Metro on the flag debate

Simon Wilson has written the best summary I’ve seen about the flag change debate. Those who don’t want change may disagree, but he makes reasoned arguments supporting change.

Why I’m voting to change the flag

The flag referendum should be a vote on whether we take a step forward as an independent, liberal democracy. It still could be.

He gives some background, and then addresses arguments against change.

1. John Key is for it

It’s so unfortunate that John Key has politicised the flag process. But at least he has been consistent.

But the leaders of Labour and the Greens have also politicised the process, and they have done so hypocritically.

What’s the referendum been reduced to? The ego of the party leaders.

A pox on all of them. It’s not supposed to be about politicians. It’s supposed to be about us. It’s our flag, not theirs, and we should refuse to let them define the debate for us.

A pox on some of the media as well (not Wilson), who have made it too much about themselves and muddied the process.

2. It’s a waste of money

Democracy costs money. What’s next: cut the number of MPs in half? Abolish the Court of Appeal? Of course we shouldn’t waste money, and of course there are many worthy causes struggling for the lack of money. But decisions on constitutional and democratic processes should be decided on their intrinsic merits, not their cost. It’s good we have a robust democracy and it’s not a problem that we spend money on it.

The waste of money argument is really an argument against choice and against democracy.

3. The process has been wrong

This is true: the process was very wrong.

The fact is, the process is always wrong. Democracy is an imperfect system, but it’s better than the rest. History is a dirty, compromised and ongoing process, but that’s how progress happens. The flag referendum gives us a chance to take a step along the way.

Some of those at least who have argued against the process are really arguing against change and against having the choice.

4. I don’t like the new flag

I don’t like the new flag much myself. I would have liked a koru, but the one the panel selected was probably the worst koru I’ve ever seen. I would have really liked a Gordon Walters koru, but it did not happen.

And it’s not important, not now. Because the option we’ve got has been democratically selected. It’s not what I wanted, but it is what we wanted.

If you’re waiting for a flag design that you and a majority of others really like, you will probably be waiting forever.

Ideal choices don’t exist. We don’t vote in general elections for the ideal party, or we’d never have a government. We vote, on the balance of likely outcomes, for the choice we prefer.

If you want to keep the colonial symbol of the Union Jack on our flag, by all means vote for the old flag. You would be true to yourself. But if you want it gone, voting for the new flag is the only way on offer to help make that happen.

Some people have had highly unrealistic expectations about the perfect flag a perfect process would produce. What they really want is their choice and everything else is to be trashed as inadequate.

5. We’d be stuck with it

There’s no rule that says we’ll be stuck with anything forever.

If we discover ourselves to be a people who can vote for a symbolic change like this, it will unlock something in our aspirations and imaginations. And yet, because it is a small and relatively simple test, failure will make us so much more reluctant to try again.

We’re not stuck with the current flag, if we choose to change. If we change or not we are not stuck with what we keep or get.

6. It doesn’t matter

In many ways that are important to us, it doesn’t matter. No child will be brought out of poverty because we change the flag. It will not cause anyone to write a better novel or score a better try.

But the referendum does ask us this. Are we really the children of Kate Sheppard and Ed Hillary, proud to have learned the trick of standing upright here? Or have we become the “Yeah, nah” people?

After this election, our flag will be the symbol of our answer.

And yes, it is a deep, deep irony that John Key is not on the “Yeah, nah” side. But he isn’t. And that’s not a good reason anyone else should be.

So yeah? Or nah? We can all contribute to that choice.

Leave a comment

55 Comments

  1. Patzcuaro

     /  4th March 2016

    I crossed the Harbour Bridge yesterday for the first time since Lockwood’s alternative has been flying. Going north it looked very ordinary but looking back in the mirror with the sun catching it from a different direction it looked better.

    It isn’t perfect, I’d have preferred the red Lockwood but it came second. Simon Wilson sums up where I’m at very well. If a better option comes along there’s no reason why we can’t change again.

    I don’t want to be Littler Britain I’m a Kiwi and proud of it.

    Reply
    • Mike C

       /  4th March 2016

      @Patzcuaro

      I too wanted the Red White and Blue Silver Fern Lockwood … and the Black and Blue Silver Fern was only my third choice.

      But I will still be voting for the new flag when I receive my referendum papers … and I hope that enough people get enthused about it to vote it in and give New Zealand an official international identity that is totally different to any other flag in the World 🙂

      Reply
  2. Brown

     /  4th March 2016

    I’m pleased that democracy hasn’t decided we will all do something really stupid and dangerous that I don’t really like as that would oblige me to go along with stupidity because that’s how democracy works. If this is the best summary out there it reminds me why I don’t buy, or even browse, Metro.

    Reply
    • @ Brown – If you don’t mind me saying, you are one ON THE BALL commenter lately! With an excellent measure of LOL thrown in. Thanks! 🙂

      Reply
    • Iceberg

       /  4th March 2016

      Forget democracy, we should make decisions based on your straw man.

      Reply
      • @ Iceberg – I think the Flag Consideration Project confirms we can forget ‘democracy’ in this form: Party politics polluted, elitist corrupted, shoddy process quasi-democracy. Yes. Let’s forget it. Soon as …

        This is not to rule out greatly improving democracy in the future; although I don’t know if Brown shares my hopefulness on this subject? :-/

        Reply
        • Iceberg

           /  4th March 2016

          Democracy is always crap when the left are on the receiving end of it. We know this, because they are always constantly bitching and protesting over the decisions that arise from it.

          Reply
  3. It simply comes down to a choice of whether you want the Union Jack on the flag, symbolising the colonial past and the British settlers who came here, or whether you feel the Silver fern is a more appropriate symbol for New Zealanders. The Silver Fern is more inclusive. It represents the people from all races and cultures that have contributed to the building of New Zealand society. Specifically it encompasses both Maori and all Pakeha, no matter where they came from originally.

    Reply
    • Kevin

       /  4th March 2016

      “[The silver fern] represents the people from all races and cultures that have contributed to the building of New Zealand society.”

      So does the kiwi. And the Union Jack for that matter because when the Maori signed the Treaty they became British citizens.

      The fern on the Lockwood flag as it is is awful. It lacks symmetry and is too complicated. A better representation of the silver fern would be something like three angled tear drop shapes of descending size arranged in a horizontal row, with another three below to create a “fern” pattern. The tear shapes could even double to represent significant events in New Zealand history such as the Musket wars, the signing of the Treaty, and Gallipoli.

      Reply
  4. Phil

     /  4th March 2016

    My family is 100% European, but only about 25% from Britain. Where are the Norwegian, Spanish, French or Jewish family members represented on the NZ flag?
    Our neighbours are born in China, South Africa and Korea. Where are they represented on the current flag?
    Stop being selfish and exclusive. Change the flag.

    Reply
    • Rob

       /  4th March 2016

      It’s not being selfish, some just simply don’t like it and don’t see it as an appropriate flag. Simple. Why some can’t understand that is beyond me.

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  4th March 2016

      Did the current flag stop them coming here? Did they say they’d only stay if the flag was changed? Will they go if it isn’t? If the answer to any of these is no it doesn’t really seem to that relevant to why we should change our flag to something representing the All Blacks.

      Reply
    • kiwi guy

       /  4th March 2016

      The flag represents our British and Western heritage. NZ is built on these values and why it is a capitalist democracy.

      As a result Vibrants are desperate to get into our country. Too bad we let them.

      A new flag should emphasize our white Western heritage and values which make NZ a great place to live especially compared to 3rd World cesspools like China, India, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria:

      Reply
      • @ White Kiwi Guy – Now you’re talkin’!!! Not in language Phil or Dougal or any of us much appreciate, I dare say, but nonetheless, suitably ‘filtered’, there’s substance here for a decent brawl, a good slugfest. :-/

        Let’s go at it shall we? Queensbury Rules old chap, eh what? So, in addition to British and Western heritage, Aotearoa-New Zealand has a significant Maori heritage, by extension both Polynesian and Indo-Chinese. While we mostly don’t acknowledge it, many of our values either correspond to those of Maori or in some cases are influenced or derived from Maori culture (and please don’t try the below the belt “Stone Age Culture” punch. I’m talking about Maori culture as it has evolved in relation to and side-by-side Pakeha culture).

        Is there anything mystical, new or wrong about “a sense of belonging” = whanaungatanga? Or “self governance” = rangatiratanga? This applies to individuals too you know. Or “reciprocity” = kaitiakitanga? We even practice “utu” as much as any other culture or ethnicity. We want a war in response to 9/11? (Someone will correct my Pakeha butt if I’m wrong. I’m up for it)

        Now we also have influences from other cultures and ethnicities as well. The thing about Maori is they signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi allowing us to establish our Western, Oceanic, Capitalist, Social Welfare culture here on their land, and they participated in it, though often as “the losers” in a game which did not need to be ‘win or lose’. (I don’t mind Possum, you sock it to me if necessary)

        “As a result Vibrants are desperate to get into our country. Too bad we let them.”

        No Kiwi Guy, it is too bad we begrudge a few migrants coming in and much worse that we don’t help make it better for them to stay in their own countries. Perhaps the refugee/immigration crisis will motivate the West to do much more in this regard?

        “A new flag should emphasize our white Western heritage and values …”

        I know you’re just being stupid now but I’ve presented here the reasons it must also have distinctly and recognizably Maori elements, which the Fern isn’t. One of the things I always thought made NZ a great place to live was our tolerance. I may have been wrong?

        Reply
          • Pickled Possum

             /  6th March 2016

            Correct Parti on all accounts. You will get no flak speaking your korero because of the colour of your skin.
            The white man who is seen to be ‘on side’ of Taha Maori is often seen as the saner voice of his culture.

            Reply
            • Toku whakawhetai ngakau hohonu Possum, my deep hearted thanks. I am convinced that Maori and Pakeha aspirations can be suitably aligned, if not completely then at least better-than-adequately or “well”?

              But it’s going to be hard work, and I think especially for Pakeha. Those conversations, identity and constitution, that “truth and reconciliation” is going to be painful … The Healing Pain …

              Just a little “heads up” toku hoa, over on today’s (Yawn!) Flag Change topic (Sigh!) I have played Devil’s Advocate BIG TIME. Please be advise the day I fully agree with anything Doc Newman says is the day Hell Freezes Over! We ain’t gonna make it excluding people.

              Tou hoa aau : Parti

        • kiwi guy

           /  4th March 2016

          “No Kiwi Guy, it is too bad we begrudge a few migrants coming in and much worse that we don’t help make it better for them to stay in their own countries.”

          A few!!!?? We are using them to replace the white population which is copllapsing.

          Do you not live in Auckland? While suburbs are not colonised by them.

          Please explain how you expect NZ to make it better for them in China and India.

          Reply
          • kiwi guy

             /  4th March 2016

            Correction:

            “While suburbs are not colonised by them.”

            = whole suburbs are colonised by them.

            Reply
          • Mefrostate

             /  4th March 2016

            The number of New Zealanders identifying as European increased from 2.6m in 2006 to 3.0m in 2013. As a percentage of the population this reflects an increase from 65% to 70%. Please explain how this constitutes a “collapse”.

            Please also identify the suburbs which have been colonised by other ethnicities. I’d suggest you exclude Maori from this exercise, seeing as they are not really a colonial population.

            Reply
            • kiwi guy

               /  4th March 2016

              I would accuse you of being a mendacious so and so, but because you are a feminist I believe you could actually be so stupid as to miss this one:

              “The apparent drop in this figure was due to Statistics New Zealand’s acceptance of ‘New Zealander’ as a distinct response to the ethnicity question and their placement of it within the “Other” ethnic category, along with an email campaign asking people to give it as their ethnicity in the 2006 Census.”

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_New_Zealanders

              Next time, do a bit of due diligence on your own argument, us men have got more important things to deal with than sorting out your confusion.

            • Mefrostate

               /  4th March 2016

              Despite being an all important man, you’re still wrong and now you are compounding your mistakes.

              Your quoted change was the cause of the decrease in recorded Europeans from 2001 to 2006. Between 2006 and 2013 the classification remained the same, and the reported number of Europeans increased in both absolute and percentage terms.

              Looking forward to your apology and retraction.

              I lived in Auckland for the past 7 years, and moved out in December. Still waiting for some facts to support your “whole suburb colonisation” argument.

            • kiwi guy

               /  4th March 2016

              You are lying – the trend line is downward, only 2006 was an anomaly ( down dramatically ) because of a definition change. When this was changed back, there is a DEFINITIONAL rise from 2006 to 2013 census.

              BUT the trend line is still dramatically DOWNWARD for whites.

              Are you totally unaware of the birth rates, the age demographics?

              Seriously you [Nope, don’t accuse of things like that – PG] so I’m not going to even expect YOU to apologise to ME.

              As for suburbs explain why even Asians and Indians refer to Chowick and Papa-currie-curriie.

            • Mefrostate

               /  4th March 2016

              Eh, I’ll grant that the long term percentage trend is declining, but in absolute terms there’s an increase. Certainly not, as you put it, a “collapse”.

              You were wrong to portray the “white” population as collapsing. I’m also eager to hear your argument for why this is even something that we should be concerned about.

              Mental problems? How so? I’m not the one who tries to back up his claims with slang terms.

            • kiwi guy

               /  4th March 2016

              “Please also identify the suburbs which have been colonised by other ethnicities.”

              Do you live in Auckland? If not you need to STFU.

        • kiwi guy

           /  4th March 2016

          “The thing about Maori is they signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi allowing us to establish our Western, Oceanic, Capitalist, Social Welfare culture here on their land”

          We had some guest academic historian on here just a month a go pushing that barrow and he ended up letting the cat out of the bad by stating we can do whatever we want with the history and historical record – interpret it any way we like.

          So there is no reason to pretend it means we have to hand back stuff they lost control of and we all have to start speaking Maori and pretend to be terribly interested and serious about their cultural propaganda.

          If you want to add up what you believe they are owed I will add up what they owe us for bring things like the invention of the wheel for them to use.

          We will see who owes the most then.

          Reply
          • Mefrostate

             /  4th March 2016

            So it’s perfectly fine if I forcibly evict you from your land and squat on it for a couple of generations, provided your standard of living increases over that time?

            Reply
            • kiwi guy

               /  4th March 2016

              See now you are trying to RETROSPECTIVELY apply law.

              Seriously, think about it, take Europe for example – who owes what to who? What year in European history should the border be restored to?

            • Mefrostate

               /  4th March 2016

              No, the Treaty of Waitangi was in force, and established British law.

          • @ Kiwi Guy – “We” not you. That’s the main point.

            NZ can help make it better for people in their own countries by being part of a significantly expanded pan-international overseas aid-and-trade initiative under the guidance of a suitable global authority, the ’empowered’ U.N.

            If there was going to be border restoration in Europe there is only one possibility. The borders in 1928 when every European nation and most others in the world signed the Kellog-Briand Pact, an “international agreement in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them.”[2] Parties failing to abide by this promise “should be denied of the benefits furnished by this treaty.”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kellogg%E2%80%93Briand_Pact

            As for using migrants to replace the collapsing white population, I say damnit Kiwi Boy, someone has got to pay my superannuation when the time comes!

            Reply
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  4th March 2016

    Conservatives are always stupid and Lefties are thieving crooks – a winning team.

    Reply
    • I can’t sieve my way through the whole Metro thing. It would be so long no-one will read it anyhow. So, pick a paragraph (my comments in parethises) –

      “I don’t like the new flag much myself (Who actually does!? It appears no-one really likes it?) I would have liked a koru (Me too!), but the one the panel selected was probably the worst koru I’ve ever seen (I wonder why?). I would have really liked a Gordon Walters koru, (Me too!!!) but it did not happen (I wonder why, since the panel took the advice of both Vexillologists & Artists. Tino [with provenance] was 1 in 10,292 plus other Kowhaiwhai designs. Also, in deference to Kevin, where the hell was Kiwi?)

      And it’s not important, not now (Yes it is! Whether I like it or not is still important! FFS) Because the option we’ve got has been democratically selected (No it hasn’t. It has been quasi-democratically ‘presented’ to us) It’s not what I wanted (Me neither and who else?), but it is what we wanted. (No it is bloody not! As before, plus; because it’s what less than 50% of those who voted wanted in a shonkey referendum in the midst of a shonkey process. “We” indeed!?)

      What it “comes down to” Jay3, IMHO, is an absolutely AWFUL choice between which of these, Colonial Relic or Lockwood, including their respective provenances, do I like least? This is a f@cking horrible position to be in at a referendum. I liken it to the terrible choice Emergency Services occasionally face attempting to treat two equally critical patients. While I am treating one patient the other patient may and probably will expire.

      There is another way to look at this: We have messed up big time! Face it. Accept it. LEARN. Move on.

      Is being “stuck” with the Colonial Relic any worse than being “stuck” with the Lockwood, which is the position we’ll be in when we “do the work” in the late 2030s, and by then it’s (maybe) generally disliked and accepted as being a shoddy excuse for a national flag?

      Reply
  6. Nelly Smickers

     /  4th March 2016

    Probably a wee bit cruel, don’t you think? 😀

    http://giphy.com/gifs/3ornkavEiQpgR60Wk

    Reply
  7. kiwi guy

     /  4th March 2016

    “…4… Because the option we’ve got has been democratically selected. It’s not what I wanted, but it is what we wanted….”

    Wrong, democratically what “we” wanted was no flag change.

    And that is going to be the referendum result.

    Reply
    • Jesus KG, you can be perceptive sometimes! 😀 (Sorry, you’re not a practicing Christian are you?)

      Reply
      • kiwi guy

         /  4th March 2016

        I’m always perceptive, unfortunately you are like a clock that has stopped – briefly accurate a couple of times a day.

        Reply
  8. kiwi guy

     /  4th March 2016

    “If you’re waiting for a flag design that you and a majority of others really like, you will probably be waiting forever.”

    That’s ok I’m not in a hurry.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  4th March 2016

      We’ll need to change it when Charlie takes over from Liz. Liz has done a pretty good job as the ol’ titular head of state but let’s face it Charlie hasn’t got her tits.

      Reply
  9. Brown

     /  4th March 2016

    ”Where are they represented on the current flag?”

    Think about it Phil. To have a bit of naff symbolism for every man, woman and sexually uncertain person that’s ever moved here would require a patchwork quilt the size of Kim Dotcom’s bed throw-over. A flag symbolizes a country, something that reflects what you believe in, can sign up to not what you are. Its not your tag on the neighbour’s fence and I’m dismayed that so many will sign up to a poor design that reflects no history. What is on offer is a slogan and a piss poor one with about as much style as Helen Clark’s wardrobe.

    Reply
    • Ae Brown and Aye! Aotearoa – Land of the Long White Cloud – and New Zealand – British Colony named in deference to Tasman’s Neu Zeeland – those are the main ingredients of a flag, anything else that can be included in a sound vexillogical design is a big bonus.

      Reply
      • Pickled Possum

         /  4th March 2016

        I’m not really that interested in the flag business any more because they didn’t pick the one I wanted. I wanted the one that Hiraina Marsden, Jan Smith and Linda Munn designed in 1990. The design that refers to the Maori creation myth …
        Rangi the sky and Papa the earth,
        with the light created on the separation of Rangi and Papa
        It has different meaning and definition for different folks.

        This design must come under some symmetrical rule in the Vexillogical rule book
        The black white and red colours can have other meaning …
        like different races or faces.
        Black face of thunder
        White face of shock
        Red face of embarrassment
        which we can all have in one day, 🙂 Parti

        Interestingly enough the Tinorangatiratanga flag was denied to be flown on
        the Auckland Harbour bridge because Tranzit nz said it wasn’t a flag
        that the UN would recognise?
        Is the John Key flag flying on the bridge today?
        Is Helen running the UN show now?
        What is GOING on Parti!
        Is this just another sign on the dotted line,
        We already printed out the contract some years ago saga.

        Reply
        • Nelly Smickers

           /  4th March 2016

          Whist I HATE the Lockwood ‘tombstones’ with a passion, I’m still just a little perplexed when people say, ‘it does not represent Maori.’

          I would have thought that the choice of something black and blue, with a smattering of red, was entirely appropriate 😦

          Reply
        • @ Possum – the Marsden, Smith, Munn flag you mention wasn’t in the Long List of 40, was it? I can’t seem to access the 10,000 any more. Can you link me to a picture?

          Reply
  10. Ratty

     /  4th March 2016

    sounds like his mind was made up before he wrote it…

    Reply
  11. Pickled Possum

     /  4th March 2016

    #Parti
    It ended up in the No Way pile. 🙂
    Scroll down to Flag
    Tuhoe ladies won the comp for a flag run by Te Ata Tino Toa
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tino_rangatiratanga

    Reply
    • @ Possum – Oh, I understand now. They designed Tino Rangatiratanga! They should get like Damehoods or something …. !? 🙂

      Well, it would go in the ‘No Way’ pile, wouldn’t it? It’s only –
      a) The best vexillological Flag in the contest
      b) The best use of Maori ‘motif’ on any flag in the contest
      (The Gordon Walters Kowhaiwhai essentially)
      c) The best use of colour of any flag in the contest
      d) The best example of a flag with deep significance and gravitas in the contest
      That rules it out completely!
      And anything that looks remotely like it.

      My playlist tonight shall reflect my feelings about this … 😉
      You gonna put some music up?

      Reply
  12. Lets get the votes count so we can move on from this colossal waste of time and effort..

    Reply

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