THE NEW ZEALAND FLAG
4 February 2004
One of the lasting impressions of my time in Europe with the Merchant Navy was
the support given to the national flag by the Scandinavian countries, in particular
Denmark and Sweden, and the pride which an entire cross-section of the population
had in flying their national flag on a daily basis, both at their homes and
on public buildings. It caused me to wonder then and now why it was that New
Zealand didn't have a similar enthusiasm and pride in its national flag.
The United States has demonstrated over many years a similar level of pride,
albeit that is driven to a large degree by an over-emphasis of patriotism,
remembering Samuel Johnson's famous quotation "Patriotism is the last refuge
of a scoundrel".
My time with the Merchant Navy saw me sail under the New Zealand red ensign and while it invoked in me a sense of pride, I nevertheless have always found it incongruous that New Zealand's national flag continued to carry the Union Jack as the major focus.
New Zealand has moved on from the days of its colonial past, driven from a trade perspective by Britain's decision many years ago to join the European Common Market and to effectively cut the apron strings so that New Zealand has had to find its own way in the international markets.
Similarly, New Zealand has taken an independent line in foreign affairs for some
time and has held its head high in developing its own foreign policy, through
the United Nations and with its continued membership of the Commonwealth.
My dream would be that New Zealanders would support a flag which truly represents us as a nation and have the same level of pride in everything that flag stands for as we have seen for many years in Scandinavia. For me it is question of clear national identity: it is not an issue of walking away from the flag that our forefathers fought under through 2 World Wars and subsequent conflicts. It is, as for Canada, an expression of who we are and an opportunity to move on. It shows no disrespect to the bloodshed but does say to the international community something about who we are and who we wish to be.
4 February 2004