Saturday, 22 August 2015

National Voter Promises to Use A New Flag Design

Politically, NZ's a pretty screwed up place. Sure, we don't have the insanity that is how Americans get around to choosing the people they will choose to be their president that has turned Donald Trump into a politician overnight but at least the US actually has something of a tradition of what we'll call discourse. NZ's a place where, well, newsreaders are simultaneously celebrities and intellectuals. I think it's in both aspects that Mike Hosking gets a prominent spot in the Herald (at least on its website) where his opinions get paraded. Have we, as a society, not heard the phrase "talking head"? For reference, he also gets to be in headlines for being accused of being a crony. Hosking is a talking head and he's talking for another one that also has a smile and wave function. The latter is, honestly, probably much more intelligent but just as dickish.

So, what's this got to do with the flag? And, more specifically, the title. Well, Eric Murray (who in his partnership with Hamish Bond is, without a shadow of exaggeration, easily the most dominant thing in world sports at the moment... and possibly ever) has recently announced that he is willing to wear an alternative design should he get a podium opportunity (i.e. this is going to happen if his convictions hold out/is allowed to). To give you an idea of what the Herald article I read this in is saying:
Murray and coxless pair partner Hamish Bond are gunning for a fifth consecutive world title in France next week and told Tony Veitch on Radio Sport this morning that if they get on the podium he'll take an alternative flag up.
Murray has previously been in support of the current New Zealand flag but has changed his mind since the launch of the flag referendum.
The article then goes on to quote Murray's stated rationale for wanting to change the flag now. However, there's not a single reference to who Murray votes for which, in the context of this discussion, is actually a pretty important thing. Here's an older article.
And Olympic gold medal-winning rower Eric Murray tweeted: "Get out & vote NZ! Plenty of time left #decision14 Don't worry @johnkeypm you got my vote! #sportfunding".
Murray actually got in trouble for that (not sure how much) because you're not allowed to make political statements on election day (i.e. electioneer). You may be able to encourage people to vote (I don't know and haven't bothered looking) but you cannot have that last bit about John Key. There was actually an increase (compared to 2011) of such problems according to that article and it notes the increasing use of social media in election campaigns. There's no problems with that (if you manage it well) but there are deep seated issues with #TeamKey, which was a big thing that National went with. But to get back to the point, this post is really an update on the flag crap.

We've known for a while, now, what the shortlist is. I'm not a fan, obviously, of them but I'm hoping one of the triangle ones gets in on the basis that all the others would be crap flags in terms of flag crap. I actually made a pretty angular suggestion myself and was intending on doing another more in line with these. The only issue with the current triangles is that black is an awful colour for a flag. I'd prefer, in fact, if the second one was chosen but amended to have the blue in both cases. I'd vote for such a design with a relatively eased conscience (you may recall that I am opposed to the flag change).

There are a few things to note about that shortlist (which is what it is, because the next list produced will be the list we vote on). Firstly, there are quite a few flags that incorporate green. I mean, why?

This design represents our clean, green and forward thinking country
Are they insane? Literally, this person is an idiot of the highest order and has been conned by the propaganda machine. New Zealand is very far from "clean" and "green" to the extent that a lot of our waterways are dangerous to swim in... largely because of dairying.
The green of the land and sea.
Yeah, okay. It's still pretty weird given it's "The Land of the Long White Cloud" and the rationale of "Too similar to Australia" so now we're introducing an important Australian colour?
The forest green alludes to the unique natural beauty of New Zealand, the outdoors, our sport and agriculture. The white represents the long white cloud of Aotearoa, our integrity, and peace. The two colours together can be seen as humanity in harmony with nature
I imagine we'll get quite a few similar sentiments. Land. Land. Another propaganda addled moron (and, again, no hesitancy in using the term). Land and Sea. Green Country. Not really explicitly explained, but internally consistent. 

Should green have a place in New Zealand's flag? Well, as I said, it's a little odd given the apparent reasoning is uniqueness/differentiability from Australia (let's be honest, this is what Mr Parociakey means). It's also a bit weird in that the only association of green and NZ are with pounamu (and putting this on your own flag, to my mind, seems to be akin to buying yourself one) and the aforementioned bull we spin to tourists. Hey, I guess we can suddenly stick green on the flag but it's just everything the flag shouldn't be: branding.

Secondly, some of these designs are far too similar. Congrats Dominic for getting two fundamentally identical flags in the shortlist. Those should be one flag in two different colour variations, as they are. This is exactly everything that the process has come to be... a quick get rich scheme for the panellists, excessive cost and a paternalistic assumption. To what extent, though, can we say that the similarity of the designs (although most of them are not so stupidly similar) are really a reflection of what NZers wanted? I mean, I reckon there's been some extreme filtering done by this panel in terms of how they've interpreted what people said. Here's a snippet from my design's rejection letter (I won't show you said design because, honestly, the triangles are much more what I was going for).
Each design was assessed by all Panel members on the basis of flag design principles and what New Zealanders have said they are looking for in a design for our national flag. 
Flag Design Principles (as interpreted from the panel's open letter, i.e. this gives us an inkling of what "flag design principles" means to the panel, what they actually are, in a real sense, is irrelevant if the panel's understanding, the one it used, is different):
A great flag should be distinctive and so simple it can be drawn by a child from memory. 
So, not a silver fern, then. They're distinctive but a bugger to draw properly and they're also like Apple's logo in that (well, hang on, they are a logo) remembering their proper orientation is much harder than you think. Also, NZ's far more than some sports teams, right? Well, probably not. Remember what I said about discourse? What does the absence of discourse actually say? A 0 is still data that matters...

Also, to be honest, a silver fern isn't that eye-catching and, well, none of the shortlist are... not really. On the other hand, few flags are. To some extent, we're importing what I'm going to call "logo theory".

Thirdly, why triangles? That is, what do I think NZ's flag should be saying? Well, I want a flag that says who we are, who we were and where we are. I think our current flag does this admirably but the triangles, with a red, blue and white colour scheme also achieve this... the stars being replaced by NZ's mountains in terms of symbological geography and the Union Jack being captured by the colours. I also think the vast majority of people want something similar and most people agree that the current flag does this. I know it. You know it. Everyone knows it. But still we have this cock and bull panel and this back-to-front referendum.

Mandate first!

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