It may be a bit late for me to weigh in on this whole flag debacle, but is that going to stop me? Haha no. As a New Zealander I enjoy the right to freedom of expression, and that includes expressing my opinions on everything that’s gone down since John Key decided he wanted a new flag – however belatedly that may be.
Don’t get me wrong – the flag desperately needs to be changed. It’s well overdue for a change. It wasn’t really something I thought about when I was younger; I think I only really properly made the connection as a history major studying the effects of British colonialism throughout The Empire. It’s also something you care about more as an adult – especially a new and inexperienced adult with an emerging sense of what it means to be part of a nation. Which, y’know, is probably why you can’t vote in things like general elections and flag referendums until you’re eighteen. Before “adulthood” (whatever that is) you lack the capacity to give the required amount of fucks needed to participate in democratic processes.*
Look at this flag. To me, this doesn’t look like the flag of an independent nation with a distinct culture. More importantly, it does not look like the flag of New Zealand: from the obtrusive union jack to the tired red white & blue colour scheme, nothing about this flag makes me think of my country. To me it’s a colonial wankstain from an era that is long dead. So yes, we’ve been needing a new flag for a long time. Something that represents who New Zealand is as a nation: our people, our culture, our pride. In the final referendum next month, New Zealanders of voting age will get to choose between this, our current flag, and a proposed new flag that was chosen from a shortlist in the first referendum last year.
So what alternative flag did the voting population of New Zealand choose? This one.
So apart from the black in the left corner, all this design has done is replace the union jack with a silver fern and largely kept the configuration and colour scheme of our current flag. I had hoped for a more radical departure from our colonial history, rather than this – which seems like some attempt at gently easing people into change. But we’re not changing our hair colour from brown to blonde, so to speak. Flag change is not a ten-step process that happens over a period of time (and a period of flags). Maybe it’s just because I’m young and modern, but I had hoped to choose between our old flag and a new flag that looked nothing like it – but did look distinctly kiwi.
No matter what flag we end up with, we’re keeping that fucking southern cross. As my flatmate Kate has opined multiple times, having the southern cross on our flag doesn’t distinguish us. Guess who can see the southern cross? Any bloody nation in the southern hemisphere. Guess who also has the southern cross on their flag? The Aussies.
Fuck. That said, when it comes to voting I’ll probably vote for this dumb silver fern design over the union jack, but it will most certainly be a case of choosing the lesser of two evils. The likelihood of another referendum happening in my lifetime are slim to none, and I kinda hate the thought of having to look at that bloody colonial wankstain for the rest of my life, so fern it is.
All I can say is, thank god this one didn’t make it to the final option.
Because then I would have lost faith in my country altogether.
What was wrong with Red Peak? Or Koru? Or even the black and white fern? (Many people have said that the fern is too closely related to our sports teams and tourism industry to be the new flag for our country. But I say: why can’t it be the flag as well? At least when I look at it, I think of New Zealand.)
With the referendum fast approaching, I’d like to take a moment to remember the golden days of the initial gallery of submissions, from when the government asked for designs and anyone with a computer could send in whatever they wanted. Here are a few of my favourites.
*NB: This is merely a generalization. Some under-eighteens are pretty fucking smart and would probably do more with their vote than some over-eighteens, who still lack the capacity to give the required amount of fucks. But that’s a discussion for another day.