Political correctness In the current climate of intensely touchy political correctness seemingly promoted in news coverage by some national media, I hear the voice of reason and culture disappear in the milieu of opinionated reporting. Fletcher Construction's CEO, Grahan Darlow, has "outraged the Irish community" according to Radio NZ by implying that Irish builders have gone back to Ireland. I have to ask what newsworthiness this emotive highlighting has. surely home is where the roots are. Any tree will tell you that. Yet RNZ presents some lass with an Irish lilt claiming national insult to the Irish and demanding an apology from Mr Darlow. In the USA the Confederate flag is targeted as a symbol of racial aggression and subsequently deprived of its honoured place in public areas. This, with little apparent objective, balanced, reference to its place in culture and heritage. Popular emotive opinion and lack of investigative journalism, at least in New Zealand, has led to the relegating of this cross-starred emblem of identity to museum exhibit status. Mythically speaking Americans tend to be passionately patriotic, shooting both their mouths off, and each other, for the cause. Old Glory was ragged in battle and renewed in peace. New Zealand's current flag debate is, according to the pundits, a debate about national identity. If one proposes that the condition of the flag indicates the state of the nation then what one does with the flag indicates one's character and sense of responsibility, as well as one's respect for self, kith and kin. With all of the above in mind my attention was drawn over recent days to Whanganui's Grand Hotel where the New Zealand flag atop the building has been flying at half mast. It has been doing so for the last year as I recall. It is faded and frayed. I wonder who died or is the proprietor making a political statement or is it a case of apathy. Then on Victoria Ave on the unoccupied building opposite the AA and the TAB there are several New Zealand flags. They are in a shocking state, faded and frayed out to half their lengths. In Australia, or America, I imagine one could be shot, figuratively or literally, for treating a national symbol this way. One certainly runs the risk of being prosecuted by law for openly desecrating a nation's flag no matter which way one leans ideologically.
Wanganui District Council presumably wants to improve Whanganui's public and business image and get away from the "Zombie Town" label. Shoddy shop fronts and neglected public vistas need to be renovated. We may well be party to the War on Terror and ISIS will probably arrive here eventually. New Zealand and Wanganui need to lose their apathetic silence. Surely these flags and this public eyesore can be remedied. However, I suspect the Council will argue about its and landlords' responsibilities.
As a side note, I've lived in Christchurch and debated its loss of heritage and image, and fielded Council protestations, but that angle is another topic for another time. CHRISTOPHER CAPE
WHANGANUI