Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Flagging an Off Topic Subject for Debate

This is not a blog devoted to NZ and its many glories (and few ignominies - don't mention Saturday night's alarming rugby loss) but there is a very odd debate occurring in NZ at the moment which sometimes feels like it is me and the PM against everyone else.

That debate is over changing out flag, which the NZ Herald reports on here. I think our flag should be changed because it includes the Union Jack which is a throwback to when we were once a colony then a dominion and generally a 'Where Britain goes, we go' nation. Those days are long gone and we should have a flag which reflects our independence as a South Pacific nation. (I go further, we should ditch the monarchy the day after the present monarch abdicates or is buried).

Hence my 150% support for our PM John Key taking the initiative in a scheme which will see us referendumise on the matter of changing the flag, and if we change, which flag we change to.

But the naysayers are grizzling over spending $26m on the exercise saying it would be spent better on school lunches. Er, say what? When $26m is spent on those lunches there will be more lunches to buy. Once we have a new flag we have the new flag for ever, or at least for a long time.

Other naysayers are saying that our soldiers fought and died under the present flag and some kind of dishonouring of their sacrifice will occur if we change the flag. Er, say what? Did 'our boys' fight for our flag? I think not. They fought for freedom, democracy and justice. They fought with Allies of many nations and many flags, not for the freedom to fly our flag in a foreign desert.

Now for sometime I have carried on the right hand side of the blog my preferred design for a new flag.

Needless to say I am thrilled to find that in an unscientific poll conducted by the Herald, that design is one of the top two preferred designs ...

Both designs have a lot going for them.

Continuity with the present flag through the retention of the Southern Cross.

Inclusion of the treasured national emblem, the silver fern, already present on many sports uniforms.

Red in the top design is also a continuity feature with the present flag.

Black in the bottom design is a nod to the colour which features in most of our sports uniforms.

Meantime, more pressing matters consume us ... the All Blacks have a shot at the theology of REDEMPTION on Saturday night with a return match against Australia. But they will need a theology of Self-Examination and Penitence if they are to learn from their errors on Saturday night past.


Anonymous said...

Hello Peter,

I'm not the first to say that this is the Prime Minister's vanity politics. I will not be voting at all and expect most others think the same. Hubris gets all leaders in the end.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
I don't think it is a vanity project at all.
The flag needs to change.
If not now, when?
Is there ever a "right time"?
Isn't the time when a multiple election winning PM feels secure enough to take the lead?

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Times immediately following social upheaval are the best. Wars, revolutions and persecution foster national identity and often produce a new constitution as well. Otherwise, it's a pluralistic, "everybody having a say", rather sanitised second best; in my view at least. So, we could wait for the Chinese to invade!


Father Ron Smith said...

I'm just a little bit surprised at your enthusiasm for cutting New Zealand off from the mother Country, Peter. Especially when you obviously do not share the same desire to cut us off from the apron strings of Mother Church of England.

Or did I misconstrue your other enthusiasm - for the Anglican Covenant - as being a sentimental attachment to that Church; when in all reality it was more likely an attachment to the rival leadership of the GAFCON Provinces. It would be interesting to know the authentic source of your disaffection for Mother England. I hope it doesn't come from inheriting an Irish name. That would be too peripheral.

carl jacobs said...

Other naysayers are saying that our soldiers fought and died under the present flag and some kind of dishonouring of their sacrifice will occur

Many of those naysayers are soldiers. Their criticisms cannot be so easily dismissed.

It may seem trivial, but one of the things I miss most about military service is the right to salute during the National Anthem. Military protocol restricts a salute to those in uniform, and you can't wear the uniform once you leave the service. That event symbolically combines the three aspects of a soldier's life. The Uniform is his service, the anthem is his pledge of fidelity, and the flag is the nation he serves. It makes manifest the essence of the life he has chosen.

It is important to understand the flag is the embodiment of the nation. The symbols of the flag represent the nation served. To change the flag is to change the nation and thus tear asunder the soldier's image of his service. You are saying to him that the flag under which he served now embodies a nation that no longer exists. Indeed, this is the explicit reason given for changing the flag. You can say it is the same country, but it isn't. And he knows it.

A change of flags must mean that his service has ultimately failed for the nation he served has ceased to exist. It has been replaced by something else - something alien to him. He did not swear on oath to serve democracy, freedom, justice and other such abstract notions. He pledged his service to a living breathing nation. Each morning at sunrise he saw the face of that nation in the flag. And now you would substitute another in its place.

This is how you dishonor the dead. You say to them "The NZ you served is no more. We have put it away and replaced it with another. The old has gone. The new has come." Except they didn't serve the new. They served the old. Should the dead rise up and speak to this new nation, they would say "Depart from me. I never knew you." But the dead cannot speak. So the living speak in their place.

Andrew Allan-Johns said...

Hi Peter,
Two years ago the majority of kiwis were in favour of finding a new flag. It is unlucky for the government that this sort of process takes that long to arrange and in this case public sentiment has shifted in the meantime. I am not sure that I want a new flag but I am glad to have a say. I think the high cost people complain about is the price of democracy and in practice is not taking money away from feeding kids. If we saw the cost of holding elections we would probably say the same thing. To the flags designs themselves I think simplicity is key. A straight fern is probably the strongest flag but unfortunately ferns are not unique to NZ/Aotearoa. The southern cross on the white line with a black background is authentic and graphically strong .
Andrew Allan-Johns

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments!

Nick: the Chinese won. Hasn't you noticed?

Carl: Yes, we are a different nation. The nation our troops died for in WW1 and WW2 was a nation more or less subservient to Britain and many died in European and Middle Eastern theatres of war for the freedom of Britain, and other European nations. Some died closer to home in the Pacific for our nation's freedom from the enlargement of Japan's imperialism. But even then, the nation they died for as changed (you should see how many Japanese cars we drive!). So, no, I am not persuaded by your argument. Our nation has changed and our flag should change. Our commitment to freedom and democracy has not changed and thus our soldiers' sacrifices were not in vain.

Ron: my commitment to republicanism has nothing to do with being Irish and everything to do with being a New Zealander wondering when we will become a mature nation without governance from abroad. My commitment to the Covenant has nothing to do with being tied to the apron strings of the CofE and everything to do with being one global Anglican church in obedience to our Lord's command, ut ubi sint.

Andrew: a man of good sense and taste!!

Anonymous said...

There are clearly issues with our current flag.

But I am underwhelmed by the 40 options, many of which are merely the same design with a colour change. Let’s not pretend that a fern somehow uniquely identifies our country – please name a country where ferns are not growing! Yes – it’s a common logo on some of our sporting codes; is our national religion really what we want to identify with on our flag?!

As to the cost – we may (or may not) be prepared to pay that, but making the choice is only a tiny part of it; producing the replacement flag will be far more expensive than the 25 million or so being tossed around.

My own stronger interest is sacramental. The flag is clearly sacramental ("an outward sign..."). I am fascinated that in many places the flag is treated with more reverence than our own sacrament of bread and wine. That latter ‘flag’ (of the most sacred death) is regularly changed without referendum. And clergy and communities (including military chaplains and communities) follow flag protocols in a way they would never consider following the church’s sacramental protocols.

As for the flag you have been flying on this site, Peter, it is probably the best of the bad lot and would be my guess to win the first vote.



Anonymous said...

But Peter,

the tightness you refer to in your reply to Rev Bosco Peters does not exist. That is my point. You get it after revolution or the declaration of a republic or something of that nature. France, the US, South Africa and, indeed, the UK, got their flags in the midst of an important change; not after a lukewarm art competition presided over by a group of worthies. And the designs are uninspiring because they do not mean anything. They do not remind us of a struggle, a victory, the defeat of tyranny or the birth of a nation. I suppose if anything they are a sign of the so-called passionless people.


Peter Carrell said...

ndeed, Bosco.
And, just as sacramental theology explores the tightness of the relationship between the sign and the reality, what "is" means, so I think a flag change is an expression of a secular theology exploring the tightness of the relationship between the reality of NZ in the 21st century and the sign of that reality via our flag. (Part of that reality is that the silver fern functions as a sign of our Kiwi identity even if ferns grow in most other nations!)

Your point about reverence for the sacrament of the flag versus lack of reverence for the sacrament of the bread and the wine is well made.

Jean said...

I quite like the flag with the blue Koru, red stars and white background.

Re do we need a new flag, it isn't my burning issue perhaps the positive aspect I see about it is the opportunity to have a flag representing both Pakeha/European heritage and Maori heritage. It is perhaps born of a struggle of a colonial nation becoming and still becoming one, where the colonialists and the colonised stand on equal footing. The wars have been fought and are so in more indirect ways still being fought, even if our acknowledgement of them is little. Let's remember the Maori Battalion who fought under the current NZ flag received none of the support or compensation given to Pakeha's post-war, yet their dedication and sacrifice was great.

Ferns appear the world over but isn't the Silver Fern a NZ Native?

I agree Bosco, lets never get to the point where our allegiance belongs to a flag instead of God.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think it is a vanity project at all.
The flag needs to change." - thus Peter Carroll

It will be a strange thing if the only flag left in the Pacific to incorporate the British Union Flag will be the State Flag of Hawaii.

The Americans are not bothered about or ashamed of their history.

The Australians - less ethnically 'British' than NZ - have no plans to ditch their flag. So it comes down again to NZ cultural cringe and insecurity vis-a-vis Australia.

There is no getting away from the fact that NZ as a socio-political entity was and is the creation of Britain. That's why it's 'New Zealand' and not 'Nouvelle-Zelande', as it might have been.

As for the Union Flag, it is the union of the Crosses of the martyrs St George and St Andrew the Apostle and St Patrick, Apostle to the Irish. If you want to remove these Christian symbols from public sight and mind, carry on; the Communist Party of China is doing the same.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi James
There is a burgeoning republican movement in Australia which is keen to change the flag when it changes the monarch for an Australian head of state.
Your account of the Union Jack takes no account of all the countries which formerly had the Union Jack in their flags and have now ditched them.
As for NZ being a British creation, that is a partial truth. Before the British came we were a Maori creation. And after Britain ceased to control us we have become a multicultural nation which is increasingly a fusion of Poylnesian and Asian cultures.

Father Ron Smith said...

Me? I'm clinging to my lineage - as being part of who, essentially, I am. That seems pretty important to me, but maybe not to some people. I'll bet you won't get many Pacific islanders, or Maori for that matter, anxious to shed their native identity - which, i think, is what this is all about. If, Peter, you were actually of Maori lineage - according to your own assessment of the situation - one might expect you to be supportive of an identity free from British influence. As it stands, you don't have that privilege. You do, however, have the great privilege of residing in a democracy, which allows to you participate in the privilege of sharing the $26 million cost of changing our national flag - if that's what you really want.

Jean said...

Arghhh changing the flag out of insecurity?? Say huh?

I value my English, Scottish and Irish ancestory as well as being born and growing up knowing and identifying with Maori culture as a part of the country I live in. Most of the new flag designs seem to incorporate both aspects of our countries UK roots and our NZ identity through the use of colour and symbolism. The union cross does have a meaningful origin and is included in one of the designs, and nearly all of the designs use the Southern Cross which is representative both of our faith and our place.

Personally I am not a republican, I like our connection with the UK and the Commonwealth. As far as I can see the idea is to add value not diminish it by including our unique identity as well.

Seriously James the Americans aren't bothered by their history!! They fought (literally) to cut English ties to their new country. As far as comparing NZ with Australia on loyalty to 'UK' 'Christian' ?? values, begin with our National Anthems.

In the end it is, just a flag.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I think I can value my lineage (which, incidentally is at the most half English - the rest is Republican Irish and German) without desiring to retain the Union Jack on our flag.

Besides which if I were to value the Union Jack for lineage reasons, why do no NZers have any desire to post the Union Jack on the All Blacks rugby shirts, given the great British lineage of that great game?

The Silver Fern does us very well on the All Blacks jersey, has done for a long time now, and would suit our new flag as well.

Anonymous said...

Peter, if Australian republicans are content to wait for a meaningful event, before they change their flag, I suggest they know something about timing. That way, you do the constitution and national anthem as well.


Peter Carrell said...

Er, Nick, perhaps we are reading different Oz republican material.
My reading is that Oz republicans want change now.

Jean said...

Hi Nick I guess you could hit all birds with one stone if NZ'ders wanted to become a republic. But do remember our National Anthem and Music was written in NZ, would be a pity to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I guess Australia's must have been too as Waltzing Matilda doesn't sound very British to me!

Anonymous said...


I quote you:

There is a burgeoning republican movement in Australia which is keen to change the flag when it changes the monarch for an Australian head of state.

That is in futuro.

Jean: I think changing the flag is nuts. I merely say that you should do the lot at once when it means something. At the moment, John Key has been thinking (and I commend him for that - it's a good start).


Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Nick, Oz republicans are keen to change Head of State's nationality and the flag ... tomorrow!

Jean said...

I see the common sense it what you say Nick and the cost is admittedly high given other needs at the present time. And John Key thinking is also good : ) On the other hand I do wonder if rather than having our National Flag and a Maori Flag if we could have a flag all our country felt represented by whether this would actually mean something?

Anonymous said...

Jean, I agree that we could have a new flag that we are all happy with. I simply say that historians, political scientists and constitutional lawyers will all agree that strong symbols of unity have come from revolution, victories or other national moments of significance with which people internally identify. In a way, Fr Bosco is spot on. The flag is a sacrament; the real external presence of an internal sacrifice that counted. Anzac Day. The Flag. An art competition does not cut it. John Key needs to leave his thinking to Messrs English and Joyce. To his credit, he normally does.


Anonymous said...

"As for NZ being a British creation, that is a partial truth. Before the British came we were a Maori creation"

Not quite true. There was no Maori state in the islands, just lots of different Maori communities, often at war with each other. New Zealand as a socio-political entity under one ruler and the rule of law is a British creation. NZ hasn't been under British 'control' since 1907 - or at most, since the Statutes of Westminster.

I'm not ashamed of my British heritage: English language, Protestant (Anglican) faith, English common law, Westminster-style government, Shakespeare, tea, fish & chips etc. If South Africa and Canada ditched the Union flag from their flags, that's because great numbers of their peoples never identified with Britain in the first place.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi James
I am not ashamed of my heritage (mixed European as it is and, as it happens, devoid of Maori ancestry) and very pleased that we have continuing elements of Britishness (or is it Englishness?) such as fish and chips. But do we have a Westminster-style government now that we have MMP? (Might we not now, to invoke one part of my ancestry, be a bit German in a our parliamentariness?)

Your last sentence is part of my argument FOR changing the flag. We have become, and increasingly so through new waves of immigration, a nation in which great numbers of our people have never identified with Britain in the first place.

But I also continue to argue that we are a nation in which NZers of British stock and heritage are identifying as NZers as a people of a unique culture and of a distinctive island nationality that would be better expressed through a flag with local symbolism and not that of the other side of the world.

Jean said...

Hi All

This is interesting, actually there was kind of a Maori State under the Declaration of Independence or the United Tribes of New Zealand signed in the end by 52 chiefs before the Treaty of Waitangi and overseen by missionaries, and they actually had a pretty cool flag. I wonder if that should be put amoung the options. It is a red cross, with a smaller red cross with a blue background and four stars in one corner. The rest of the bigger squares are white.

I agree Nick a specific historical event would create more of a unifying force, such as the South African flag which is pretty neat. It seems some flags have been created this way and others simply by a desire to have a flag representative of their nation such as Canada, Sri Lanka etc.

Blessings to all, happy debating,