The Greens forget their roots
Author: Gabriele Heise
Journalist, spiritual seeker and Party member of the Greens, Gabriele Heise looks back at the development of the Green Party, from a protest party through its path to becoming a people’s party with the desire to co-govern, and critically asks what has become of the visions and utopias of the early days, which included spirituality and transformation of consciousness as necessary parameters for overall social change.
In the late 1970s I went to Poona to the ashram of Bhagwan (later: Osho). After a master’s degree and training as an editor, the question arose: What now? Student movement, women’s movement, therapeutic experiences were behind me. Now the profession as a journalist? Or do a doctorate and live in the shelter of the university? Six months in India were to bring clarification.
Decades followed in my profession as a radio journalist. Then came starting a family, additional training, peace groups, cultural initiatives and, finally, the Green Party. Now I want to take stock. What does the party mean to me? What does citizenship in a democracy look like? Do I still feel committed to my spiritual quest? Does it all fit together?
These questions touch many people who are seeking change and transformation. So that’s why I’m inviting you to think about this together.
An event in Hamburg on the topic of “Gentleness and fighting spirit – How do politics and spirituality go together” gave the impetus. And showed the problems. Where do we go from here?
THE GREENS AND SPIRITUALITY
When Katharina Fegebank, second mayor of Hamburg and science senator, enters the hall of the Rudolf Steiner House on Mittelweg on an early summer evening in 2019, before Corona times, she is noticeably startled. 270 people have come that evening. Predominantly women. Predominantly over 40.
She had assumed that a circle of chairs with 20 or 30 people would be waiting for her, she says. A misjudgement. In the hall sits the milieu of yoga practitioners, meditators, many psychologists and alternative practitioners. All of them are spiritual seekers who want to check whether they should vote for the Greens in the upcoming elections for the Hamburg parliament. Many politically active people are also there, as a hall test reveals. On stage next to Katharina Fegebank, two meditation teachers and the head of the local GLS Bank.
Topic: “With gentleness and fighting spirit – How do politics and spirituality go together?”
They all bring questions. “How do you convince someone about spirituality?” “How to reach political decision makers through meditation?” “What influence do we still have as citizens?” For the next two hours, Katharina Fegebank finds only answers to these and similar questions that are so general as to be unconvincing. She concedes: “Society is often two or three steps ahead of politics. We have to listen, formulate a program, find majorities.” Now, in the upcoming 2021 federal election, the gap with these parts of the electorate is again apparent.
Many spiritually oriented Green sympathizers no longer know whether they are still right with the party.
The language is no longer right, the goals are formulated in terms of power politics. They are too cold, too lacking in resonance for people who perceive the world with different antennas.
Spiritual speechlessness is now becoming a problem for the Greens.
THE NEW MAN AS A POLITICAL VISION
The roots of the New Age were palpable. There was still talk of “Gaia,” not just ecology. Of motherhood instead of just emancipation. One emphasized the connection with creation, understood meditation and yoga as a return to the roots and not only as ways to cope with stress.
One spoke in the sense of Rupert Sheldrake of fields of consciousness, today brought into the current discourse by the resonance theory of Hartmut Rosa.
Small is beautiful, non-violent communication, the private is political – these were slogans that many people were counting on 40 years ago.
A new man was supposed to grow. Even one of the first members of the Bundestag, Katrin Zeitler, said:
“To fill democracy and behave liberally, you need inwardly mature people.”
This human maturation is not mentioned in political concepts of the Greens today. In the circles of spiritually seeking people, on the other hand, it is the focus of a new everyday life. They go to yoga groups, meditate, eat healthy, examine what they bring into their heads, and seek access to deeper layers of the self in order to cast a stable anchor there. They try to escape the frantic speed with which distraction, distraction, rushing or multitasking wants to tear us from our center.
In their own understanding, they are thus offering a kind of resistance – a private, discreet, meek one.
Their plea: peace only succeeds if we create peace within ourselves and carry it further.
Sylvia Kolk, who has set up city practice groups throughout Germany to facilitate Buddhist awareness work, explains it this way on this evening: Scientists have confirmed that changing consciousness through meditation is possible. Our compassion is not trained enough. We lack empathy. Hence their conclusion:
“First go to the pillow – then save the world!”
THE GREENS’ LOSS OF SPIRITUAL CONNECTION
In the Green Party, the spiritual sources of the beginnings are bashfully passed over in silence. Also they rarely find a position to the current search movements. Questions about this remain without an answer from Berlin. Robert Habeck invokes “confidence and friendliness,” describes himself as a “secular Christian,” but defends himself against excessive expectations of politics. “No politician is a savior. Those who hope or believe that are setting themselves up for their own disappointment.” But he also says, “I have deep respect for people who find support and answers in faith.”
But the party’s overriding credo is diversity. Everyone should be blessed according to their own façon – as long as basic democratic values apply. Habeck writes in his book “Von hier an anders” (From Here on In Differently): “It’s hard to endure contradictions, not to put down every question immediately with an answer, to be self-critical, to admit mistakes sometimes.
We try not to absolutize our own view and conviction, but to solve conflicts, to avoid or heal injuries, to improve social discourse.”
On this Wednesday at Hamburg’s Steiner House, the distance between the politicians and the audience is palpable. When asked how she centers and recuperates in her office as second mayor and science senator, Katharina Fegebank says, “Going out into nature. Looking at the tree outside the window.” In the meantime, she supplements this information with a reference to her Protestant orientation and the upcoming christening of her twins.
Will the Greens succeed in the balancing act between real social transformation and government aspirations? Read this and much more in the full article. You can order the pdf below.
On to power …! At any price?© Adobe Photostock
If the Green Party were to look back into its own past, there would be many treasures to be unearthed. In the peace movement of the early 1980s, “courage in the face of threat” was sought in the face of nuclear armament. “Empowerment through support groups” was propagated. With “nonviolent communication” we hoped to help bring a different spirit into politics. Concepts of “deep ecology” opened the soul resonance space for all living things. This box of crafts on the shelf of party history could help again today to hold society together in times of division and lateral thinking.
A NEW APPROACH
The meditation teachers on the stage of the Rudolf Steiner House also have similar recommendations in the discussion. Wolfgang Bischoff, director of the Himalaya Institute in Hamburg for 40 years, has trained hundreds of meditation teachers. He says he advises employees of the World Bank, UNESCO and some governments. He says, “Learn to concentrate, learn to meditate, learn to realize who you really are. We need to train ourselves.” And with friendly authority, he encourages the assembly to meditate together for two minutes. In doing so, he successfully interrupts the flood of words and provides significant mental reassurance.
This simple means of group strengthening was also known in the years of the peace movement. Meditating for five minutes before every meeting was the order of the day in some alternative circles. In view of the Bundestag election campaign, Bischoff says: “What I would like to see from the Greens, as they now gain more and more political power, is work on themselves. It should be an effort to create a new consciousness that the problems we have today can’t be solved by the consciousness that created them.” However, his offer to Katharina Fegebank to hire him as a “spiritual guide” goes unanswered.
About the author
Gabriele Heise, a freelance journalist and presenter for public radio since 1980. Eight years on the board of the Association of Women Journalists. Marriage, family and life counselor, supervision training. Sannyasin since 1978, member of the Green Party since 2018. One daughter. Lives in Hamburg.
This article was originally published in the German Issue of Tattva Viveka No. 74: Auf zur Macht…! Um jeden Preis?