of the knowledge-producer class means that the Greens vote is becoming significant in the “middle ring” — post-war suburbs now acquiring a mixed character. The problem for Labor in these seats is that it has to work out a way to appeal to both — especially so in optional preferential systems. It takes political skills, which are in short supply. Much easier to whine about parasites or hippies or point to the decadence of good god, having a couple of scoops. Green Derangement Syndrome, “let be be finale of seem/the only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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