I think five for a penny, at least.
Though I personally don’t attach priority to the need to change New Zealand’s flag, I’m conflicted in my attitude to New Zealand nationalism, which is part of patriotism.
I did some reading about nationalism a few months ago. I’m sure the words “nation” and “nationalism” have been used for a long time, but it seems that the idea of creating a country with a national identity was an outcome of the first world war, with the splitting up of empires into smaller “national” units. I suppose places like Spain and France existed as countries before then, but it seems they each had several cultures and languages, and wouldn’t have been “nations”. What they had was common subjection to a particular ruling group.
The idea that a “nation” can have a set of national characteristics seems fairly recent. And from what I can gather, it seems largely driven from the top down, by those who want power over the rest of us (not necessarily for malign reasons) or use us to make money. The point of identifying national characteristics seems to have a lot to do with distinguishing “us” from “them”: a form of the territoriality and competition for resources seen between groups of our hominid/simian/mammalian relatives.
Of course there are plenty of cultural attributes associated with specific regions. In many parts of the world, these don’t coincide with political boundaries. Examples I can think of offhand are Kurdistan, Belgium and Frisia.
Accepting the 21st Century reality of a world divided into sovereign countries, I can see why leaders might look to promote anything that seems to bind that country together. While I feel secure in being part of a group, I’m beginning to wonder how important it is to identify a set of characteristics with political borders.
In terms of New Zealand as a “nation”, I don’t know that pre-European Maori thought of themselves in relation to other peoples much at all. When Europeans arrived here, they were looking to include these islands as part of Empires, so I don’t think much thought was given to the islands as a “nation”.
When I was young, people still called Britain “home”, but were very aware that New Zealand was different from Britain in a number of ways. We did used to talk about a New Zealand “cultural cringe”. It was a common joke that famous people were asked, almost as soon as they stepped off the boat or plane “What do you think of New Zealand?” I guess, for some people, the idea of NZ as a nation, had formed.
I started to think about it more after time away from New Zealand. I remember being fascinated, during my first trip to Australia, by how the country seemed to be asserting itself, like a teenager rebelling against its British parents. Theatres no longer necessarily used a British accent; some popular singers sang with a more identifiably Australian singing accent. I heard an old man on a bus berating a couple of “new Australians” saying that they should speak English. Clearly, some Australians were looking to define an “Australian-ness”.
I care about being a citizen of this country. I certainly find myself more at ease in the society of southern New Zealand than I do in many other places. I somehow know more of the arcane rules of being in a pub here than I do in England, even though I’m just one generation removed from Britain. I do tend to hope the New Zealand side will win, in any sport; I like to hear about New Zealanders doing well internationally. But my attitude to nationalism and national characteristics seems to be changing.
Pretty much anything that we can identify with New Zealand can be found elsewhere, including icons such as “number eight wire mentality”, “a fair go”, the (sadly waning) egalitarianism. Many aspects of Maori culture differ from Polynesian cultures only in extent. The particular combination of land, people, culture etc. is unique to this country. The same could be said for any country or any region of a country.
From time to time I have the opportunity to show New Zealand to relatives and friends who live in other countries. I feel very lucky to be here, and I guess I feel some pride in it.
Perhaps it’s because if someone from this place did something well, and I come from here too, we share many of the same characteristics, and I could easily have been that person who achieved.
As populations become more mobile, places like Europe seem to be joining and splitting at the same time: while politicians and bureaucrats attempt to bring several countries closer together, individual regions – sometimes within countries – seem to work harder to establish identity and, in some cases, independence (Basques, for example). I’m not sure what this means for nationalism.
For the most part (depending on what you think about Antarctica) New Zealand doesn’t really share borders with other countries. But all borders are becoming more porous. I think something like 1 person in 5 people in this country was born elsewhere. These people are changing what it means to be a New Zealander. And that will keep changing. (It’s fascinating to read about characteristics that were identified with New Zealanders in the past – at least by some writers – such as a preoccupation with money, a pragmatic attitude to honesty, and tallness.)
I’m no longer sure whether it’s appropriate for a sovereign state to be associated with a single, predominant culture, although I can see that there can be problems if it’s not (e.g. Balkans, Cyprus etc.)
All this leaves me wondering about patriotism, which I think exists in the framework of a politically defined state, as distinct from the very positive feelings I have about New Zealand, and belonging here. People who’ve fought under New Zealand’s flag seem to see both as the same thing. I think I can understand that. I think patriotism has something to do with fear of losing what the people of a country have, or the perception that something has been taken, and must be returned (Isn’t this why populations support attacking another country?).
Patriotism seems to take several forms. Danish people seem particularly patriotic. Birthday cakes are decorated with little national flags, and many houses have flagpoles, where the national flag is flown (mostly on special occasions, I think). I think some of Danish patriotism is associated with having been occupied by the Nazis. It’s very strong, but doesn’t seem strident in the way that the patriotism of the USA or France appears to me. Australia seems to be moving to a more strident nationalism: it’s only in recent years that I’ve heard the word “unAustralian” used.
Patriotism seems very bound to the idea that the world is a place where, if you don’t remain vigilant as part of a group, and aren’t prepared to fight to keep what you have as a group, you’ll lose it. Maybe it really is like that. Perhaps that’s a reality of being human.
I realise that all this is half-baked and inconclusive. I can see inconsistencies in it. I’m just interested in hearing information and thoughts from others to help develop my thinking further.
PS. My earlier comment about teachers and communists was a joke: the sort of thing said by certain elderly and middle aged men when I was young.
Are we to really to go back to the era when movie theaters began with playing the national anthem, and everyone stood up ?
And those who didn't were probably communists and teachers ...
Dick Weir used to read a news bulletin for kids. Later, Lloyd Scott did it.
The gates of the old school formed the war memorial in Karitane. I remember being fascinated that the mortar between the rocks on one side formed a "K" and always wondered if that was intentional. I remember someone crashing a PA Vauxhall into that Waikouaiti memorial.
Here's an interesting bicycley thing: http://imgur.com/DL3mLhR. Are there any of these in NZ?
We don't have Woodward and Bernstein, we have Hosking and Henry.
Leapfrog down here. In years gone by, each year at the Whare Flat Folk Festival, held at the New Year, it was the done thing to take a bottle of it - or some other malt - and throw the top away. These bottles were shared around at the New Year's Eve barn dance. Women would fill their mouths with whisky - or Drambuie - and share as they kissed. Hence the term "whisky kiss", which transferred itself to an album by Shooglenifty.
Remember when most of the country did not want NZ troops in Vietnam. They went anyway
An then years later it turned out that LBJ had secretly threatened to cut off all our trade ties if we didn’t go and our (National) government acceded without a peep
This is really interesting: can you provide a reference?
A factor in all this that keeps disappointing me is the role of news organisations. Besides assorted internet news sites, my main source of "audio news" is National Radio. I've been disappointed with how much presenters seem to have been concentrating on who "scored points" in a debate. I presume that there's research showing this sort of thing can influence elections, but can't help wondering if this is partly because news organisations make a feature of it.
And even though media organisations seem to acknowledge the "horse race" nature of election coverage, it doesn't appear to have actually caused them to change the style of their coverage.
While some people are having "great fun" with politics and the election process, decisions are being made about my personal freedoms and opportunities.
I hope I'm more likely to be swayed by facts than rhetoric: I'd like to see more of this reflected in news coverage, and less about "who won on points" or who made whom look silly.