There's a downside to flags and such trappings

19:09, Feb 09 2014
emily maclean
EMILY MACLEAN, 9: "I think the flag should be changed. I made this flag because it represents New Zealand and what New Zealand has, like kiwis. When I sketched New Zealand I did it without looking at the map. They are there like the (original) New Zealand flag and korus and the sun is there for how sunny it always is."
william talbot
WILLIAM TALBOT, 9: "I made this flag because blue is my favourite colour and thought it would be quite nice, it also represents New Zealand. I think the flag should be changed because it's quite exciting how people have to do more flags and may design a better one."
ruby hull
RUBY HULL, 9: "I made this flag because it was different to the whole class. I don't think the flag should be changed because it has been there for ages."
fletcher toomey
FLETCHER TOOMEY, 8: "It's got a fern and the star because it represents the rugby. I think the flag should be changed because the other has been there for ages."
oliver geary
OLIVER GEARY, 9: "My flag has got a kiwi riding a motor bike that has New Zealand written on it. I think the flag should be changed because it hasn't got any kiwiana on it and this one has."
amelia rattray
AMELIA RATTRAY, 9: "The NZ on my flag is for New Zealand and the blue because I wanted it to be like the old one. No, I don't think it should be changed because I like the old one, it's awesome."
jack o'neill
JACK O'NEILL, 8: "I like kiwis, they're my favourite animal, they can't fly but I still like them. All my favourite colours are on my flag as well. I don't think the flag should be changed because I like it, it's really New Zealand."

The flag debate, the flag debate! Every now and then someone gets it into their head to debate the New Zealand flag and whether or not it should be changed.

The usual suspects emerge, the imperialists, the radicals, the politicos and uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. There is very little consensus as to what the New Zealand flag should be if it were to be changed.

All sorts of cant gets trotted out in defence of a particular type of flag. The worst example is that our brave young men fought for and died for our current flag. I have always thought this was particularly specious argument as I don't recall any of my uncles or relatives ever saying that they fought for the flag.

One, who was at Gallipoli, said he joined up "for a bit of a lark. We all did". It makes us feel good to say and believe that our soldiers fought for the flag.

Flags come to their fore in war and New Zealand History on Line says that our current flag, "was adopted in 1902 amidst the pomp and patriotism of the South African war"; before that we had the Union Jack, another imperialist symbol.

It is nice when travelling to come across the New Zealand flag and to see the koru on an Air New Zealand plane at a huge international airport can give one a wee surge of pride.

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But these are just symbols as is the fern and the kiwi. The kiwi, when you think of it, is a strange symbol to feel pride about. It has poor eyesight, is vulnerable to all sorts of predators, and usually mates for life. There is not a lot there to which the human kiwi can relate.

The answer to the flag debate is clear - don't have one. We could be the only country in the world that does not have a flag and hence by this exception would be instantly recognisable.

At official ceremonies there would be just a flag pole with perhaps on special occasions, an empty rectangle being hoisted. "Flag" bearers at games' opening ceremonies would just carry a flag pole flying a blank rectangle and this "symbol" would truly stand out.

An empty rectangle shows that we have the courage to strike out on our own, it's "emptiness" symbolises unlimited potential while its four borders symbolise strength, bravery, peace and wisdom though there could be referendum on this last quality. This national symbol would have to be patented as many other countries would wish to emulate it.

There is no need to stop at not having a flag. We don't need a national anthem, especially our current one which is full of archaic beliefs and yearnings. It has a God which most don't believe in to defend us, mentions "men" not women and wants our mountains to be ramparts. It is slightly better in Maori as most people do not know the words, which in any case are not a translation of the English version.

What to have in its place? Nothing. Let other countries play or sing their national anthem and when it is time for ours there would be silence. This period of silence would allow our team to concentrate on the game ahead and thus they would not be criticised for not singing our anthem.

It would probably make the opposition angry and less focused and turn the crowds against us; again, an advantage to us as we do better when our backs are against the wall. Being flagless and anthem-free need not be permanent and after a decent period we may be able to choose both a flag and anthem without being cluttered and distracted by the present ones.

Flags and similar trappings have a downside and many evils can be allowed and excused by using them, in fact hiding behind them. They can give vent to an ugly side of patriotism, a patriotism which as Oscar Wilde said, is "the last refuge of a scoundrel".

The Timaru Herald