Sunday, November 15, 2015

Flag the referendum – let’s save our country

I see red over this one – I’m not voting in the first flag referendum – and will vote for the status quo in the second. I’d like to see a new flag for Aotearoa, but one based on more of a consensus and genuine sense of who we are. There are more important tangible things to sort out – like decent housing and incomes for all, the nature of sovereignty, and climate change.

Ironic that this flag-waving exercise should be happening right at the time the world needs to set aside national interests and negotiate a global climate change agreement that will protect us all. A useful diversion from a global forum where New Zealand can’t hold its head high.

First thoughts are usually the best, so why not go with the original flag of New Zealand – the one chosen by the United Tribes of New Zealand in 1834 to signal New Zealand-origin boats, and used at their Declaration of Independence of New Zealand in 1835.

Or, as Brian Rudman said, let the tino rangatiratanga flag fly boldly as the national flag for all of us:
It has the red and black halves representing the creation myth, and a central white koru representing the unfolding of new life, renewal and hope. It also has the wow factor. 
In a public submission process in 2009, this flag got 80 per cent of the vote as a national Maori flag.

The four, now five, flags up for consideration against our current Southern Cross, don’t meet design considerations for being a true flag – they are more logos than brands. Listen to typeface designer Kris Sowersby on this interview with Kim Hill (at 47.30 mins in) on how the de facto ‘client-designer relationship’ was skewed by a signalled preference for a silver fern at the start. ‘We may get the flag we deserve,’ he concludes.

The flag debate is an expensive side-show – and devisive, as factions try to promote their particular bit of cloth or – like the RSA – battle hard to save what we have.

I met someone a few weeks ago who wanted to promote a strong national identity based on being a genuine protector of the environment and defender against climate change. This would be  ‘living up to our brand on the world stage’ she said; not just promoting ‘clean, green New Zealand’ as an increasingly tarnished image. This is what we need to focus on – work out, together, as much as possible – what kind of nation are we; who do we really want to be? Then decide on a flag represents that identity.

This is the nation that first gave women the vote, introduced comprehensive social welfare to support the dignity of all its people in the 1930s, protested against French nuclear tests in the Pacific, and told the United States to keep their nuclear weapons at home when visiting.

Where is our world leadership when it comes to the single biggest long-term threat facing the planet – climate change? A half-hearted commitment to cut our emissions by 11 percent on 1990 levels.

Be part of history – work and stand for a fair nation, and for a fair climate.

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