Friday, October 23, 2015

Flagging the Debate

They want to change the New Zealand flag. Here is a discussion from a fabulous new blog, Reid's Reader:
Facebook and other social media in New Zealand are awash with the debate about changing the flag. To my shame, I have a couple of times added my own hasty and ill-considered comments to all the other hasty and ill-considered comments with which New Zealand’s cyberspace is almost choked. The time is long overdue for a more reasoned consideration of the matter.
First, let’s set aside speculation on whether the whole thing has been cooked up opportunistically by the prime minister, in order to distract us from more weighty matters. While this may be a reasonable speculation, it’s no more than saying that politicians act to their electoral advantage, which is kind of inevitable. Complaints about the cost of the exercise have some weight, but the best counter-argument to seeking designs for a new flag is the fact that there has not yet been a referendum to discover whether there is a solid majority for change in the first place. This should have been the first step in any flag-changing process.
Having said this, though, and realising that the project is now underway willy-nilly, I express my approval for changing the flag.
I used to argue that we should change the constitution before we change the flag. My own preference is for a New Zealand republic. But as long as the Queen of England is also the Queen of New Zealand, and hence our head of state, then it seemed to me that having the Union Jack on the flag actually meant something. It points to a continuing constitutional reality. My argument was that the Union Jack should be removed only when it no longer had any relationship with New Zealand’s political identity. But it was pointed out to me, correctly, that Canada changed its old flag with great success fifty years ago, and yet it still has the Queen as its head of state. So, much as I dislike our current constitutional arrangement, I accept that the flag can be changed for reasons of national identity, regardless of our ongoing subservient constitutional status.
Besides, there is the glaringly obvious fact that most of the world cannot tell the difference between the New Zealand flag and the Australian flag, even though New Zealand declined to become part of the Australian federation over a century ago. (Read more.)

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