Ditch royals and their ugly past

Last updated 11:30 15/11/2012

DIAMOND JUBILEE: The Coronation Theatre, Westminster Abbey: Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2012 by Ralph Heimans.

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OPINION: Staggering, isn't it? You, an ordinary New Zealander, are controlled by a strange-talking little old woman on the other side of the world.

On paper, she can do with you as she sees fit - dissolve your parliament, revoke your laws and fire your prime minister, who serves ''at Her Majesty's pleasure''.

We are her subjects, her playthings - subjugated, dominated.

Of course - as any monarchist will be quick to point out - she doesn't really exercise these powers in reality. New Zealand's unwritten constitutional conventions dictate that our Parliament is sovereign and the monarch is a mere figurehead. Why should it matter if she's there, then?

It matters because symbols matter. True, the Queen has almost no actual power, but she is the symbol of everything New Zealanders loathe: elitism, colonialism, tyranny.

The British monarchs spent hundreds of years brutally attacking countries across the globe and massacring untold numbers of people in their quest for ever-greater domination.

Shouldn't we be leaping at the chance to distance ourselves from Britain and its monstrous history? Removing the monarchy as soon as practicable would be the best way to go about this, since our retention of it is essentially a tacit endorsement of New Zealand's British past.

Like any symbolic change, this would have no real effect on anyone's life. But don't be fooled. Symbolic changes still matter very much. I doubt many New Zealanders would be supportive of changing the term "Queen" to "Führer", even though this too would be a purely symbolic change.

So, getting rid of the monarchy isn't going to have a substantial effect on any individual's life. But it will do something just as important: by changing the symbols we use to define ourselves a nation, moving to a republic will spur the development of a new collective identity which reflects modern-day New Zealand - diverse, egalitarian and democratic.

As long as we retain the monarchy, our growth as a nation will be forever stunted.

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