I used to laugh at Australia's propensity for trotting out their absurd national anthem at the drop of a hat. The constant sight across the Tasman of elderly men croaking out "we are young and free" (they're not, and nor is Australia; indeed, of the circa 210 nations in the world, Australia, like New Zealand, is one of the oldest - older than Germany and Italy and every country in Africa except Ethiopia and a couple of others - and as for freedom, I'll write a future column about Australia's mind-boggling bureaucracy), or a line-up of oafish footballers mindlessly mouthing "our land is girt by sea" (just like numerous other countries) is one of our neighbour's more ludicrous common spectacles.
Sadly, in recent years, the rot has spread here.
In an age of incessant sporting international events, several each week involving New Zealand, surely the time has come to knock this anthem-playing nonsense on the head.
If the greatest game of all, test cricket, can be conducted without this infantile palaver, surely others can just get on with it as well. The same goes for that other cringe-inducing national embarrassment, the bloody haka.
God Defend New Zealand was composed as a hymn by Thomas Bracken in 1876, in response to a competition run by a now-defunct Australian-owned weekly newspaper. The winner was decided by a group of Australians and two Germans from 12 entries.
After many petitions over the years, the Muldoon government announced in 1976 that it would now have equal status with that other preposterously worded anthem, God Save the Queen, as our joint national anthems. Save the Queen from what? Scurvy, being eaten alive by a flock of frenzied flamingos, bursting into flames? We're not told.
Aside from its totally over-the-top excessive use, which negates what one would assume ought to be a specialness, my other objection to our anthem is the preposterous lyrics. Targeting a mythical entity, God, it consists of a medley of pleadings, plus bragging about our wonderfulness. Like the Australian anthem, it is hugely embarrassing. I especially scorn the, "Peace not war shall be our boast" in the third stanza. In fairness to Bracken, he was not to know that over the next 130 years, we would be declaring war on numerous Africans, Asians and Europeans. Muldoon even wanted to chime in against Argentina 30 years ago but was knocked back when the Brits assured him Nepal's Gurkhas had the matter in hand.
Picture the scene in the Kaiser's palace in Berlin in August 1914. A lackey enters. "Puzzling news, sir. Apparently something called New Zealand has just declared was on us."
The Kaiser looks astonished. "Have the bloody Dutch gone mad?"
"No, no. It's somewhere near Colombia, we think. Heinrich's looking it up now."
"Why have they declared war on us? I've never heard of them."
"No idea, sir."
And so our "Peace not war shall be our boast" anthem chanters participated in the most disgracefully pointless mass killing in human history.
Just for a moment, ignore the reality that as Einstein correctly said, "religion is simply childish", and the fact that space research has now covered billions of miles in every direction without spotting an old bearded bugger in a nightie and sandals, let alone several billion harp-playing angels. Let's pretend instead that there actually is an all-powerful God, able to control earthly events. Well, put yourself in his place, perhaps sitting quietly having breakfast with Mrs God or enjoying a round of heavenly golf, if enjoyment is possible with the certain knowledge of 18 holes-in-one, or whatever God gets his kicks from, and being constantly interrupted by earthly snivelling to change his mind about this and that, which is what prayer essentially constitutes. Wonderful though God supposedly is, even he would eventually snap and lash out with a few city-destroying earthquakes, volcanoes, floods and whatnot, and who could blame him? So in the interest of giving God a bit of peace and quiet, everyone of a mystical disposition should show some consideration and knock off this constant skyward braying. It's not doing you any good.
Surely it's time, after 156 years, for a fresh competition for a new national anthem, or at least its lyrics, cutting out the witchcraft references, given that we're a secular nation. And it's also overdue to end its incessant playing and save it for special events. In this age of professional sport and constant internationals, such occasions no longer constitute specialness.
Finally, let's not have any gibberish about national pride. Pride is about accomplishment. It's like the homosexuals and their ridiculous gay pride sloganising. Sodomy ain't an accomplishment, any more, I hasten to add before they're all aflutter, than heterosexual activity is. Real accomplishment speaks for itself without need of further embellishment.
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