Sunday, 10 May 2015

New Zealand's Flag Change

Oh, I mean, wow. What ning-nong decided that this was a good idea? Oh, yeah, John Key. It's not something which people wanted. It is not something that people want now. Frankly, I don't think it's something that people will want in the future. New Zealand seems increasingly comfortable in its own skin, you see.

But, hey, there is a debate in some people's mind. There are two main contentions. Firstly, there's the idea that our flag is too similar to those of some other countries. Well, that's nonsensical: heaps of countries have visually similar flags and no-one cares. Besides, our flag is older (in design) than Australia's. Secondly, there's the more important contention that this badly drawn cartoon critiques.

Sadly, the above is not strawmannish. That is their argument and it really does grossly exaggerate the nature of our flag's relationship to Britain and, in fact, ignores the stars altogether. Naturally, that particular argument finds something that specifically orientates New Zealand as being far away from Britain is extremely problematic. It also does nothing to deal with the fact that this flag is our flag, was our flag and has meaning as our flag.

Flag Change is nothing more than an attempt by John Key to alter/control his own legacy (in the absence of any apparent talent to write tomes and win Nobels for doing so). That is, it has become clear to Key that no-one cares enough about the return of titles (which, for reference, I agree with); that NZ has  underperformed economically and environmentally since 2008 (i.e. mismanagement of NZ by Key's National); that National's victory last year was simultaneously decisive, crushing and devoid of any ideas beyond "surplus!"; and that something positive that did happen (i.e. marriage equality) won't be attributable to National's efforts, for Key to come away with the sort of legacy that he wants. John Key may be a fool in public but he's not a stupid man. He is very likely acutely aware that when history looks back at the 2008-2015 span it will wonder at NZ's apathy to multiple scandals in areas related to corruption and that it will pay more attention to the economic cases for sustainable transport than National's ideological and reflexive rejections. In short, John Key knows that changing New Zealand's flag is his one big shot to have an historical legacy of which he is in control. Flag Change is a personal crusade of one man from on high.

The ordering of the referenda is also screwed up. Firstly, establish if there is a mandate for change (what happened to Key's National that was so keen on mandates?). Secondly, having discovered that there isn't, choose a new flag. It's a cynical attempt to deceive the less politically aware (a lot of NZ's voters) that will achieve nothing more than the expenditure of several million dollars ($26 million) that could be spent elsewhere. It could help fix (i.e. ease) NZ's numerous social problems, environmental (esp. biosecurity) issues, or economic efforts (such as our productivity, being a low wage economy etc). But, for Key, these worthy goals are too difficult, too hard... too risky.

Also, for many, they can't help but shake the feeling that changing the flag is the idea of some fool child that they left behind in their past... after they grew a bit older and understood a bit more.

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