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Jim Hopkins is a Herald columnist

Jim Hopkins: Shame we blew Queen's Jubilee

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We missed a diamond opportunity this week, let it pass with nary a cheer or a tear or a flutter of flags. It was more whobilee than Jubilee Downunder, an event of no moment, an occasion unworthy of note.

For whatever reason - cost, institutional aversion, a covert urge to get shot of it all and install our own Obama - the New Zealand establishment largely ignored the Queen's Diamond Jubilee - let it pass, paid no heed, took no notice.

There were no bonzer street parties, no "God Save Our Queen" knees-up - because she's not just the Queen of that place over there where they play boring rugby, she's the Queen of New Zealand, too, our Head of State as well. Yet there was no pomp and no circumstance.

Put bluntly, our chaps dropped the ball. If we'd done the Rugby World Cup like this, we wouldn't have had one. But we did, because we chose to. And the establishment could have chosen to do something similar this time, too. Except they didn't; Cups we do, jubilees we don't.

Which is a damn shame, really, not least because the Queen's Diamond Jubilee coincided so precisely with the Transit of Venus. Which, in turn, recalls the voyage that was this country's first encounter with the Empire it later joined - embracing its ideals and its flaws, rejoicing in its victories, fighting its wars as if they were our own - because they were.

That all began in 1769, when Cook sailed south to watch Venus pass across the sun. Then he came here and, 71 years later, two disparate cultures signed on the dotted line and the rest, as they say, is our history.

As are the Queen's 60 years on the throne, 1953 is a moment and a lifetime away. There've been 13 Prime Ministers in Britain since then, and 13 here. New Zealand in 1953 was a place our children would scarcely recognise. We were poorer and plainer. There was less that pulled us apart, more we had in common. The pubs were full on Saturdays and the churches on Sunday. People bottled things, wore hats, and everyone had a garden.

There weren't many cars driving round Church Square then but every weekday morning a river of bicycles flowed down Grove Rd, past the one-legged crossing keeper at the railway line, bearing their riders to work.

When the Coronation movie came out the queues snaked around Cathedral Square. No one made us watch. This was just people asserting their right to stand in line. And we went, too, the urchins from Addington, fidgeting in the ranks till we were inside the theatre, warm and plush, full of that faint magic popcorn smell, getting an icecream at the Nibble Nook, standing for the National Anthem and watching the grand event.

Then there was Elvis and the Beatles and Cuba and Kennedy and hippies and Moon landings and grief and joy, mortgages, mistakes, babies, blunders, great exultations, harsh wounds, death, love and loss and through all of those things one person alone has been doing the business, familiar as a relative, part of the furniture, like that old building with the fancy front you only miss when it gets pulled down.

Time's one of the advantages of having a constitutional monarch. You don't have to elect a new one every four years. They needn't debase themselves with fatuous slogans like "Forward!" or "Change you can believe in". And there's not much point flicking a bagful of fivers to someone who can do what they're told.

Continuity without corruption; not a bad formula, actually. In fact, you'd have to be a mean-spirited, vegetarian control freak with low self-esteem to want anything else. The Diamond Jubilee was an opportunity to take stock. A chance to review and reflect and remember and consider what comes next. But we didn't.

On Monday night, while Prime and TV3 were leading their bulletins with the 1000 ships on the Thames and the million people watching, our public broadcaster put a political poll and the Scott Guy murder trial and the road toll and a plane crash lady first.

"Take a good look," said TVNZ's Europe correspondent when his report finally ran. "This is something you've not seen on the Thames for 300 years and are unlikely ever to see again." But it still came fifth.

The world isn't our oyster these days. And hasn't been for years. We've been looking inward for far too long - vainly trying to rewrite a history we cannot fundamentally change while fostering the notion that all we need to do by way of engaging with the rest of the world is to sell them stuff. This is a piece of adolescent arrogance, the first flush of a self-absorbed little nation too keen to renounce its roots.

We can't. And we shouldn't. The child will always resemble its parent. They will always share their DNA. And, if you look at the accidents and insults of history, our DNA is a lot better than it could have been. More than many, we can commend our past to our future and suggest it takes note. This jubilee was a rare chance to recognise that - and the turbulence of 60 years - and we blew it.

- NZ Herald

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