Why I am unmoved …

There are some people who really like the proposed flag, and some who would never change from the current NZ Ensign.  Many, like me, are in the middle and could support a great new design but have regretfully concluded we do not like the black and blue Lockwood proposal and won't vote for it. Naturally we are the target for persuasion to change our minds in favour, and that is fair enough. Here I explain why the persuasion does not move me.

The arguments fall into four camps: fear, loathing, discouragement and shame.

The fear argument is that it we don't take this opportunity to change, then there will not be another chance in our lifetime. This argument sometimes quotes the opinion of the Prime Minister. Now the PM is probably just saying it as he sees it.  However it feels like a marketing trick, like a merchant who artificially restricts supply (limit one per customer) in order to give the illusion of shortage and impose a sense of urgency on the customer.  Who really believes that politicians cannot change their mind when they see the way the wind is blowing? Some fear we will have to wait too long, but we are not children: we can put up with a bit of delayed gratification to make sure that the proposed flag is a good one, with a great deal of public approval. Impatience is not a reason.

The loathing argument is strongest from people with a chip on their shoulder against our Australian or UK cousins. Some have a major case of little-brother-itis, hating to be mistaken for big brother Australia. Some contemptuously refer to 'the mother country' and 'colonials',  and use insulting terms to describe the former British Empire and the Union Jack. The argument that Britain  abandoned NZ in the 1970s gets an airing, as does the fact that Brits must treat fellow EU citizens better than their biological cousins here. In these arguments it doesn't matter whether we like what we are changing to or not, the crucial thing is to change, to remove(?) the chip on the shoulder and assert our independence.  But to me, I am genetically as British as anyone in the UK despite the fact my ancestors came here in the 1850s: and I have no desire to deny my cultural heritage.  Yes it's the past not the future, but my forebears were happy with their flag, and flags almost invariably do reflect the past, saying where the country came from - or a major feature of its ideology. What  does it mean to say a flag should reflect  the future? No-one really knows what NZ will be like in the future anyway!

The discouragement argument is that we will never completely agree on a new flag, so stop hoping for a better one! Now  it is true we will never get everyone to agree, but that is not the point. The point is, can we find a design that appeals to far more people?  Without knowing the future, how can one say this is impossible?  Some might argue that 10292 flags were submitted to the Committee, and they presented us with the best, so we can't hope for anything better.  But this is only partly true. A very important point often overlooked, is that the Committee decided the  Long List by only including flags that were unanimously selected by every single committee member as worth considering.   So it only took one committee member to not like a flag, and then it would not go forward for New Zealanders to consider. This probably explains why some obvious flags were not on the Long List, for  example no simple white fern on black, and no simple Southern Cross in astronomically correct arrangement. There were other quite good flags not brought forward for New Zealanders to consider. I think it is very likely that, in time, some improved design will come forward that  more people could be ready to accept.

The shame argument is that people like me are moaners, not willing to compromise. That is not true: there are flags in the 10292 that I would willingly to vote for, but not this one.  Or they say, no one else has ever had the chance to choose a flag democratically so you should seize the opportunity, and not waste the money spent on the flag process. Well  I happen to agree the democratic process was OK (except for the committee's way of choosing the designs) but it was never guaranteed to that the process would produce an acceptable flag, and this is the first chance we've really had to say whether we like the proposal or not. Personally I don't.  Others lecture us that it doesn't matter if you don't like it now, you will grow to like the flag in time. Yeah right, like every child learns to love Brussels sprouts. Finally it is said we will be a laughing-stock if we keep the Union Jack. Maybe not if it is explained that patriotic people wanted something better for their country.

Why isn't the proposed flag good enough for me? I feel it is dull and drab. It doesn't represent the beauty and attractiveness of our country, as it could do. We are often told that our flag is important for 'brand New Zealand'. So what message does this black and blue flag send about us? That we like to be bruised black and blue? Personally I strongly dislike to the negative connotations of black. And does the symbolism of the Fern have a meaning or is it just an empty brand, like a child crying out "I'm here"? Some say Maori would turn a leaf over to mark the way. Well apart from the fact  this leads to a broken and shrivelled leaf, what future is the Fern supposed to be pointing to? And why is the Fern far bigger than the Southern Cross? To me it seems to be trying to say that sport is far more important than any other aspect of being a New Zealander, and I reject that. You may be happy with the design, but I feel alienated by it, and it is just not good enough.

 Fear, loathing, discouragement and shame: these are poor reasons for choosing a flag that doesn't appeal.  I hope instead that someday we can choose a different design that expresses beauty, positivity, hope, and doesn't leave so many of our fellow kiwis feeling disgruntled.