Saturday, December 30, 2006


The New Year's honours list is out, with the usual media profiles of the top awardees (Professor Lloyd Geering, Dr Dorren Blumhardt, and Sam Neill, if you haven't already heard). No doubt we'll also see the usual complaints in the next few days about Labour's preferences from people who do not understand that "services to your own bank balance" or "oppressing the poor" are not sufficient reasons for recognition, or who still cling to outdated ideals of feudalism and deference. But rather than discussing the pros and cons or otherwise of this year's awardees, I thought I'd talk about something else: that in this country, anyone can make a nomination (forms here).

This is a fundamentally democratic practice, and it gives us far more say than countries where the entire business is done in back rooms. It makes it easy for those whose services are primarily to the local community to be noticed and recognised. And it also gives us a direct way of telling the government what sorts of things we believe deserve wider recognition and when it is ignoring certain groups (otherwise known as "shit stirring"). For example, I don't think the government sufficiently recognises those who fight for human rights in this country. So, later in the year, I think I'll be filling out some of those forms for people like Tony Ellis - a tireless defender of human rights and justice for those who are most vulnerable - or Deborah Manning. Or even Ahmed Zaoui himself, for promoting tolerance and cultural understanding. Or some unionists - Andrew Little, Matt McCarten and Laila Harre have all fought strongly for a better deal for workers over the past few years, and succeeded. That's something IMHO we should recognise. Or holding politicians to account (Nicky Hagar is an obvious choice here - though perhaps an anonymous award to his sources would be more appropriate). Some of these people may not want a gong and refuse, but simply nominating them sends a message about what we think matters, and will hopefully encourage them to pay more attention to those areas in future.