There is something wrong with the ABC’s democratic novelty, Vote Compass. There must be, because since its inception, this “whom should I vote for?” quiz has whacked me in the Greens quadrant every time. This makes me sore, as I am about as likely to ever vote Green as I am to afford a life in a suburb that is full of people who name their daughters after sexually liberated French modernist writers.
Actually, that’s an input the ABC’s psephologists should really think about including in their test: “Have you seriously considered calling your child Anais?” would be a more accurate means to align a voter with the Greens. As would “Do you have an unread copy of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century sitting on your reclaimed ladder bookshelf?” Without such data, the outputs for the leftist voter will continue to be just (upcycled) garbage.
But we can’t blame the algorithm. We can’t even really blame the ABC. The policy questions posed by the quiz — roughly “do you support income and social equality?” and “do you believe that our species has become a monstrous geological force?”– are the same questions posed by the Greens. The problem is that these are largely the wrong questions to ask. Even, and especially, if you happen to be the kind of voter who will answer “yes” to each of them without hesitation.
I am this kind of voter. I agree that we are headed to hell in a hand cart that runs on unsustainable fuel. I agree that nationalism is a hateful contagion, that economic inequality will cannibalise the state and that a treaty with indigenous Australia can only produce good dividends all ‘round. I am opposed to metadata retention. I am appalled by the irrational rationalism of offshore detention. I have often been critically disappointed by the ALP. FFS, I am a queer, unmarried, disabled woman who huffily left the Communist Party for feminist reasons in her teens and never returned. Fine, Vote Compass gets me. I should not simply be a Greens voter but a lifetime Greens member with a Samoan-inspired tattoo of Bob Brown etched on her arse.
But I’m not. And this is not entirely due to the current possibility that the Greens will trade preferences with the Libs or that they may have done so in state elections of the past. This is not entirely due to the Greens support for their deal with the government on pensions, their stubbornness and myopia on the ETS and the fact that Larissa Waters is a cultural totalitarian who will not rest until all evidence of gender is purged from the shelves of our toy stores. It’s not my revulsion for fashionably named children or the tastefully rustic surrounds in which their Green-voting parents raise them. It’s not even the reclaimed ladder bookshelf; it’s more the Piketty that rests upon it, whether read or unread.
Personally, I have made my way through about half of Piketty’s tortured data-gasm. This, by the by, is apparently above average. A scratch analysis of the those who purchased history’s best-selling work on economics found that no one much made it past page 26. But they kind of got what they paid for, because any assay beyond that will just reveal that Piketty, like the Greens, is interested only in making noise about inequality. When it comes to disturbing inequality at its foundation, he is every bit as chic, and every bit as useful, as the Greens.
Spare yourself the trouble of Piketty. Just buy the book, as I did, to remind yourself that you are one of those consumers who thinks that inequality is really, really bad. If you do read it, you’ll just have a graph-hangover and perhaps the vague sense that Piketty, who uses the ideas of wealth and capital interchangeably, is being a bit opaque. Perhaps because he wants to hide the fact that he is recommending only minor changes to the economic organisation of the world.
Buying Piketty is like buying a Fair Trade decaffeinated organic coffee. You get no real buzz, but you feel like you’ve done something civic-minded. Even though you really know you haven’t.
Which is pretty much like voting Green.
This election, as in previous elections, the Greens policy reads very much like the liberal compassionate documents of the World Bank. Which is to say, the party sounds very soothing in its acknowledgement of serious problems, but offers no surprising solutions to these, and seems to believe that it can benchmark its own success.
The Greens say “inequality is really, really bad” and speak urgently of change. But they provide no real prescription for the big shift they say, and I agree, is needed. The optimistic leftist might choose to believe that this is because they are cleverly concealing their red flesh. This pessimist believes they are honeydew melons: a mild shade of green right through. Even those who came to the party by way of classical Marxism seem to have paled, believing only the most convenient and optimistic bits about an innovative new era of production.
It’s true that the Greens provide, for some of us, a refreshing enticement. On the issue of offshore processing, for example, it’s tempting for some of us to throw a protest vote their way. But so long as they choose not to disturb our social and economic organisation, there will always be a group as maligned as asylum seekers. Inequality is really, really bad. It’s also inevitable if you don’t take a hammer to its foundation.
And they don’t. The Greens’ focus is not on constituting our base differently. It’s about reflecting it more favourably. It’s about taking “gendered” toys off shelves, lighting compassionate candles and generally moralising about those who won’t publicly agree that inequality is really, really bad.
It’s communism. But without the caffeine, or the communism.