Its all fun and games until someone loses.
When designs for a new flag were called about 10,000 of us got our digital crayons out and had some fun. But now that the 10,000+ have become 40, it’s no longer any fun for the 10,000. Soon it will be 4 and then it will be ‘the one’ and the ranks of the ‘not having fun’ will be everyone except ‘the one’.
And even if ‘the one’ gets the final nod as a replacement flag, will ‘the one’ still be having fun after the party is over? Or will he/ she be like a one-test All Black boring everyone they meet and trying to score free drinks in bars and invites to dinner parties for decades to come?
So how about the Government? Are they having fun through this process? They did, after all, put a lot of effort and money into it. A happy government is always a numbers game and I am not sure there is much numerically induced fun for the government, whatever the outcome.
When we choose the ‘one’ in our first referendum the majority, collectively, will still most probably have chosen one of the other three; then in the final selection against the status quo, it will again be a split vote. So if a new flag is chosen, the number of people who voted for something different from ‘the one’ along the way will be quite substantial. I wouldn’t count on too many free drinks if I were the designer of any new flag, nor too many votes generated from this exercise for National in the next election.
But if we stay with the existing flag then will be no one happy. The supporters of the status quo will bemoan the wasted money and effort, the supporters of change will bemoan that change did not happen. The government depends for its continued support on making people happy, so a ‘status quo’ decision would be really, really bad news for them going into the next election. If the dairy prices fail to rise, house prices fail to drop and the All Blacks lose the World Cup, the Rugby Championship Cup and the Bledisloe Cup before the 2017 election, then the flag might just be the thing that is draped over National’s electoral coffin. Just sayin’ is all, most certainly not wanting. If I was in National’s strategic planning department, I think I would have been opting for a flag referendum tied into the election which is when a distraction might be most needed and which could have provided the theme of an heroic advertising campaign for National to lead New Zealand to a brave new future. “Change our flag and everything will come right!”
But that’s all academic now; the decision will be made well in advance of the next election and if we are to spend $28 million on it, I may as well try to get my $7 worth of fun and make my own shortlist of four, in priority order which gives my #1 pick.
1: This effectively replaces the Union Jack with a fern, retaining the familiarity of the existing colour scheme and the southern cross. I think this is the one that will settle into the kiwi psyche most quickly. The Union Jack is symbolically no loss and the Brits won’t take offence. I don’t think Britain ever really wanted us, they just wanted Australia as a prison then found that Australia had a little brother that seemed to come with the deal. We were colonised in 1840 at the insistence of sequential governors of New South Wales and then given our independence back just 13 years later. Then in 1973 they told us to just bugger off with our lamb and butter as they preferred to shop at the local butcher and dairy.
2. A Euro-blend of the red white and blue colour scheme with the Maori flag. Graphically quite appealing but it would take a lot more getting used to than #1 and would be a lot more challenging to get global recognition with what is very much an in-house design rather than one with existing international familiarity.
3. If the only objection to the existing flag is the Union Jack, then just get rid of it and keep only what’s left. Good pragmatic thinking; but the four stars do just seem to me a little lost in all that blue. Still a simple, strong graphic with a sound logic.
4. I couldn’t find a 4th worth talking about. So I didn’t.
After initially leaning towards the black colour scheme I changed my mind completely during the process. Colour is created by light and, technically, black is not a colour, it is the complete absence of light and colour and, when you think about it, just looks very sombre. It would suit a funeral march national anthem. Red, white and blue just has a much more joyful feel about it; trombones, trumpets, piano accordions and five string guitars
I would have liked a Kiwi logo version to choose from but that didn’t happen. They were probably nervous about what might have to happen if the European imported rats and stoats succeeded in bringing the Kiwi to extinction outside of fenced nature parks.
And finally I would choose #1 over the status quo; but if any of the other designs were chosen as ‘the one’ then I would pause for thought. My #2 would be a very brave move and a long-term one; and I am not sure the design has that longevity. It is very much a 20th century Gordon Walters graphic. Choosing #3 would be to just get rid of the Union Jack at any cost but without any positive replacement, so that’s a really hard to sell unless we just really hate Britain; which I don’t. Actually I think their Union Jack flag design is the best on the planet, but if we decide that its time to cut the apron strings then so be it, but not until we actually have something to replace it.
But in the end, what does a flag really matter? As a great poet once wrote: