Wednesday, February 04, 2004


I see the annual Waitangi Day angst is starting early this year.

Every year we hear the same chorus: "Waitangi Day is about guilt. We should replace it with a day that we can stand up and be proud of". The problem is of course that national pride of the sort being called for is a deeply un-Kiwi thing. To generalise, the average kiwi does not orgasm at the sight of the flag, has no particular desire to hang it in their front yard or salute it, and can barely remember the words to the national anthem. And IMHO that is a good thing. The last thing we want is a pathalogical flag-cult of the sort they have in the US.

Given who we are, our national day should be laid-back, low-key, and - yes - ambivalent about our progress. A day for relaxing, going to the beach, having a BBQ and enjoying the sun - not for whipping yourself into a patriotic fervor. And if we reflect on the state of our nation, we should remember the bad as well as the good. While we have things to be proud of (women's suffrage; the welfare state; our commitment to human rights; the fact that we didn't commit genocide on our indigenous people) we also have things to be ashamed of (our failure to live up to those ideals; the fact that while we didn't commit genocide, we dispossessed and subjugated and commited grave injustices). And that is as it should be. Nations are not gods - they are not infalliable. They have flaws, and make mistakes. Only by acknowledging this can we hope to do better. And unlike Don Brash and all his self-satisfied pakeha friends who have theirs and don't care too much about how they ultimately got it, I want to do better.