Dita De Boni: Stuck in a royal timewarp

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Stop waving the Union Jack and look to the future, not the past

While Fiji may be back in Murray McCully's good books, it looks as though it has reconciled to no longer being in the Commonwealth. Illustration / Anna Crichton
While Fiji may be back in Murray McCully's good books, it looks as though it has reconciled to no longer being in the Commonwealth. Illustration / Anna Crichton

When Fiji was booted out of the Commonwealth in 2009, the organisation's Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said he was taking the step "in sorrow".

It's hard to see how the ejection has materially hurt Fiji - any more than the political upheavals it has been suffering for over a decade. Growth in the country is modest but, using 2011 figures, it is heading in the right direction, while tourist arrivals grew 7 per cent the same year.

This year delivered more gains. New Zealand and Australia have reinstated diplomatic ties with the country after Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama - who is also Minister of Finance, National Planning, Public Service, Information, Sugar, Foreign Affairs, International Co-operation and Civil Aviation, Indigenous and Multi-Ethnic Affairs and Provincial Development - took steps towards democratic elections in 2014.

While Fiji may be back in Murray McCully's good books, it looks as though it has reconciled to no longer being in the Commonwealth. The New Zealand Mint has just issued a gold coin for the country - the last to carry an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.

From now on, the Fijian coat of arms will replace the Queen on all currency.

It's perhaps a tiny piece of news from a very small place, but one that goes against prevailing pro-royal sentiment.

The winds of mass hysteria being whipped up around the new royal couple in particular are approaching hurricane status; anyone left questioning the monarchy at this stage looks stodgy and uncool. How far we have come from Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee in 1977, when the Sex Pistols released their chart-smashing punk anthem, God Save the Queen.

What with the hoo-ha about the prank call to Kate's hospital - a prank with a tragic, and completely unforeseeable outcome - to the mass fury over photos of her topless, even to the collective disappointment that she won't be able to attend the premiere of The Hobbit in London this week, it seems we've stopped wondering why this tiny group of people has an inalienable right to unlimited riches, luxury and adoration.

But it's one thing to see Britain fall in love with its royals all over again - albeit baffling, in a time of mass unemployment and financial hardship; quite another to see the fawning which we have returned to when royals visit our shores.

Why did throngs of Kiwis turn out to shout and cheer and wave their flags at Prince Charles and Camilla, for example, when they visited the country recently?

New Zealand's wool industry was the only winner on that occasion - with Charles' new rock-star status meaning people will tend to notice his rather fetching suit made of New Zealand wool. Sheep and Sheeple: 1. Modernity: 0.

Are we, as a society, still hankering for the modern-day fairytale because normal life seems to have become a bit grim (when, in fact, we seem healthier and more fulfilled than ever before)? Or have we just become celebrity mad - lumping the royals in with the Kardashians and the Brangelinas of the world?

Either way, they are an appeal to a past that has little relevance to life on these isles. So, even if the country can't bring itself to cut the apron strings, it might at least attempt a bit of critical distance.

Pakeha New Zealanders often find the Maori practice of looking to the past perplexing; but in lionising the royals, we are doing nothing but looking back, sentimentally and meaninglessly, and that's no way to find your future.

- NZ Herald

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