Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Playing with our identity

Yesterday, Cabinet finally confirmed its decision to fly the tino rangatiratanga flag on Waitangi Day. Good. As I noted when the in-principle decision was made last month, this makes a strong statement about what sort of country we are: one which includes rather than excludes Maori, and one which looks forward to its future in the Pacific rather than its past with Britain.

Not everyone agrees with that statement. In the Herald, Audrey Young warns darkly of "resentment" and (with the typical conservative fear of change) that it "could be the turning point or rallying point for something quite unforseen". But those disagreeing are largely the old, who grew up in a little white Britain-in-the-south-seas, and who have grown increasingly uncomfortable as the country has become increasingly diverse and Maori have become more assertive about their rights (the Brash / Goff / Winston demographic). At every assertion of Maori identity and power, these people have cried "separatism" - and every time they have been wrong. Young's piece is just the latest of these cries. And meanwhile, the demographic she is writing for dies off, their hold on our national identity weakens and power shifts to a new generation more comfortable with our bi- and multi-cultural heritage.

The next stage in that shift in identity is clearly to recognise Maori in our official name ("Aotearoa-New Zealand" sounds like a good idea to me) and our flag. But we'll have to wait for a few more old people to die first...