Overreaction to criticism of Maori version of awful anthem

Someone said something stupid about the Maori version of the New Zealand National Anthem on Facebook – stupid things on Facebook are common.

But this was from a city councillor from New Plymouth, Murray Chong, who responded to a post asking “”name a song you are ashamed of singing” with:

“The te reo version of the NZ national anthem”.

That got some media attention – New Plymouth councillor labels Māori version of national anthem a tune he is ‘ashamed to sing’.

Dr Andy Asquith, a Massey University senior lecturer and commentator on local government issues, said in his opinion it was not about politics but about responsibility and recognising that the country has two languages.

“I’m just astounded at the insensitivity of it to be honest,” he said.

“We’re now in an election year so this could well be part of an attempt to build up a profile.”

It could just as easily be a throw away line on Facebook that has nothing to do with the election.

More people started to make a big deal out of what looks to me like a fairly trivial comment in social media.

Stuff:  More than 1500 join call for anthem ‘shame’ councillor to quit

New Plymouth councillor Murray Chong is facing a barrage of criticism, has been censured by his mayor and there’s even a petition calling on him to resign for saying he was ashamed to sing the national anthem in te reo.

New Zealander of the Year for 2014, Dr Lance O’Sullivan, weighed in on the controversy with a scathing social media post on Tuesday that the incident “goes to show that USA is not the only country that is capable of electing idiots to public office”.

He has also been censured by his mayor Neil Holdom, who had already censured the councillor last month for proclaiming on radio he had no issue flying a Confederate flag during Taranaki’s Americarna car festival.

Chong’s track record has been slammed as “despicable” by political commentator Dr Andy Asquith and a petition calling for the councillor to resign had gathered 1550 signatures in 24 hours.

Another bloody petition calling on someone to resign.

Politicians are elected. They should only resign in extraordinary circumstances, not because a few people call for it in a petition. Elections are the normal (and democratic) way of dealing with politicians.

Editorial (Stuff): Councillor’s shame at singing anthem in Māori demands explanation

If New Plymouth District Councillor Murray Chong chooses not to sing the national anthem in Māori, that is his choice. 

And it is a legitimate one. It would be a terrifying day indeed if there were ever a law that made the singing of a national anthem compulsory

The issue with Chong’s latest controversial Facebook post, this time about our national anthem, is that he is ashamed to sing it in te reo.

Such sentiment demands explanation.

Does it?

He’s ashamed, he explains, because the original version was in English and if we are “forced” to sing it in two languages then we should also perform the haka in two languages.

I think that’s pathetic reasoning, but can’t we just make up our own minds what we think?

Chong’s attitude to te reo is concerning in a multi-cultural nation but it’s not out of step with thousands of others who view the language’s growing presence as something “forced” on them.

That attitude is not going to change over night. There will be some, many thousands, who will hold that position no matter what. And these people will see Chong as one person “brave” enough to speak the truth.

But we should hope that there are many more thousands who will at least be open to learning about why te reo is so integral to this country’s past, present and future.

Chong’s social media behaviour does nothing to advance such an openness and it is disappointing the councillor appears content to continually act in a way that divides rather than unites.

Because even though it’s a tired cliche, it’s as true now as ever that united we stand and divided we fall.

We should be compelled to be united in expressing love and admiration for both versions of the anthem?

After the barrage Chong apologised. RNZ: New Plymouth councillor Murray Chong apologises for te reo Māori anthem comments

In a written statement, Mr Chong said he stood by his election promise of “saying it like I see it” and wanted to encourage constructive discussion on matters important to ratepayers.

He said he wanted to make clear his views did not represent his fellow councillors or the council.

Mr Chong has previously described te reo Māori as a dying language and has been censured twice before for race-based comments.

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom yesterday said he had given Mr Chong an official telling off, but would not say what the censure would mean in practice or how often a councillor could be censured before further action would be taken.

Only in the Internet age would this sort of nonsense make national news. And the ease of starting a petition is making a farce of them.

I have often said I don’t like the original (English) version  of our anthem. It’s often a non-uplifting dirge (sometimes it is sung ok).

I think that the God-laden lyrics are embarrassing for a national anthem, especially in a secular country the 21st century.

I don’t sing it because of the lyrics, and because I would be embarrassed for anyone to hear my monotonic mangling. I don’t sing the Maori version  for the same reasons.

But I actually prefer hearing the Maori version. The te reo sounds far less bombastic and dated – and i can pretend I don’t understand what it means.

 

 

Bracken – from god-laden anthem to racist poem

Thomas Bracken wrote the words that have become the lyrics of New Zealand’s second national anthem, which is laden with references to God and Lord’.

“Our anthem is so focused on religion it’s not funny! Get away from all the god talk and start talking about something that actually means something to everyone in this country. Make it even easier, have it in our native tongue – Te Reo Māori!”

– Hemi Ruru, Papakura

Bracken also wrote a racist poem – it was about Chinese people. If he was found to have written something racist about Māori the maybe there would be an outcry and calls to condemn everything he wrote, like the religist anthem.

Michael Tull: Anthem writer Thomas Bracken’s anti-Chinese rhetoric ‘racist to modern eyes’.

There’s a danger in elevating historical figures to demigod status.

Last week’s editorial ‘Our anthem ‘God Defend New Zealand’ is a radically subversive challenge to tradition’ veered close to elevating New Zealand national anthem writer Thomas Bracken to a similar inviolate status.

Its staunch defence of his lyrics was, in part, a response to a discussion I started earlier this month on social media about whether it’s appropriate to have an undisguised Christian prayer as our anthem.

What I proposed was a revision of the lyrics, in order to address the religious elephant in the room.

Removing 13 direct references to ‘God’ and ‘Lord’, plus a further eight indirect references (such as ‘thee’ and ‘thy’) would underline the separation between church and state which is fundamental in a modern democracy.

While the anthem is often criticised there is no apparent drive to deem it as inappropriate and dump it.

Revising the lyrics might also make the anthem more relatable to, and reflective of, the increasingly multi-cultural and multi-faith mix of people who make up our country.

Bracken wrote at a very different time.

It would need more than ‘revising the lyrics’ – it would have to amount to a major re-write.

But Bracken, while a good man by most accounts, was no paragon of virtue, and his works are not time-proof.

Another of his published poems, Chinee Johnny, is so racist to modern eyes that strict limits were set on which bits can be quoted here.

Written in a mock Chinese accent, it includes lines like “cook him puppy in him pan”, “steal him fowley nighty come”, and “Chinaman no wifey bling/ No good women, all same ting/ Play on tom-tom, ching, ching, ching!”

Okay, let’s be kind and say perhaps this was “of its time”.  But even by the kindest interpretation, it still reads like the worst Benny Hill sketch ever.

More viscerally, Bracken’s poem sits mightily uneasy in the modern world.

Couldn’t the same thing be said about baking a prayer into the song through which we express our national pride?

If Bracken had written something that was as racist against Māori as is his his poem against Chinese then it would lead a modern movement to have a relevant anthem.

 

Choosing a new Kiwi anthem

Out currently used national anthem is widely disliked. Apart from the tune and the lyrics it’s not too bad, but @Naly_D is trying to determine a popular replacement from other songs from our past.

Are the semi-finalists the best of that lot? They are:

  • April Sun in Cuba
  • Don’t Dream It’s Over
  • Dominion Road
  • Slice of Heaven

April Sun is too foreign, and Dominion Road is too local. Don’t Dream doesn’t sound right, so that leaves Slice of Heaven.

Hey, I got a lot of faith in you
I’ll stick with you kid- that’s the bottom line
Yeah, you have a lot of fun don’t you
And living with you is a ball of a time
Hey beauty when the mood gets you down
Your bottom lip’s near dragging on the ground
That’s when I gotta play the clown for you
Black humour made you kick your blues
Howdy Angel
Where did you hide your wings
Her love shines over my horizon- she’s a slice of heaven
Warm moonlight over my horizon- she’s a slice of heaven
Hey, I gotta lotta faith in you
I’ll stick with you kid- that’s the bottom line
Yeah, we have a lot of fun don’t we
And heaven has to be with you all the time
Hey beauty

Is that:

  1. Singable enough?
  2. Appropriate words for an anthem?

UPDATE:

Ditch the anthem?

Ditching the anthem is in the news.

Unfortunately it’s not the anthem we commonly use now, the dirge that asks a deity that has a poor record of defending people and countries to defend New Zealand.

It’s our other official anthem, the anthem that I used to have to stand to when I was a child. I remember reluctantly doing so at ‘the pictures’.

But also unfortunately, while God Save the Queen seems totally inappropriate for modern New Zealand, it’s not us considering ditching it as an anthem, it’s the British.

UK considers ditching anthem

British MPs have agreed to debate replacing England’s royalist anthem God Save the Queen.

The song is the national anthem of the United Kingdom and is played at sporting events where the four home nations – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – play as a team and when England competes separately.

Critics say another anthem for England would divide Britain by encouraging individual nationalisms, while supporters say it would re-establish the idea of four separate nations with separate identities.

If it’s good enough for the British to consider a more appropriate anthem in the modern world then it should be good enough for us to consider stopping clinging to an historical oddity.

Listening to the New Zealand anthem being sung isn’t as bad as it used to be now the Maori version is sung first, for some reason it sounds a lot better than the English version. It was written in 1878 but has only recently been used widely.

However when you see what it actually means…

E Ihowa Atua,
(Oh Lord, God)
O ngā iwi mātou rā,
(Of nations and of us too)
Āta whakarongona;
(Listen to us)
Me aroha noa
(Cherish us)
Kia hua ko te pai;
(Let goodness) flourish,
Kia tau tō atawhai;
(May your blessings flow)
Manaakitia mai
(Defend)
Aotearoa

…then it could do with re-writing. Modern secular New Zealand should leave the god stuff to churches and those who believe in it (about half of us) and have an anthem that we can all feel some pride in.

UPDATE: Stuff have picked up on this and are running a poll: Today’s talking point: Time to change the anthem

 

A Little disingenuous on flag choice

Andrew Little has supported public consultation on flag change in the past. But now that we are getting just that he doesn’t want it – because it’s not the right time apparently.

ODT reports:

Mr Little said while thousands of New Zealanders wanted a change of flag, they did not believe it was the right time.

“This is not a poor reflection on New Zealanders, many of whom would like something different. Many of them want a change to the national anthem too, because they are sick of singing a dirge every time you turn up to a festive occasion. Most of them sing along to the Australian national anthem before they sing along to our own.”

He repeated his call for the Government to halt the flag referendums process.

This is very disappointing from Little. He wanted a flag choice process, he wants a flag change, but he opposes the current process. This looks like petty political pissiness.

And he is speaking too much for “New Zealanders” who he doesn’t represent nor listen to very well.

I don’t sing along to the Australian anthem. On a recent occasion I stood respectfully but silently for the Australian anthem at Fig Tree Pocket State School in Brisbane at my granddaughter’s weekly assembly. It was a weird feeling standing surrounded by Australians singing their song. It felt foreign to me.

Mr Little made the comment during debate in Parliament on the Flags Referendums Bill, a bill Labour is opposing despite Mr Little’s own desire for a new flag and Labour’s 2014 policy to start the process to secure that change.

What happened to “cut the crap” Mr Little?