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Categories: green party, politics

Kevin Hague

The pre-eminence of the economy and its treatment as if it were the point of society is so powerful, consumerism has been such a powerful force, that people believe their primary relationship is with the economy and not with their fellow members of society.

Green Party MP Kevin Hague has followed his heart through several intertwining careers, in health, in commerce, and in activism. We ask what motivates him and how he sees the world.

Talking points

If I see something that needs doing…I don’t get how you can live with yourself and allow an injustice to continue.

(in the anti-apartheid protests) we created circumstances where people had to make a stand

That experience tells me that it is possible. It tells me that we can go from 20 people on a picket and within six months have 200,000.

It turned our national identity on its head.

It was of justice and deep ethics…

It is possible to awaken some deep sense in New Zealanders that motivates them to move from passivity to action

Climate change maybe the thing. It doesn’t have the same national identity aspects, but there are still the same deep ethical duties that could be awakened.

What is our duty to our kids and their kids? What is our duty to those future generations? What is our duty to the Pacific – our neighbours?

I suspect that when we crack the formula of making the connection for New Zealanders between climate change and their lives and their sense of duty to those future generations – they’re going to be very angry.

Boiling down the sense of duty…what’s the relationship between me as an individual and the collective – being part of a society.

Any one of us in New Zealand could probably construct a life that is a bit insulated from the effect of climate change, but the world cannot insulate itself from climate change. The consequences of the climate change that we have already locked in are going to be catastrophic.

If we can find the key that can unlock that relationship between each of us as individuals and our responsibility to each other and to future generations, that is what will get the 200,000 on Queen Street again.

One of the slogans of the occupy movement that I really loved was “citizen, not consumer”.

A sense of engagement and ownership of government is an essential component of making change.

We have the relationship wrong between the economy, environment and society. We have a situation where the environment is constructed as the raw materials or the waste disposal for the economy. And people are the consumers or the labour input into the firm. And that treats the economy as the end-point, it says the economy is some kind of immutable force of nature that the environment and society need to serve. That’s 100% wrong. We made the economy, it’s not something that can’t be changed – we made it to do a particular set of things, largely to make a small proportion of society richer at the expense of everyone else and the natural world. Well, we can make it do different things. We need to start with our environmental and social goals and then recognise the economy as being the set of tools that we use to achieve those.

We need to be asking the question – what is government for anyway? It is about achieving our environmental and our social goals. A sustainable relationship with the environment, a just society where everybody’s needs are met – those are fundamental to what government is for. And our economy is very clearly not meeting those.

Reaching a consensus on some goals, then working with citizens to understand their agency – their power as a collective – to change that relationship between the economy and those goals. This is high on my list of what we need to try and do as a society.

What we have now is essentially unfettered profit maximisation. If I am a business, I am setting out to maximise my profit, the way I do that is minimising my cost, and that means spending the least I possibly can on labour, and the least that I possibly can on raw materials and waste disposal.

Profit maximisation in a largely unregulated setting leads to environmental degradation, and massive inequality and exploitation of working people.

Deregulation kills people.

People’s health status is a function of their environments

I have a personal theme of inter-generational equity and empowering people

We need to recognise that the lion’s share of the benefit that comes from public education is public good

(Role of student loans in diminished student political movements) Student movements have been a crucial part of the conscience of society…it clearly suits neo-liberal establishment to silence critics.

The pre-eminence of the economy and its treatment as if it were the point of society is so powerful, consumerism has been such a powerful force, that people believe their primary relationship is with the economy and not with their fellow members of society.

Consumerism has atomised and disempowered people, and that’s no accident.

Is there something that I can add? The thing that tipped the balance was climate change. The urgency around climate change was such that if I felt that I could add something, then the duty that I had was to take that risk and give it go.

(Activist) Interesting question. I don’t think of myself as an activist. I see myself and the Green Party in Parliament as the parliamentary wing of a bigger movement for progressive environmental and societal change. That’s the job I have now. I don’t go out and organise demonstrations, I do develop strategy, I do participate in partnership with community based organisations that very definitely are activists. I’m absolutely proud of my record of activism, of the convictions that I have for all of those protest related activities – badges of honour.

(Motivation) I’m motivated by the same things that have motivated me all along – social justice. I don’t see how anyone can be satisfied with their own life knowing that so many people do not have the same opportunities, knowing that so many people live in injustice and poverty. I don’t see how anyone can be happy with their life knowing that we have this unsustainable relationship with the environment that condemns future generations – our kids and our grandkids to a poorer life than we have now.

(Challenges) Enter government, implement green policy for years to come.

(Miracle) A reversal of fortunes. The primary task is to engage a bigger consensus of citizens.

(Advice) Vote Green. Please engage in the process of taking back democracy. Demand the citizenship rights that you are owed.

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