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February 27, 2008 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Unedited Nandor Interview

“Tell me something not many people know about you”
“I live in a bus. It’s a 1981 Bedford, it has a fairly new engine, and I just took it to Taranaki, although I am based in Narawhahia”.

What qualifications have you attained?”
“I have a Bachelor of Social Science, from Waikato University. A diploma in sustainable land management, and a permaculture design certificate”.

What did you want to be when you were growing up, and why?”
“I wanted to be a journalist for a long time. I went to live in Hungary when I was 14 [with my Grandparents]. I had a realisation of the power of information, this was when Hungary was part of the communist block. The restriction on information was such a powerful way that the Government could influence it’s people – the Government re-wrote history. I became very aware of the power of independent media to create change, and to enlighten. So I guess I wanted to be a journalist for many years. When I finished school [here], I went and lived in England and studied journalism. I was quite committed to becoming a qualified journalist. I found that especially in England, the media is so constrained in what they can say, and journalists are so heavily censored through a number of different levels, from media ownership through to editorial policy, through to sub-editors. I came to the realisation that journalism wasn’t really about telling people the truth at all – it was about delivering readers to advertisers. In saying that, I was editor of ‘Nexus’ at Waikato University.

Im still interested in the media, but not in terms of being a working journalist. And I think it is one of the unfortunate things about this country is that we don’t have many independent or even investigative journalists. We have got Nicky Hager who does amazing work, but in the form of books. People like Gordon Campbell, there are a few others who are pretty notable by their rarity”.

Were there any subjects you took at High school which you did particularly well in, or enjoyed?”
“[At Rangitoto] I was alright at languages. I studied French and Russian. I was good at English I think. Good at history. I was crap at maths. Always crap at maths, which is kind of unfortunate. I often think about how maths is really amazing, and is like a language of it’s own. So many people get turned off maths by the way that the subject – when you learn it at school seems to have very little relationship to the world that you live in. I’m sure if they were able to make maths more directly relevant to peoples lives, people would get in to it a lot more. Cause it’s so kind of abstract… What the fuck am I learning calculus for? I still don’t know what you use calculus for!”.

“Seek wisdom, it is something more precious than gold or fame – Bible”.

Can you tell me about your life before politics?”
“I’ve done quite a lot of different things in the course of my life. Just before I entered Parliament, well my life before parliament has always been political. From a very young age I was very into the ‘Sex Pistols’ when they were around, and I guess the second wave of punk, really. That kind of switched me on to anarchist political theory and I read quite a lot of analysis and about like the Spanish civil war and stuff like that. I was involved in quite a lot of grass roots politics. When I finished school here, I went and lived in England, where I studied journalism, after that I lived on the road – there was a travelling community of people. It was called the ‘peace convoy’, basically it was a kind of anarchic bunch of people travelling as a village, and we travelled together with buses and stuff. So I was involved in that for a while. Came back here, and was involved in various things including a cannabis law reform, some thing that I am most well known for, and part of that was about civil rights. The part I enjoyed most about it was empowering people with information about their rights when it came to the police and police harassment and the like. I have run businesses, both in a pretty low-key scale. I used to run a juice stall, set up a hemp store with some friends. I’ve been a warehouse man – I have done a range of things. I am the kind of person who cant do the same thing for too long – 9 years in Parliament is about the longest I have done in one stretch”.

Other than having a successful election, what other political or personal goals have you set yourself for 2008?”
“What I would like to do personally and what I think the ‘Green movement’ needs to do, is build a deeper analysis of what is driving ecological destruction. In some ways, I think we are still cruising on the ideas we developed years ago. A lot of the basics of ecological economics, putting a price on carbon, they are kind of ideas that have been around for a long time, people have sort of developed them to a degree, and they are all important, but what I think we really need to do urgently is start thinking of what is the next wave of steps we need to take? And the one thing I think that people don’t talk a lot about, is the most daunting thing, that ecological breakdown is being driven by the nature of the economic system itself. It’s not a thing we can fix by changing the tax regime, or doing this or that, I don’t think- It’s a much more fundamental thing. Economic growth. If we are not growing, we are stagnating. Unlimited growth means finite planet, and the planet wins. So we have to really, fundamentally re-think our economic activity and how we organise ourselves – how we allocate resources. I don’t think we are doing enough deep thinking about that kind of stuff, and it means revolutionary change, it means fundamental change and that is quite scary for some people – understandably”.

What has been your most memorable moment as a Member of Parliament?”
“There are a lot of things I am kind of proud of, you know, that I, or the Green party collectively, have done. I think my kind of defining moment, from memory really, was the first caucus meeting. We sat around our caucus table, and there were 7 of us. We had just been elected [after the 1999 election]. Everyone thought that we were not going to be in parliament – there was a weeks wait while the special votes were counted, and we were in, and we all came down and we sat around this table and it was a moment of such infinite possibility. It felt like we had stormed the castle, and established a foothold. It just seemed like anything was possible, it was quite a an amazing feeling”.

Is there a certain accomplishment in your political career that gives you the most pride?”
“I am really proud of the clean slate Bill / legislation. I meet people all the time who have benefited from that – half a million people have benefited from the clean slate Bill, which I introduced to parliament, ultimately it was a Government thing, but I introduced it. We now have hemp growing in this country, shortly we will see the waste minimisation Bill passed, and that will be an achievement I will be really proud of as well. I think in a way though, it is interesting in Parliament because there are really significant gains to be made, often on a very small scale, like changes to legislation, which no one would even know that you made the change, but sometimes those very small changes can have huge ramifications down the line. So yeah, the big things like the ‘clean slate’ legislation, and hemp growing and stuff, but there are a range of little things that no one would even notice, that I am still proud of”.

Do your decisions in Parliament reflect your personal ethics – and where do those ethics come form?”
“They do reflect my personal ethics. I would hope that I would resign before doing something I didn’t agree with, realising that something was un-ethical in my view. There are of course always moments when you have choices to make as to what is the better option. Voting to stop something getting worse, or realising that you cant get everything you want, and therefore, choosing to support something cause it will make it better, those are the kind of compromises you have to make. My voting and speaking in Parliament reflects my personal ethics, and I guess they come form, at least from the most fundamental level, my parents were hugely important in developing a sense of ethics, a sense of right and wrong. The importance of being true to your principles even when it will be personally disadvantageous in the short term. And the philosophies I have developed as a Rastafarian are obviously intrinsic to who I am, and the decisions I make”.


Has there ever been a time when your party has been at odds with your personal ethics?”
“I can’t say that they have. We have strategic disagreements about the best way to approach matters, but I don’t think I could say that the party has been at odds with my ethics. One of the things I think that is important about the Green party, is we don’t trade between issues. So we don’t go ‘well we will support that horrendous thing, so that we get that thing over there’. We will go ‘we will support that if you make these improvements’. That kind of principle that the party works by, means that we don’t have to do things which are contrary to our policies or our philosophies, in order to get a gain somewhere else”.

What do you believe to be essential personal characteristics for a politician?”
“The things that make people good politicians are not necessarily the things that make them good people. I mean, I look at someone like Winston Peters, who I thin is a devastating politician. He is the consummate politician, and he combines a knack for identifying populist views, with a total lack o principles of any kind. It makes him very effective as a politician. But I wouldn’t encourage people to go that way, cause I wonder what he has left when he finishes in parliament – as everyone does one day – what will he have left? Im not sure. But I think to operate as a good human being in a parliamentary environment, you’ve gotta have integrity, you’ve got to be honest with yourself, the ability to keep an eye on the big picture. Because so much of what we do here is sort of crisis management, an its easy to get drawn into areas you never really thought you would ever go, so you have got to look up constantly to see where you are actually heading, as well as looking down to make sure you are not stepping in dog shit”.

What is the most important issue facing tertiary students at the moment? How would you solve it?”
“The most important issue facing tertiary students is the fact that we are facing a depletion of oil, facing climate change, facing a depletion of a number of important metals, and we are hitting the environmental limits of our planet, and over the next 10 or 20 years, and beyond the rest of this century, the way we live our lives is going to change – change in ways that we cant imagine. Almost all of the scenarios would indicate for the worst. So the assumptions that we have got people who are getting their qualifications, which wont even apply in 10 years. How many university courses even now take any issues of sustainability seriously, I don’t know? But I suspect not very much. How relevant is the education students are getting now going to be for the 21st century? And I know there is some stuff in there that is relevant, but I suspect a lot of it is an absolute waste of time now. And that’s unfortunate, and given that students have to pay very high costs to go to university, often having to take out loans to get there, face enormous financial burdens. I mean I finished my degree when it was still free, and came out with no student debt – I think I was the last year of people to do that. Given that it is such a financial commitment to go into tertiary education, you’ve got to demand that what you are getting is going to be relevant for you in the future”.

What do you see yourself doing, upon exiting politics?”
“I want to focus my political energies on getting back into grass-roots activism. There is a real need to develop change. I think we are facing the need for some real radical, fundamental change in the future, and that’s going to be quite hard. It is hard to even know what its going to look like. How do we actually organise ourselves on a sustainable basis. I don’t think we have any clue what sustainable living really means. So there are quite significant changes that need to develop. We need to both be thinking about what those changes are going to look like, and we need to be developing change, so that when the time come, people understand what needs to be done, and want to move that way. Yeah, so what I want to do is get involved in grass roots analysis and articulation of issues. I mean, even in here, politicians can only do what their support will allow. Someone said to me, that when the people lead, the leaders will follow. That’s actually what is happening – particularly in terms of environmental issues. We see very few solutions coming form this place, so they are going to have to be driven by community groups”.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?”
“Seek wisdom, it is something more precious than gold or fame – Bible”.

In your life, what achievement are you most proud of?”
“I mean I’m proud of my family, but my family is more what is most precious to me – well my God and my family. What am I most proud of? I think the thing that is most important to me is to be as gooder person as I can. The most important thing is that we as people, have the quality of relationships that we maintain, and I guess for me, the big thing is when I lie on my death bed, and reflect on my life, I don’t want to be ashamed of who I became”.

What scares you the most?”:
“Being eaten alive by rats!!”.

What do you do for fun and relaxation outside of your parliamentary duties?”
“When I’m not in Parliament, I spend as much time as I can with my family. Try to spend time with my daughter, play with her. I used to do [outdoor] rock climbing, and things like that, but I haven’t really had that much time for that recently. I do a bit of drumming. Still like to listen to music”.

Who are 3 people you would most like to meet?”
“Nelson Mandela, Keeper of the arc of the covenant (Ethiopia), Mortimer Planni (Jamaican / Nyabhingi elder)”.


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Comments (3)

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  1. ar says:

    When you say unedited, you mean unedited for typographical mistakes, right?

  2. Jackson Wood says:

    The sub edited version was placed in the magazine. I placed this on the site because Emma has had troubles with passwords yadda yadda. It is an interview. You obviously know what was trying to be said and typographical errors although annoying for the anal pedant are a fact of journalism. If that is all you have to say about this piece than you probably should go ahead and end it all now.

  3. Jackson Wood says:

    We endeavour to make sure that all pieces submitted and published either in print and electronically do not have typos. The fact of the matter is that we are students and our time is stretched already as it is. Please feel free to drop into the Salient office and do some sub editing for us if you would like. Come see me in fact. Jackson Wood. Do it. I will be there most of tomorrow except between one and 3:30ish.

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