“What do we stand for?” – that’s the question the government hopes will spark a nationwide conversation about the flag referendum. The website initiative began its televised advertisements today, but since then the only feedback it has received on its website – standfor.co.nz – has been critical and often scathing of the concept of changing the flag, and the referendum itself.
Comments tend to be along the lines of this one, from Eddie:
“I stand for Keeping the current flag and saving the millions of dollars that this National Government wants to waste on an exercise to boost John key‘s ego and give him and his cronies a story to boast to their great grand children about. Spend the money on something worthwhile. IE health or poverty.”
Firstly, in the not too distant future, we will be asked which alternative design we prefer in the hypothetical scenario the flag is changed before actually being asked if we want a change at all.
And let’s face it, the latter part of the question has already been answered with all polls in 2014 and 2015 showing support for retaining the flag is well ahead. In fact it almost seems like as the polls go by, support for retaining the flag, as we now commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first world war is falling fast.
The most outspoken opponents of a flag change, first proposed by Prime Minister John Key at a National Party gathering in Whanganui more than a year out from the election, now tend to be those who have served in the military.
This Northland elder, Jim Te Tuhi, made national headlines when he said, on ANZAC day, that the “ponytail puller” Prime Minister shouldn’t change the flag and that he ought to “grow up”.
And polls indicate most New Zealanders agree with Mr. Te Tuhi, with support for a flag change in 2014 dropping from 40% to only 25% in 2015. And there’s enough indication it will fall further, after the Herald reported that in 2010 support was over 50%.
Some analysts have stated they believe many New Zealanders are neutral on the flag issue, but just want to see John Key’s ‘one man agenda’ issue defeated for the reason it’s an unreasonable waste of money. Others argue national pride and belief in the importance of conserving tradition, especially on the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, is hitting pro-change in the polls.
But I think it is worth asking the question “What do we stand for?”. Perhaps then, it may enlighten the last few proponents of the referendum to reconsider; do we really need to be discussing this right now, when so many others areas need our attention?
New Zealand stands up for what it believes in, and we shouldn’t let political distractions get in our way of continuing our proud legacy of progress.
Ideally, New Zealand stands for:
Justice and equal rights for all.
Standing up to the “big guy”, even if that includes consequently negative relations with said “big guy”.
What else is important?
What else would most New Zealanders like to see funding go to instead of a new flag, and its process?
I believe in the timeless New Zealand philosophy that is the “fair go”, and I believe most New Zealanders abide by this belief too. I believe we stand up for our neighbours, for the unfortunate, and for the disadvantaged. I believe that disadvantage, being impoverished, and being disabled shouldn’t be a barrier from receiving help from others in a civlised country such as New Zealand.
I believe New Zealand stands for a future without poverty; where we accept that poverty is not an accident and is man-made. I believe New Zealanders find the statistics that show the most disadvantaged in our society (the elderly, the disabled, and the young) appalling, and that they want to do something about it.
I believe New Zealand stands for a future where no home is cold, damp and unhealthy – and a future where a young family is able to fulfill the New Zealand dream and own a home of their own.
I believe New Zealand stands for a future where small, family business is put ahead of large, multinational corporations – and a future where the government doesn’t spend millions on patently dodgy deals with the latter.
I believe New Zealand stands for a future where he help, rather than hinder, our small rural towns and villages.
I believe New Zealand stands for a future where a sister has an equal chance to her brother, and continuing the proud and progressive past we have when it comes to women’s rights.
I believe New Zealand stands for better quality and highly-funded healthcare, where all Kiwis are able to get the treatment they need. Not where we currently find ourselves now in regards to Dunedin Hospital, where asbestos and leaking buildings are now becoming a health hazard.
I believe New Zealand stands for the best education system in the world free from privatisation, where teachers and students learn together and where all young people have an equal start to become the doctors, lawyers, businessman and leaders of tomorrow.
I believe New Zealand stands for a future where peace (not war) is our boast.
We all believe in a New Zealand which stands up and lives up to its clean, green image to ensure a future where we are free to once again swim in waterways and at our beaches.
The New Zealand I know thousands stand for isn’t distracted by issues designed to distract us, which only ends up costing us financially and time wise in the end. New Zealand has the potential to reclaim itself as the most progressive country in the world once again – we just need to start talking about it.