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Naked In Nuhaka 4: New Zealand Uber Alles

Naked In Nuhaka 4: New Zealand Uber Alles

Kia Ora,

This is Naked in Nuhaka, a weekly rant on the topic of identity in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) in the 21st century. This week’s column originated as a letter to a friend (she’s a Dead Kennedy's fan) in San Francisco, on the anniversary of Burning Man weekend. Read it with your favourite alternative music playing.

Leo Koziol Nuhaka, Aotearoa NZ 3.10.02


As California Uber Alles by the Dead Kennedy's is to the USA, There is No Depression in NZ by Blam Blam Blam is to the music fans of Aotearoa. Both songs are angry and aggressive ravings against the machinations of a state keen to meme-drug (1) the people into thinking their lives are paradise in a promised land. California, the Golden State. NZ, the Quarter Acre, Half Gallon, Pavlova Paradise.

A month ago, in our nation's Parliament, the world's first Maori Green MP made her inaugural speech. Hon. Metiria Turei commenced by singing the chorus of the song There is No Depression in NZ, in Maori, to the tune of God Defend NZ.

The subversiveness of this Act was simply astounding: God Defend NZ is our national anthem, and as such is sacrosanct. At a rugby game a couple of years ago a young Maori woman, Hinewehi Mohi, sang God Defend NZ in Maori – but not in English. The singer was booed off stage, and the incident resulted in a national uproar.

Ms. Turei gave us all a postmodern kick up the backside. There was humour in the action – There is No Depression in NZ is the theme song of now defunct McGillicudy Serious Party – but on another level it was deadly serious. Ms. Turei, a law graduate, held a Maori intellectual’s mirror up to the contradictions and complications of our national identity. The action was about race, identity, and dream making, but most of all about a deep and passionate love for the people in this place we call Aotearoa NZ.

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* * * * *

I am Governor Jerry Brown My aura smiles And never frowns Soon I will be president

Carter power will soon go away I will be Fuhrer one day I will command all of you Your kids will meditate in school

California Uber Alles Uber Alles California

Zen fascists will control you 100% natural You will jog for the master race And always wear the happy face

Close your eyes, can't happen here Big Bro' on white horse is near The hippies won't come back you say Mellow out or you will pay

California Uber Alles Uber Alles California

- Dead Kennedy’s “California Uber Alles”, 1983.

* * * * *

The first time I met Governor Jerry Brown (2), it was a late summer’s day in 1996 and I had a personal invitation to meet him and his followers at his warehouse commune in Oakland. A macrobiotic vegan meal was on the menu, served up, as I was to find out, by two smiling hippy New Zealanders on their “OE” (overseas trip).

As I strolled down the rough urban avenue of Broadway I decided to tune into his live 4.30 p.m. radio show, “We The People”, on independent Radio Pacifica. It was kind of thrilling to hear him being beamed out. Our appointment was at 6.00 p.m. and, with my headphones on, I strolled around the Oakland waterfront before heading over for the meeting.

I’d been sent by my then-boss Huey Johnson, a friend of Jerry’s and former state appointee under Governor Brown’s administration, to talk with Mr. Brown about making Oakland an “eco-city”. Having worked for New Zealand’s very own “eco-city” – Waitakere on the western fringes of Auckland – I was there to meet him and expound pearls of wisdom from the promised land Down Under to this great leader of the Left Coast (3) (At the time, Jerry Brown was also talking of running for Mayor of Oakland).

On first meeting Jerry Brown, to state it bluntly, I felt very “green” (no pun intended). His energy was overpowering; quick-fire bursts of intellectual elucidation poured out one after the other. “I want to do a Green Plan for Oakland,” he expounded, “and it will be the first Black Green Plan!”. This salvo went on for twenty minutes, with me barely getting a word in edgewise, until suddenly I wasn’t there as Jerry launched into an angry and noisy outburst towards one of his Interns. I took the time out to wander around the warehouse, and meet some of the other people there.

Jerry Brown’s warehouse is his home, and is also home to We The People (WTP), a nonprofit centre for radical activism and progressive political thought. Topics of conversation there range from Zen Buddhism to anti-globalisation, ecological sustainability to deep ecology. Past guests to WTP have included such luminaries as Ivan Illich, Noam Chomsky, and Gore Vidal. WTP reflects Jerry Brown to a tee; his greatest claim to fame being labeled “Governor Moonbeam” by the press in the 1970s, both for a failed attempt at creating a California Space Programme as well as mainstream negative perceptions of his “new age” bohemian ideas and philosophies.

Jerry Brown strategically located WTP in Oakland: crime-ridden, run-down, and home to large disenfranchised Asian, Hispanic, and African American populations. “I sold up my Pacific Heights mansion and took myself to the real people of California, the people of Oakland”, he explained to me.

As well as being Governor of California in the seventies, Jerry Brown had also made a couple of populist forays at the Presidency, culminating in a 1992 campaign in the Primaries against then Nebraska Governor William Jefferson Clinton. Jerry’s 1992 campaign was famous for its populist approach, actively avoiding the big dollars of lobbyists through a 1-800 donation line targeted to disenchanted voters across America. Jerry Brown resigned from the Democratic Party after the failed 1992 attempt, and was now hunkered down in Oakland as a direct response to his dissatisfaction with national politics in the U.S..

Dinner with Jerry Brown and his friends was wonderful, with much more relaxed conversation than earlier in the evening. I left the meeting feeling no less well-informed than when I started, nor that I would be playing any great role in Mr. Brown’s future plans. But I did feel a strange warmth and positivity towards the future that people like Jerry Brown exist, and that real and important political power is attainable by such independent and progressive thinkers.

* * * * *

There is No Depression in New Zealand There are no sheep on our farms There is No Depression in New Zealand We can all keep perfectly calm

Everybody’s talking about World War Three Everybody’s talking about World War Three We’re as safe as safe can be There’s no unrest in this country

We have no dole queques We have no drug addicts We have no racism We have no sexism, sexism No, no, there is No Depression in New Zealand.

- “There is No Depression in New Zealand”, Blam Blam Blam, 1983.

* * * * *

Moving back here to Nuhaka, the edge of the world with it’s equally disenfranchised Maori population, I can’t help but think of my visit to Oakland six years ago. People I’ve met here all seem to assume I’ll be leaving for a more prosperous locale sometime soon, maybe Wellington or Auckland. But I’m happy to be here, because, like Jerry Brown in Oakland, I think it’s where I can do the most with the greatest level of honesty and truth of heart (aroha).

Jerry Brown is now Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland, and has courted both controversy as well as favour, such as in the form of a military academy for Black juveniles. Jello Biafra may have derided Jerry Brown in the early 80s thrash noise of the Dead Kennedy’s, but Jello’s quite mellowed of late, recently running for Governor of New York State on the Green Party ticket.

Jello Biafra and Metiria Turei make such deeply cutting and critical rants at the establishment not because they don’t care, but because they care deeply. They hold up mirrors to what is contradictory, complicated, or shrouded in our society because they are passionate about the future. Their passion spills over into anger, but the release that ensues, such as the burst of insane energy of the perfect rock song, makes us all saner and more sound of mind as a consequence.

This week, I end with a quote:

"Sanity is conformity to what is socially expected. Truth is sometimes in conformity, sometimes not." - Robert M. Pirsig (4)


Metiria Turei’s Maiden Speech

We The People

Lyrics to California Uber Alles

Burning Man

NOTES (1) Memes derive from the theory of ideas as viruses spreading through the idea universe. Some thrive, others die out, similar to biological processes and evolution. See “Media Virus”, by Douglas Rushkoff, 1993. (2) Former political leaders in the United States retain their title once their term is up, i.e. Ronald Reagan is still President Reagan, Jerry Brown is still Governor Brown. (3) Left Coast refers to the left-wing progressive political movement of California and the U.S. west coast. See: Left Coast City: Progressive Politics in San Francisco, 1975-1991, by Richard Deleon. (4) From the book "Lila". Mr. Pirsig is also the author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.

PAST COLUMNS Are available linked from my website:

All content (c) Leo Koziol & Rautaki Group Consultants 2002. The author can be contacted at email: Website:

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