The Real Greens

The trouble with the terms “greenwashing” and “pinkwashing” is that those using them may (perhaps) inadvertently do what they accuse others of doing: painting over structural issues that need to be addressed.

Pinkwashing is often used to denigrate the success of the LGBT community in Israel and there have been several aspects to this accusation:

  • Denying the issues faced by LGBT people in majority Muslim countries in general and in Palestine in particular.
  • Denying the freedoms won by the LGBT community in Israel.
  • Denying the possibility of a people under oppression to simultaneously oppress a community of their own.

Countering the first denial, Mark Segal of NY Daily News is quoted as stating:

If you have a need to prove your “wokeness” by assimilating with those who support the rape and death of LGBT people, you don’t know the meaning of LGBT liberation.

Countering the third denial, Al-Qaws, a group dedicated to gender and sexual diversity in Palestinian society, has a more nuanced statement:

Singling out incidents of homophobia in Palestinian society ignores the complexities of Israel’s colonisation and military occupation being a contributing factor to Palestinian LGBTQ oppression

My point is not to reduce the socio-political complexities to which the latter quote alludes to some kind of catchy soundbite but rather to emphasise that key word. Some issues aren’t simple—but that doesn’t mean they should be painted over in pink.

Or green. Cory Morningstar, on the blog Wrong Kind of Green, has written a detailed take-down of current media environmentalism entitled The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg. (For those who prefer listening to reading, there’s a beautifully-read podcast version.)

The reaction to greenwashing can also be rather simplistic and, similarly, has various aspects:

  • Denying the ecological issues of the planet
  • Denying the benevolent motivations of environmental protestors
  • Ignoring the possibility of both of the above co-existing with invented (or exaggerated) issues and with malevolent motivations

To stop communicating in double negatives, let me state clearly what I mean. While climatologists are divided on the question of there being a planetary temperature crisis caused by human (or animal) agency, no-one sane denies the obvious issues of air, land and water pollution by pesticides and other poisons and by plastics. Electromagnetic (high or low) frequency pollution is another source of concern.

Related issues are those of the cost-effectiveness of supposedly environmental alternative sources of energy and fuel—as well as the social impact of the market for conflict minerals (used in phones, laptops, solar panels and electric cars).

About all these issues my point is simple:

  • Unless supposedly progressive groups are prepared to grapple with the complexities of real intersectional oppression and liberation, they aren’t really progressive.

It’s not enough to pay attention to the wake-up calls of green celebrities; we also need to see beyond—to the marketisation of Africa and other repressive goals of the Great Reset.

It’s not enough to acknowledge the latter and ignore the very real problems of pollution.

It’s not enough to be aware of the dangers of Frankenfood and the sinister appropriation of the means of global food production by a very small group of plutocrats; we also need to acknowledge the unnatural and inhumane treatment of farmed animals—if not for their own sake then at least for the effect that their confinement, torture, forced assimilation of toxins and barbaric slaughter has on our own bodies and on our souls.

The so-called Green parties are allied with inhuman forces indifferent to the fate of most of the planet and its population—apart from some ecological pleasure parks strictly set aside for the elite. Let’s not pretend that meanwhile these plutocrats are all ethical vegans: they’re all guzzling meat pizza, fatty hamburgers and high sugar Coca-Cola.

In contrast, the resistance to global tyranny is full of people who eat healthily, exercise daily, participate voluntarily in various community projects and grow our own food.

We’re the real greens.

Cress growing out of soil held in a White male hand in front of the mesh cover of a plastic greenhouse.

Backstage at the Panto

Backstage, during a pantomime, is an odd place. Actors rush up and down stairs, still putting on their costumes, and communicate with each other and with the stage crew in frantic gestures. No-one speaks. Everyone’s listening. Props and scenery are being whisked on and off, during blackout, and the Stage Manager’s word (or signal) is LAW! No-one questions her authority. There’s no time to renegotiate your entrance or your already-blocked moves. The Director isn’t even there. He’s up the back of the hall with Sound and Lighting. Worrying. You live for the applause, or the boos. They’re really the same thing. It’s the strength of the reaction that shows if the audience are enjoying the show. When I was playing the Baddie in Aladdin, a couple of years ago, at the end of Act 1 a wee boy in Row 2 audibly called me “a jobby”. I strutted back into the dressing-room exultant! Take that Olivier! I thought. High praise!

Caught up in the performance, with the doomed romance of the pretty Hapless Heroine (who probably does kickboxing) and the Handsome Prince (who’s a boyish girl), with the slapstick antics of the fools, all meticulously rehearsed, the exaggerated dramas of the Dame (who’s a man) and the carefully choreographed cries and dance routines of the Chorus, the audience forgets – or never realises – that backstage at the panto we’re all friends. Everyone’s working together. The Hapless Heroine helps me on with my heavy robe – before I go onstage and capture her. The main Fool (the Daftie in Scotland) has a degree in astrophysics and is best mates with his rival – who’s just about to plaster his face with a custard pie. The Chorus aren’t really shocked by my latest Evil Deed. They knew it was coming. They just want to do their number so they can troop downstairs (Shhhhh! says the Stage Manager) and grab a Coke and a KitKat before they’re back on for Act 3.

The conflict in Ukraine is a panto because everything in the Theatre of War is a performance. Right now, a young woman who’s recently been…

  • a beauty blogger
  • pregnant
  • bombed
  • twice
  • dead
  • queuing up for bread
  • a refugee
  • captured
  • freed
  • all of the above, simultaneously

…is now apparently safe and sound in Russia and confusing everyone on Twitter. Don’t ask me what the truth is. I don’t know. I do know that this is political theatre. It’s a panto.

Unlike a friendly neighbourhood panto, in the Theatre of War the participants risk more than a stubbed toe falling over a stage weight supporting the flats. Participation is usually not voluntary and even when there is an actual Baddie, the Goodies aren’t that good. Ask any older Russian what they think about the Yalta Agreement. Or ask an old German about carpet bombing. Ask yourself why you’re surprised that in WW1 the British Army shot shell-shocked soldiers in a pretty little Belgian town called Poperinge, surrounded by Flanders fields. And we all know about Abu Ghraib. No? Look it up. If you have the stomach for it. I’m not providing a link.

The fact that some Ukrainian battalions apparently have links to Neo-Nazi groups, that the persecution of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine has been going on for 8 years and that NATO is using this fake war to play checkers with China doesn’t mean that there aren’t real people caught up in it. I don’t know who those people are, clingfilmed to Ukrainian lampposts, beaten, stripped, raped and doused with water, left to freeze to death. I know that people have been reporting Russian deadly homophobia for years so before you jump to that conclusion – no, I’m not a fan of Putin!

There are wheels within wheels at play here. Suddenly all the slebs are focussing solely on this drama, ignoring the release of Pfizer data on adverse reactions and the conviction of smiling Ghislaine Maxwell – and all the political blackmail that went on with everyone on the guest list at Jeffrey Epstein’s island – as well as the long list of other countries in conflict: #Yemen #SaudiArabia #Palestine #Israel #DRCongo #Syria #Afghanistan #Ethiopia #Eritrea #Colombia #Myanmar #Algeria #BurkinaFaso #Cameroon #Libya #Mali #Mozambique #Niger #Nigeria #SouthSudan #Tanzania #Tunisia #Chile #Venezuela #Iraq.

Backstage at the panto, everyone is cooperating. They’re read the script and they’ve rehearsed the moves. Someone might muff their lines or dry up but that’s no problem. There are plenty more to take their place. People get cut all the time in this production. It’s not only the jokes that die onstage. There are trap doors and not everyone gets the heads up.

The Stage Manager is in charge. In agreement with the Director. No, I don’t know who they are either. But I know that they’re there. And I know that all they want is for you to sit back – and enjoy the show.

Just watch out for the forced Audience Participation. At the Finale.

Scary Clown Faces

Thanks to Circe Denyer for releasing her image Halloween Whispering Clowns into the Public Domain.

Am I my brother’s keeper?

The case of the Swedish Foreign Minister, her critique of the situation of Saudi Arabian women and the subsequent, inevitable, backlash, strikes me as worthy of deeper reflection than that involved in a choice of placard with which to take to the streets. ‘Down with Islam!’, ‘Up with Women!’, ‘I am [add name]!’, ‘Death to Infidels!’ lack nuance, and omit the historical context of the overlapping and competing discourses which they summarise.

Margot Wallström may indeed be seen as Woman, a being either in compliment or opposition to another known as Man; as White, a quality of a minority of beings in some kind of relationship to the majority known as Black; as Christian (by virtue of her nationality and saintly first name – whatever her personal beliefs happen to be) as distinct from Muslim. You can see where I’m going with this. She is also the Foreign Minister of a small but powerful country, with a reputation for academic excellence (Nobel Committee etc.) high suicide rates, bureaucracy (admittedly it’s only the Norwegians that call Sweden ‘the land of rules’) and a historical legacy of very lively ambassadors arriving on longboats. As you can immediately tell, I know almost nothing about Sweden and during my short time there as an interpreter for the European Social Forum held in Malmö I was struck by two things: one was ‘the ghetto’, as our guides called it, which made me laugh as it was so peaceful and pristine. I live in Glasgow which is often neither; the other was the sudden appearance of an entire blond family cycling through the city about 11pm! This last was quite normal behaviour apparently.

So when I say that I think that the ‘feminist foreign minister’ as she’s been billed, seems to have got it wrong, it’s in context of my firm (though rather uninformed) belief that Sweden, indeed Scandinavia as a whole, often seems to get it right. I think that context matters. Margot Wallström may have previously established her awareness of the agency of Saudi Muslim women, that they are not just victims. Which I believe was the essence of Audre Lorde’s critique of Mary Daly’s treatment of women in two thirds of the world in her searing exposé of global misogyny, Gyn/Ecology. In fairness to Daly, she did quite a lot of exposing of US and European misogyny too. I don’t know if Margot Wallström has campaigned against Swedish girls being put under social pressure to have breast enlargements, to have sex when they want affection, to have sex for money to get through university (or is the sugarbabe phenomenon only happening in the UK?), to have an abortion as their mum doesn’t like the colour of the father’s skin (I know the latter happens in the UK, I don’t know about Sweden). I don’t know if she has spoken out against the hidden genocide of poor African American men, in overwhelming disproportion on Death Row, or the economic pressure on African American women to be sterilised.

Note that I’m aware of what I don’t know. Note that when I talk about this minister and about her country, I say ‘seems’. I don’t believe Bishop Berkeley’s famous ontological maxim: esse est percipi (‘what you see is what you get’, as I’ve freely translated it in my latest novel) but in terms of media presentation, what is apparent is taken to be real. I have no evidence for this other that a hunch but I bet Margot Wallström doesn’t see herself, or Sweden, as a policewoman. I think that’s a political delusion of grandeur peculiar to the USA. I bet she sees herself as a sister. A sister to the oppressed. To the women of Saudi Arabia and to at least one man. If I’m right, and I could be wrong, then her motivation seems laudable. So why am I questioning it?

Cain, after killing Abel, is famously asked (by the Omniscient, so it’s a bit of a set-up) where his brother is and responds with ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ meaning that he obviously thinks ‘no, I’m not!’ – whereas the audience to this pantomime is obviously supposed to shout out ‘OH YES YOU ARE!’ My point is that if one is to indulge in fraternal or sororal correction, especially if one happens to represent a country that’s the 12th biggest global arms dealer (it seems) and as head diplomat one is inevitably put into the position of broker to such deals, then one must first establish kinship. And be seen to have established kinship.

People who seem to be White Christians bearing arms, with reason and God on their side, and lotsa money (mostly from persecuted European Jews but let’s not get sidetracked) have historically had a tendency to descend upon Araby with fire and sword. The recent, and they are comparatively recent, militant doctrinal and political tendencies of the wahabi, salafi and now IS (can we please stop calling it that other very pretty name?) seem to have caused a collective amnesia, in at least one third of the world, about the history of Islam. The European (this includes Russia, remember) monarchs of Christendom were by and large tyrannical to Jews and Muslims; the Moorish monarchs, by and large, were not. In 1492 the countries which welcomed the majority of expelled Spanish Jews were Morocco and Turkey. The Ladinos are in the latter to this day (I know cos I met one on a bus in Istanbul, who answered politely when I abruptly asked her about what seemed to be her mediaeval Spanish). During the Third Reich it was the same story, while Christendom shut its borders. This Jewish-Muslim thing is a set-up. It’s divide and conquer. All those Christian European politicians who read Caesar’s Gallic Wars in their private schools and decided to play at that game when they grew up.

I don’t believe that Margot Wallström is playing games. I don’t believe that the UK should be selling arms (do use your upcoming vote wisely UK voters!) and I don’t believe any other country, including Sweden, should be doing that either. I highly recommend Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology (read together with Audre Lorde’s critique in Sister Outsider) which, disgracefully, is not outdated. It seems to me that the treatment of women in three thirds of the world may still be categorised as global misogyny. Of that I, unfortunately, have compelling evidence. As, I’m sure, have you.

I believe that in Margot Wallström’s spirited defence of Raif Badawi there lies the conviction, the moral claims, of sisterhood. But if Margot is Raif’s keeper, then does she really know where he’s at? And would this foreign minister admit that the imprisoned campaigner may have something to say about Sweden, about Europe? Could it be that we haven’t actually got it all right and that, amazingly, we (post)Christian secular enlightened White people might have something to learn from a Saudi Arabian man? Who is not just a victim. Living in Saudi, he would know the trouble he’d be getting himself into. Did she?

We are right to condemn injustice. We are wrong to perpetrate it. Prisons and corporal punishments oppress and may kill; but perceptions may also harm. It’s not the outcry about foreign injustice which is wrong but the silence about domestic oppression, and the fuelling of foreign conflict, which accompanies it. Margot Wallström may be quite aware of this and may speak out in this way but, crucially, that is not what has been reported. Could a culturally aware diplomat not have been more diplomatic? In attempting to shame the Saudi authorities, whose reaction to criticism of their values is already violent, has this foreign intervention of critique without kinship helped – or has it made the situation of the campaigner worse?


‘Red No Signal’ in Public Domain by Piotr Siedlecki