'If they don't vote for change now, they'll never get another chance until we become a republic," said the PM this week, finally making some sense.
That's exactly the correct order to do things. Change the substance, then pick the symbol. Decide on the product, then draw the label. Become a republic, declare our independence, and then design the flag. But the PM isn't advocating a republic. He meant a new flag would be impossible, because William and Kate and Harry and George are so popular, we would never take their show off the air.
So take this new flag or leave it forever.
What's taken for granted - bizarrely - is that we'd never even consider a republic while the Queen reigns. Because this might hurt her feelings. In other words, this democracy of 4.5 million people is less important than the feelings of a non-resident English billionaire who inherited everything, including the blood right to be our Head of State.
Such is the power of celebrity. How big a celeb is the Queen?
The Queen could visit Waitangi on Waitangi Day, hand-carried on a throne, and receive less protest than actual New Zealanders representing the NZ Government - even though it was her actual imperial colonising grandmother, Queen Victoria, who signed the Treaty.
Our logical mind knows the royal family are not our royal family. They're a British asset, not a New Zealand one. We think of the Queen as our bestie, but she thinks of us as a Facebook friend. She'll wish us a Happy Waitangi Day, but only because Facebook reminded her to. She's the Queen of Australia. She's the Queen of Jamaica. She's the Queen of Papua New Guinea. We see all these other numbers on her phone, but we tell ourselves we're the special one. Of course she loves us, she's on our money. Like hostages looking at an open door, we somehow can't bring ourselves to run to fresh air.
So could New Zealand become a republic without hurting the Queen's feelings? Easy. I'm not calling for her execution, or for liquefaction or sex toys to be hurled in her direction. All we have to do is become a republic - and not tell her. Solved. She'd never find out. She's 90 this year, I doubt she's Googling all that much.
I never thought I'd be defending the current flag. But then I saw the Kyle Lockwood option. It's not Kyle Lockwood's fault his designs got so far in the process.
This process has been a reality show, and it was the judges who told him he could sing. Now it's the final episode. And we, the audience, have to be honest.
We want a good flag. The current one isn't it.
But voting for the current version gives us a chance of a good flag one day.
Even the argument that soldiers died under (for? near? wearing?) the current flag doesn't sell it. If anything, a flag that gets people killed is a reason to change it, if only for OSH reasons. It's clearly lethal, like asbestos.
A good design will prompt a eureka moment. We won't need to plagiarise half of the old flag, the Southern Cross, to get it across the line.
Honestly, the Southern Cross? Useful for navigation, before GPS, so a great nod to the 18th century, but is this the best symbol for New Zealand? It's not like these stars are unique to Kiwi skies. Half the planet can see them. Are we this full of hemisphere pride? When Angola or Patagonia do something cool, do we pump our fists, wipe away a tear, and beam, "That's our hemisphere!"
Do we feel so remote that we need our flag to contain directions how to get here? If that's the case, our flag might as well be an outline of Australia, with a big arrow pointing to the right of it, and sparkly letters that say N and Z and an exclamation mark.
Look at the American flag. It reflects America's constitution. Fifty stars for 50 states, 13 stripes for 13 colonies that declared independence from Britain. It's a statement of identity. What do the stars on the Lockwood flag represent? Um ... stars. Stars from the old flag. Oh, and a fern. Hodge, meet podge.
If we go for the fern, let's go all-in, and find someone who's seen a fern in real life, and who can draw.
If we become a republic, at least we've thought about who we are. This was absent from the flag process. The PM is right about the royals being popular though. If John Key wants to win the referendum, his next video will have to feature William and Kate.
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