Jason Paul Troup
THE NEW ZEALAND FLAG.
A letter distributed to Mayors and Councillors throughout the country by Mr Jason Troup, of Hastings, has been referred to the Royal New Zealand Returned Services' Association, together with associated correspondence, by a local RSA. Mr Troup advocates replacing the New Zealand flag and promotes his own design for the purpose.
As you will know, the RNZRSA is the national body to which the many local RSA's are affiliated. You will also know that, for their part, local RSA's do take a close interest in the affairs of the communities in which they are situated; and that they contribute widely, generously and constructively to the well being of those communities.
Among other things, the papers we have seen suggest that some Councils might have discussed Mr Troup's proposals and have come to conclusions without taking into account the views of the community RSA's; nor even, perhaps, that they might have a view to advance.
I take this opportunity, therefore, of making plain that they do indeed have a position in the matter. Not only that, it is a considered view. It is, moreover, a view consistently held throughout the organisation from the highest councils to its ordinary membership. Developed over time, in summary it has three main strands:
· Support for the continued integrity of the (existing) New Zealand flag.
· Any change should be solely the prerogative of the people of New Zealand as determined by a substantial majority of the electors in a referendum.
· The matter should be taken out of the political arena.
We make NO COMMENT upon Mr Troup's design as a design; save to remark in passing that it ranks AMONG THE BETTER ONES floated over the years. Rather, our concern is with the underlying proposition that the flag needs changing at all.
We have no wish to be drawn into a head-to-head quarrel with Mr Troup. That said, however, there are aspects of his letter to councils which we believe should be examined carefully.
For example, in the context of personal acquaintance with tourism he claims to have "direct feedback on areas that are seen to be detrimental to our image as a modern nation and society”. Really what feedback is that? What areas are in question? By whom is the detriment seen? If it does exist then in what way, exactly, does it injure our image? And in that case is the injury of a kind to be concerned about?
We often hear assertions such as his, of course. But just as often they seem to rely only on travellers’ tale of unconvincing consequence. Supporting evidence of calculable damage to our image, or to any other aspect of our society, is seldom offered. It might be concluded therefore that such claims are no more than an appeal to rhetoric made necessary in an endeavour to mask flimsy substance. Indeed, observation suggests that the weaker the substance the more abstract the language is likely to be.
Mr Troup’s letter goes on to claim that the present flag has “ for many years been misrepresenting the people” on the basis that “ it displays New Zealand only in the past tense…..” We have very real difficulty with the implications of these statements. They seem to suggest that the symbols supplant the realities. This is then said to show that we must change the symbols in order to assure the future; or alternatively that not to change the symbols will put the future at peril. But these notions are quite outrageous. The fact is that the symbols we choose to represent us simply reflect the realities; they do not create them.
Thus we do not see how changing the symbol- the flag- could possibly liberate us from our past. Indeed, we do not agree that disengaging from the realities of our past is a good idea even if it was possible. As with the tramper lost in the bush, How are we to know where we are if we forget where we have been? And how would we know which direction is best if we cannot say where we are now?
Nor should we overlook that a substantial part of the modern New Zealand community is particularly anxious to ensure that we do not forget the past. These folk are convinced that the past, and only the past with all its realities, triumphs and discomforts, is all that we have as a platform upon which to build a sound future. To imagine that we can ignore it and begin anew is, they say, to offend good faith.
We suggest, frankly, that the proposals to say that by changing the symbols we might disengage from the past and engineer a better future are not only unreal but silly. If there are good reasons to change the flag, these are not among them.
A more mature approach is both possible and available, we believe. It involves accommodating the past and building upon it as distinct from trying to eliminate it. Part of the accommodation would be to simply to accept the past, warts and all including the symbol of the flag, and proceeding from there in an adult manner. At that point the first question would become why do we need to change the symbol? not what should we change the symbol to? Our view would then be clearer, uncluttered by confusions over whether the flag should be a fair symbol of our nation and its history carried forward into the future or merely a logo calculated to foster tourism and commerce abroad.
Our final comment is also of historical tenor. Mr Troup’s letter alludes to sticking one’s neck out for a case on the basis of respect. We would only observe that whilst courage may be needed figuratively to stick one’s neck out in a debate where one’s reputation is at risk, the courage required physically to risk one’s neck in the name of the national flag takes courage both of a different kind and of a different order. Having done this and also mourning comrades who lost their lives in doing it, the returned servicemen and woman of this country have no difficulty in respecting themselves. They would need to see very strong evidence indeed that the present flag fails us before they could agree that change is called for.
Should propositions to change the flag come before your Council for consideration, I trust you will take the above remarks into account.
I D (David) Cox, MBE