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Russel Norman on consumerism & happiness

Written By: - Date published: 8:23 am, March 16th, 2014 - 38 comments
Categories: capitalism, child welfare, greens, Metiria Turei, poverty, russel norman, workers' rights - Tags:

There’s a fairly straightforward and informative interview on Stuff today, providing an insight into Russel Norman’s outlook on life.  Prior to this I had been more familiar with Metiria Turei’s working class background – something that has informed and motivated her campaign against child poverty and inequality.

Turei children

Russel Norman is more known for his role as economic spokesperson and co-leader of the Greens.  As his bio says on the Green Party website, Norman also comes from a working class background, although, his father made his way into the middle classes eventually.

Norman Unite

His current position seems a long way from his roots in working class Brisbane, where he and his five siblings were raised. His mother took in ironing to pay the bills while his father, through sheer determination, completed his engineering studies.

“My family was pretty poor during those years but my father was passionate about education,” he recalls. “It made things very tough for the family but that helps to shape the way you think, and the way you act in life too.”

He admits the way he thought and acted was slightly different from the rest of his family. Though his parents were once Labor members, they had fallen out of organised politics following the new right Labor reforms of the 1980s and Russel soon found himself the lone political voice of the family. Peace rallies, anti-nuclear demonstrations and animal rights activism soon became a large part of his extra-curricular high school life, something that always made his mum a little dubious!

It was the late 1990s Alliance Party that drew Russel to NZ, and resulted in him staying.

Russel’s connection with New Zealand also formed at this time. He completed his Honours thesis on the Alliance Party and embarked on his PhD in 1996. When some New Zealand friends asked him to stay with them on Auckland’s Waiheke Island while he studied, he jumped at the chance. And never left!

Well, of course he did leave Waiheke, but he continued to live in NZ.

russel-norman-600

Today’s Stuff interview, foregrounds Norman’s attitude to money and consumerism, headlined: “Frugal Russel true to his roots“.  Some extracts:

What was your first paid work?

[Age] 15, I think, I started at Woollies. I started packing then I got promoted into the fruit and veg department, which was awesome.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude to money?

We were a bit short of money on occasion. I don’t like spending money, as anyone who knows me well knows. Both my grandfathers were Depression-era out-of-work carpenters, who drank too much so both my parents had a rather frugal attitude.

[…]

What are your best and worst investment decisions?

Probably my education is my best investment.

[…]

Are you a big spender, or a big saver?

I’ve pursued things that haven’t always been well-rewarded, financially. When you’re an environmental activist, the financial rewards aren’t particularly high, for example. Because I’m not a big spender, it’s meant that I’ve been able to support myself. Now that I’ve got a family [partner Katya Paquin, and sons Tadhg and Francis], of course, it’s a bit more challenging. I obviously need to be able to bring in enough money to support them.

Do you think society would be better off if people were thriftier and lived on less?

I’d probably look at it slightly differently. If you look at, say, TV advertising, it encourages what I call a consumer mindset, which says that you will get happy by consuming things. [But] it’s never quite satisfying enough. Then you watch the telly, and they tell you all you have to do is buy one more thing. That is very problematic – both in terms of people not being happy but also because the consumer ethos is quite destructive environmentally.

Do you trust the “money men” – bankers, financiers, advisers and others who handle money?

I trust them to act in their own interests, if that’s what you mean

[…]

What’s the biggest lie about money that people routinely tell or fall for?

That money can make you happy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important to have enough money. You just need enough money to do the other things which actually really do make you happy, whether it’s your relationships, your passions, or what you find enjoyable.

Norman’s background, then, has some similarity with Turei’s, but there are differences resulting in a bit of a different perspective.  His father was upwardly mobile, and he never had to cope with being a single mother.

Norman has, however, developed a healthy skepticism towards the consumerist ethos and the “money men”.

Turei and Norman in combination, provide an important left wing outlook on the problems, and ways forward, in the dysfunctional, “neoliberal” dominated world – part of why I will continue to party vote Green.

Turei Norman

 

 

 

38 comments on “Russel Norman on consumerism & happiness”

  1. Populuxe1 1

    And what exactly has a working class background got to do with his abilities as a leader. Both Muldoon and Key, Tory through and through, came from similar if not humbler backgrounds, and the Buddha was born a prince. I’d be curious to know which part of Waiheke he was staying in – the western or the eastern half.

    • MrSmith 1.1

      Pop:

      You start by basically saying, that where someone comes from has nothing to do with their abilities as a leader and finnish with wanting to know which part of Waiheke he was staying in.

      An own Goal Pop.

      Go The Greens 15%.

      • marty mars 1.1.1

        +1 pops has been hoisted by his own petard

        “Once again, the gang stages an elaborate musical show in Spanky’s backyard. Angered over the fact that Alfalfa has been chosen as the show’s singing star, bully Tommy Butch sneaks backstage with the intention of sabotaging the production. But Butch is hoisted on his own petard, and the show goes on as scheduled”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Spanky%27s_Showboat

        Don’t thank me pops I know you love the wiki

      • Populuxe1 1.1.2

        And I stand by the irrelevance of background, but what has that to do where he lived as an adult?

        • Macro 1.1.2.1

          background?

        • karol 1.1.2.2

          It’s important to understand people’s experience and influences – how their life experiences have influenced their political values.

          We are all partly shaped by our life experiences and this interacts with our general and political values and aims.

      • Chooky 1.1.3

        Mr Smith +100… GO GREENS 15+ %

  2. Pasupial 2

    The rest of the “money men” statement isn’t too long, but that first sentence is pretty snappy – so I see why you truncated it:

    “I trust them to act in their own interests, if that’s what you mean. We need to be pragmatic about their advice, and obviously they’re going to do what’s good for them. What’s good for them isn’t necessarily good for the rest of us.”

    It may be aimed at Key and NAct’s asset-sale consultants, but makes me think of the “financial analysts” who regularly appear on TV business news.

  3. drongo 3

    A fundamental question for Mr Norman: are you a communist or a socialist?
    Please tell us!

    • felix 3.1

      What does it matter?

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      A pertinent question for drongo:
      Were you born that stupid or did you have to work at it?

      • drongo 3.2.1

        You are dodging the question: is Norman a communist or not?
        If so, it cannot be a good thing for NZ.

        • Macro 3.2.1.1

          He is neither you idiot! He is a green mp – but you obviously haven’t the wit to understand what that means.

        • felix 3.2.1.2

          What if he is? Why does it matter?

          Is John Key a fascist or a Randian?

        • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1.3

          How can I possibly be dodging the question? You didn’t ask me one.

          But you are most definitely dodging the question I asked you.

        • Chooky 3.2.1.4

          @drongo…he is not a drongo like you …that is all that matters

    • Murray Olsen 3.3

      What’s a communist, drongo? What’s a socialist? Why do I doubt that you have any idea? Who reads WhaleSpew and KiwiBog to you?

  4. tricledrown 4

    Bank economists parsupial.
    Tony Alexander the other day said we should not allow overseas ownership of housing stock only if they are building new houses ie like Australia.

  5. Macro 5

    Turei and Norman in combination, provide an important left wing outlook on the problems, and ways forward, in the dysfunctional, “neoliberal” dominated world – part of why I will continue to party vote Green.

    Me too. 🙂

  6. Tracey 6

    Why do the right find it so hard to believe some people just arent motivated by money? Some people genuinely want to make a difference and will do things for free to help.

    Why then do such people seem to frighten them resulting in the derogatory labels: crazy loonie hippies commies…

    I would love to see a green govt or a govt influenced by the greens.

    Mush better than a 1 electorate party, coat tailing national getting to wag the dog

    supercity
    Charter schools
    3 strikes
    and so on. No squeals of tails wagging dogs. But if greens get 10 to 20% of the vote watch the squeals of tail wagging the dog.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      Why do the right find it so hard to believe some people just arent motivated by money?

      Because they always project their own selfishness and greed onto others.

      Why then do such people seem to frighten them resulting in the derogatory labels: crazy loonie hippies commies…

      Because that’s a) how they see them and b) they have to defend their own sociopathic selves.

    • Why then do such people seem to frighten them resulting in the derogatory labels: crazy loonie hippies commies…

      Well, ‘hippies’ is accurate for the most part. ‘Commies’ isn’t, but only since Bradford and Locke left. Same with ‘loony’ since Kedgeley left. I guess Nat supporters haven’t kept up.

      • Ergo Robertina 6.2.1

        Sue Kedgley was not loony. Her stances included challenging supermarkets over strong-arming suppliers; arguing for limits on truck sizes in order to protect motorists’ safety; opposition to cruel farm practices like battery hen cages; fighting for fair wages in aged care facilities and staff to resident ratios (initiating the aged care investigation with Labour in 2010).
        Loony stuff to you maybe, but not to anyone with a modicum of decency.

        • felix 6.2.1.1

          Like everyone she had her slightly embarrassing moments. Nothing nearly as embarrassing as, say, Judith “Gusher” Collins getting caught using her ministerial warrant to enrich herself.

          In person I find her sincere, honest and committed. Like all Green MPs appear to be.

        • Psycho Milt 6.2.1.2

          I’m sure she did a lot of good stuff. Unfortunately, what I actually remember about her political career is food faddism and herbal healthcare nutcasery.

          • Ergo Robertina 6.2.1.2.1

            Wanting to remove food colourings and additives that are banned in many overseas jurisdictions is food faddism? That makes no sense.
            And by your logic, Otago University’s school of medicine has fallen prey to herbal healthcare nutcasery, by teaching medical students about complementary medicine and its place in primary care.
            As time goes by these ‘loony’ ideas – that just sounded like common sense to many of us – become increasingly mainstream.
            Unfortunately MPs often lag the population on such issues. Sue was one of the exceptions. We need more like her.

  7. captain hook 7

    leave us hippies alone. just because we had more fun, more chicks and more drugs is no excuse for you pissweak pipsqueaks to get ya tits in a tangle.

  8. The Baron 8

    Let’s face it though karol; Norman could have said “my wet farts smell like organic cabbage” and you’d still see it as justification for your party vote and evidence of his anti-neoliberal credentials,

    • karol 8.1

      No, the current parliament is lacking MPs from working class/low income backgrounda, who remember what it was like, and work to supportively address the struggles of others from such backgrounds when developing policies.

      And I’m particularly in agreement with his anti-consumerist values.

  9. Herodotus 9

    How over represented are lawyers and those with a high public profile being jettisoned into consideration for parliament?
    Parliament when it was dominated by ex WWII soldiers ( and nz was a truer egalitarian society) with a shared vision for our country and mps had a common ground,was IMO parliament was a truer representation of nz than currently, I accept that women where a token gesture.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10631035
    So are/were national and labour so close in what they desire for nz that they could headhunt the same AB ?

  10. Fransisco Franco 10

    I am just wondering if Russell got the topic right and it should have read Russell Norman on Communism and depression ?

    • karol 10.1

      Please explain, FF, because I can see any evidence for your claim.

      • Te Reo Putake 10.1.1

        Don’t hold your breath, Karol. He’s just another right wing numpty who can’t comprehend the thought processes of someone who has empathy and compassion. And, note to FF, the witless provocation of using the Spanish dictator’s name as a handle is somewhat undermined by getting the spelling wrong. Must try harder.

      • Fransisco Franco 10.1.2

        Sure Karol

        Everyone knows that Russell was a communist

        Russel Norman, Male Australian, 46, ex-Communist (Australian Socialist Workers’ Party) He probably got out of it because he knows the beliefs wont go down well with the majority of New Zealanders. Im sure that the teachings are deeply entrenched in his thinking. We also know that communism makes most people depressed. That’s why they drink so much vodka. I would actually like to hear from Russell why he gave up the communist beliefs of if he really has

        [lprent: Everyone also “knows” that mumpties who make assertions without links to something credible are usually trolls. So following your advice, about how to deal with such suppositions I’m banning you permanently on the suspicion that you are a troll (and because I really despise dumbarse fuckwits).

        I’d also point out that at one stage I signed up for the SUP party newsletter at the same time as I signed up for the Labour party mailing list and the National mailing list. During the 1981 election I put up hoardings for the National candidate (one of my old teachers) in Mt Albert because my father was asked by a friend. A decade later I started several decades of volunteering for Helen’s campaigns.

        So I guess I’m a conservative right-wing communist who is just trying to confuse you. Either that or you are a complete dickhead with the approximate intelligence of a very stupid bit of code. I prefer the latter explanation.

        Unlike this thick unthinking troll I look at what people do now rather than what they did 20 or 30 years ago. But since the fool clearly wants to do it the other way, I’ll indulge him. I’m feeling generous today. ]

        • One Anonymous Bloke 10.1.2.1

          I expect learning to spell his name right might might be a good place to start, but as someone who is infinitely more likely to vote for him, I would prefer that he ignored you and failing that, treat your drivel with the ridicule and contempt it so richly deserves.

          Who to try and please, a genuine supporter or a witless tr*ll? Decisions, decisions.

          • Fransisco Franco 10.1.2.1.1

            OAB

            Thats great for you if you want to vote for Russel. The question is do you think many of the New Zealand public would actually vote for him if they knew he was a communist in drag?. Or is Russel prepared to compromise what he actually believes just to get more votes because that;s quite scary really. Shows very little moral fortitude come out and say what your actually are.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 10.1.2.1.1.1
              1. You don’t know what communism is.

              2. Greens Party policy is determined by the electorate, not the leaders. I realise you haven’t the slightest chance of understanding how that makes you look like an ignorant cretin, so I suggest you choke on it instead.

  11. Tracey 11

    ff. genuine question are you over 75?

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    The Auckland Council’s statement today shows they don’t understand the problems created by the urban growth boundary, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “I have been the first to defend the Auckland City Council when Bill English has been blaming… ...
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