Sir Marty's gongs give average folk shot at title

19:30, Jun 10 2012
Martin van Beynen
Martin van Beynen

I don't think we have enough honours in New Zealand. Every year when New Year and Queen's Birthday come around and the great and the good receive their awards, thousands if not millions miss out.

This is just not good enough because each time the gongs are handed out, thousands of good citizens feel their works and labours have gone unrecognised and under-appreciated - yet again. It is an insult to our egalitarian society and highlights the gap between the successful and unsuccessful, the good and mediocre and the charitable and those who couldn't care less.

It is high time we remedied this and came up with a list of new awards and honours which ensure everyone in New Zealand, no matter how humble or lacking in achievement or excellence, does not go to their grave without an award from the State.

While most people will agree this is a fine idea, some will argue that handing out awards and honours to everyone will devalue honours so much they become worthless. This, in my view, is elitist thinking. It smacks of the belief the deserving can only be honoured if the less deserving get nothing. I am not arguing all honours should be equal. All I am saying is that all citizens deserve some acknowledgement of their contribution, whether it has changed the world or not.

There will obviously need to be a great deal of discussion over what form these awards should take, and who should be in charge of conferring them.

For a start, the list of titles to be conferred will need broadening to recognise the range of contributions and efforts the new honours system will try to address. Sir, Lady and Dame are all excellent servants in the nomenclature hierarchy, but even the staunchest traditionalists would have to admit they do not cover the full gambit of human endeavour and achievement.


There are no shortage of contenders and at the very least the list of titles can be expanded to include Boss, Chief, Lord, Duke, Count, Alpha, Patron, Don, Brahmin, Nawab, Sire, Shogun and Prophet (for the religious). Of course, we mustn't forget the ladies and the extended list should include Duchess, Countess, Electress, Milady and Priestess.

While a low-profile captain of industry could rightly receive the title of Boss and a community leader that of Chief, we do need to keep in mind suitable titles for those of a more caring bent.

I suggest brother, comrade, or compadre could do the job here and for the ladies, sister, friend or intimate. As you can see, broadening the range of titles will increase the ability of the system to recognise everyone for their contribution to society.

Not everyone can devote their lives to the disadvantaged or be a professional sports star for 10 years and then have so much money they don't need to work.

For many people the most they can do each day is get to work on time, cook dinner and do the dishes. Others will struggle to get out of bed before midday and find it a battle just to make their way to the shop to get some milk. However, in their small way they are all contributing to society so we need to recognise that.

We already have the New Zealand Order of Merit (not to be confused with the Order of New Zealand) for the high flyers so what about the NZ Order of Achievement for those who can just manage the basics.

The NZ Order of Meritorious Domestic Performance could acknowledge all the valuable work people do around the home and the Most Excellent Order for Forbearance and Humility could applaud those who have unceasingly boring, low paid, repetitive but necessary jobs. The Most Venerable Order for the Average could cover a multitude of contributions which fail to shine, but are nonetheless someone's best effort.

I see no reason why prisoners should be excluded. On the completion of their sentence, they could be granted the medal of Distinguished Companion of Her Majesty's Prison Service. Bars could be added on the completion of each subsequent sentence.

By the time our new honours system adds Grand Companions, Principal Companions and Distinguished Companions, not to mention officers and members, we are really well on the way to achieving our goal of universal honours.

Some will say this is just the suggestion of a mean and disrespectful person who is aggrieved because he has never received a state honour.

Far from it. My name is long enough without adding a whole of lot of prefixes. Just call me plain old Marty. It's true that Lord or Sir or Boss does tend to get my attention, but that's purely optional.

The Press