Green With Admiration: Helen Razer Laments The Loss Of Senator Lee Rhiannon

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This week, Lee Rhiannon declared her intention to retire as a Greens senator. This weekend, I declare my intention to pretend this never happened.

Of course, I’d rather take my escape in the deluxe feminist style. E.g. when the world was spared its pantsuit murderess, Lena Dunham got to pretend that Hillary was President 4EVA in a six-star Arizona spa. No treat for Helen. No authentic “native” sweat lodge cleanse for her. No hope as the one conspicuously decent tenant of two federal chambers gets rolled for a centrist early.

With Rhiannon gone — banished for her failure to cheer the neoliberal project like a vapid Davos fangirl — my cut-price self-care to-do list is (a) make fun of Universal Basic Income, a dead thing scooped by Greens from the centrist killing floor; (b) wash hair; (c) write own political news then send and read to self.

For instance:

An international study published today by the Razer Research Council finds 100 per cent of actual persons wish immediate death upon the political class. When asked, “Should we hang the last CEO with the guts of the last politician?” three thirds surveyed chose “Strongly Agree”.

Although not prompted to do so, 87 per cent of all respondents returned crude crayon drawings of Elon Musk in scenes of extreme and common torture with Mike Pompeo, the Democratic National Committee, the entire Bundestag, Bibi, naturally, and, well, just about every politician or party-political-enabler in every purported “democracy” ever.

In its release to workers of the territory formerly known as Australia, the Council notes, “No subject surveyed had one bad word to say about Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon.” It continues, “Then again, we didn’t ask Sarah Hanson Young.”

Sarah Hanson Young. Don’t get me started. Do permit me to make one thing clear: I have no clue if Young holds opinion of any sort about Lee Rhiannon. In fact, there is little cause for anyone to suppose that SHY holds opinions. Opinions, perhaps, are held by staffers until they are requested. Readymade opinion for, say, the “important national debate about changing the date of Australia Day.”

Greens Senator for South Australia, Sarah Hanson-Young.

This debate may be “national”, but only in the sense that Sarah might debate the personal branding value of having it in more than one State or Territory. It is plainly not “important” to many who still feel the brute blow of invasion. As Tarneen Onus-Williams made clear by media to millions, celebration of massacre and theft is largely unwanted on any date at all. But, to be fair, Sarah was in Switzerland at Davos, AKA the Festival of Oppressors, last January 26.

There she was. Booing at Trump like a boss with the billionaires, the banking class and Trudeau types who rest by night in high-end chalets and walk by day through virtual reality refugee camps. You go, girl. You change the date, and the name of Arthur Phillip and the location of Sydney Cove. Oh, Sarah! If you’re going to pretend to be upset by some dispossession, look it up on Wikipedia before you write the press release.

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Oops. My intention here was not to despair for the emptiness, insincerity and cluelessness of the SHY-style Green. Rather, it is to commend one sincere politician; one not full of shit but clued for years that capitalism has a crisis tendency. A person aware of the ongoing crisis produced by the nation’s founding act of theft.

Rhiannon may have denounced colonial statues. Or, she may have left that work to SHY, or simply trusted us, the people, to knock those trifles down. Don’t know. I do know Rhiannon denounced the racist intervention openly and often. When a Labor government rebranded this racism for a new decade, Rhiannon told them they were trashing their history. Of course, ALP politicians were not trashing their history at all, but recycling it. Still, let’s give that one to Lee and call it “strategic incitement of guilt”.

I do know now Rhiannon continues to denounce the occupation of Palestine. I do know now that she prefers to travel to that region as a private citizen than to, say, a swanky Swiss fortress weekender with the world’s most lethal and elite.

Now. I know that now. Then — as Michael Brull will aver — I was insensible to Rhiannon’s sense. It wasn’t until the senator stood up for a modest education reform, and effectively down from her parliamentary role, I began to believe that there could be one Green whose drive to change this world exceeded their longing to be loved by Lena Dunhams. One in the policy class who could, perhaps, see that a crisis of capitalism, such as we have now in this nation, can produce crises of hate, nativism, racism and the rest.

Or, it can give rise to radical reform. If there is no radical economic reform, then Australia’s wealth inequality, statistically indistinguishable from that of the Great Depression, will persist. And this text will remain as true to the Western present as it was when set down by the Marxist Christopher Caudwell in 1938.

Senator Lee Rhiannon, pictured in federal parliament shortly before her maiden speech in 2011. (IMAGE: Greens MPs, Glenn Lockitch, Flickr)

“The misery of the world is economic, but that does not mean that it is cash.” In times of mass deprivation, we turn, “vainly to religion, hate, patriotism, fascism, and the sentimentality of films and novels” we become “neurotic, unhappy, sick, liable to the mass-hatreds of war and anti-semitism, to absurd and yet pathetic Royal… enthusiasms… to mad impossible loyalties to Hitlers.”

The hatred, the neuroses and the need for sentimental film were understood by many Depression-era critics as the misery of theft by the Davos class. The hatred of the present is mentioned so often by centrist politicians — SHY often describes the hatred to which she is herself subject — but is so rarely linked to the misery of deprivation.

Rhiannon is one of a very few public Australians — let alone Australian politicians — to overcome the era’s neoliberal neurosis and make this link.

The public mania for fantasy film, the sentimental speech at a royal event, the sight of an “empowered” (read: privileged) woman breastfeeding a white newborn etc are seen no longer as symptoms of wealth inequality, but as the answer to hatred. Your centrist “progressive”, whether ALP or Green, would rather chide the haters and cheer the sentimental than make one fucking move to, say, preserve the cost of a kid’s education. You know, education. The thing that might diminish future (a) fuckwits who hate or (b) dipshits who believe a sentimental royal wedding could conquer, soothe or make any difference to hate at all.

It is not cruel to cry for the false hope provided at a royal jubilee. It is rather cruel to hate. It is powerfully cruel for a politician to claim social justice as a goal, then lock a person fighting for one fragment of it out of the party room.

Rhiannon did not post her own troubles on YouTube. Rhiannon did not publicly perform her sentiment. Rhiannon did not claim a monopoly on compassion, did not care to smile like a good girl, and did not care to fell statues of white men she could not name. She cared to free land and life to the country’s first people, its newest people and every other fucker in between.

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Perhaps the centrist Green believes Rhiannon is “utopian”. Perhaps they cannot see their own compassionate capitalist theme-park dream as truly deluded. The low-income parent is not deluded that the Greens are on the side of their kid. News Corp will never be deluded that the Greens could serve their interests as anything but a punchline. Few are deluded that a minor party is likely to do more than give voice to a political consciousness.

Right now, in this moment of crisis and of wilful state inertia, I’m okay with that. To “keep the bastards honest”, to utter the Territory’s truth, to fail to fall for the convenient falsehood of consensus when the education of kids is at stake: that’s a political consciousness to be spoken.

And Rhiannon. She’s one politician I will speak of well. She gave her office up for use to refugee and anti-intervention activists. She made no effort of denial when The Australian “called out” her socialist past. She retained optimism of the will and made no claim from Parliament House that she, too, boohoo, was a victim of Twitter trauma. She seemed to know that history’s mechanism is not moved by the sentiment of history’s great fools.

To sense that freedom for each is the condition for freedom of all, that the condition for mass misery is economic. This is the consciousness every person who really thinks through this “social justice” thing will eventually declare. I guess it was at such risk of being declared more often in the Senate, Rhiannon has been shown its door.

We have been shown the door in recent years. We now see what it protects: a political class identically indifferent to everything but itself and its partner economy. Rhiannon and her consciousness are much better out here, with us.

No need, then, to pretend this never happened. Better to rejoice that it did. I’ll leave the luxury Dunham spa holiday for after the revolution. Until then, Lee, we’re glad to have you back.

Helen Razer

Helen Razer in an Australian writer, author and avowed Marxist. She is based in Melbourne and writes regularly for Crikey.com

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