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New Zealand Identity

New Zealanders are often accused of having no national identity and after experiencing (or more accurately, not experiencing) our national day (at least I I think it is) I can see why. We have no national identity because we refuse to allow anything unusual about our country to be celebrated. We originally spent our time trying to emulate England and now that this is no longer fashionable we are trying to assimilate Maori beliefs.

There is nothing wrong with English or Maori culture (beyond the sort of things which are wrong with every culture) but they are just not relevant to the majority of the people living here. Our national day is a classic example. Actually things are so bad that I’m not even sure it is our national day. Do we actually have one or is this just a day for Maori to celebrate the Treaty? I genuinely don’t know.

In addition to these factors there is the overwhelming American “culture” we get from TV and movies and that significantly affects us as well. Plus there are the effects from globalisation where successive governments seem intent on selling the country to foreign corporations.

Is it any wonder we have no identity? The same doesn’t seem to have happened in Australia, a country with a very similar background to us. I hope the poor treatment of Aborigines in Australia isn’t a significant reason for this, but I suspect the politically correct pro-Maori nonsense we have here hasn’t happened in Australia and that has helped them to create their own identity.

I have commented on Waitangi Day in this blog many times in the past and my impressions of the occasion don’t seem to be changing much. Almost 10 years ago I said it was a total irrelevance to most and it still is.

We do get a day off work and an opportunity to complain about the day itself but why not? The major news each Waitangi Day seems to be about Maori complaints and the disrespectful treatment of politicians at the Treaty Grounds. Not that I’m complaining about rough treatment of politicians because most of them deserve it. Still it’s unfortunate that the stand-out feature of the day is protest.

The stats demonstrate the reality. In a Herald poll 15% saw the day as a day of protest, 28% saw it as day off from work, 21% thought it was just another day, and just 36% thought it was a day to celebrate New Zealand. How many other countries have a national day which only a third of the population see as a day of celebration?

But apart from that day off what is there? Some tedious coverage of Maori groups complaining about perceived injustices and equally tedious responses from politicians trying unsuccessfully to placate their concerns. Morning prayers in a country which has basically abandoned religion. And nothing much else. It’s irrelevant, embarrassing, and boring. No wonder the majority of us just choose to ignore it.

There is an easy solution to the problem. We probably need to keep Waitangi Day, for two reasons: first it is a commemoration of a significant even in our history; and second, it would be too difficult politically to discontinue its observance. But we need another day which will be for all New Zealanders. We could call this New Zealand day and I suggest, to avoid complaints about too many holidays, we use it to replace Queen’s Birthday. That would give us a new day and symbolise our freedom (not fully realised until we eventually become a republic) from the meaningless influence of England.

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