Muhammad Ali delightfully said of the erstwhile pretender to the boxing crown, George "Griller" Foreman, that when George shadow-boxed in training, the shadow invariably won.
Our long-white-clouded land finds itself similarly self-conflicted in dealing with the detritus of its colonial past. We work ourselves into great lathers of sweat grappling with nuances of hoary imperial trappings that are largely self-inflicted.
Take the Queen's Birthday Honours list — a bizarre business about which the Queen remains blissfully ignorant. She can't even get her actual birthday right.
But we like to recognise folks who have made a difference, and in the Queen's name — whether she likes it or not — we award all sorts of gongs and geegaws to various notables. The whole process is all very selective and arbitrary. Arise, Sir John (Rowles), but what about Sir Johnny (Devlin)?
Then we angst about the co-recognition of the other halves of those we so entitle. For instance, while the female spouse of a "Sir" automatically scores the courtesy title "Lady", the reverse does not apply. The male offsider of a Dame gets a big fat squat. Talk about discrimination.
But what's the problem here? Even if we do not consider a Dame's offsider worthy of a freebee "Sir", it's an easy matter to co-opt "Lady" to do the job. Just add another "d", and hey presto, "Lady" is "Laddy". So if Jacinda eventually gets Damed, and also marries her fisherman mate, he would become Laddy Clarke. Job done.
The gender equality revolution brings more travails, honorifically speaking. If a male in a gay marriage is knighted, what to call the other husband? Sur Sir? Possibly a SirPlus, or even just Sire. Similarly, for two females in a marriage, what tag for the significant other? Dame and Lady? Dame and Damsel? Or perhaps just Dame and Dam.
And let's not forget the genderfluids. Honorifics would have to be a totally neutral — no gender specific titles like Sirs and Dames allowed. Possibly an acronym could do the trick — something like TRANZ Joe, or Josephine, or whomever, for Top Rung Accolade of New Zealand. Or perhaps borrow from Parliament, and bestow a "The Honourable ... The Honourable Joe. Spouses could be either a Right Honourable or Left Honourable, depending.
But the latest batch of honours shows promise. It reflects a community diversity long overdue, generally eschewing the usual oily deference to time-servers who have merely been doing the job they've been handsomely remunerated and super-annuated to do, like judges, public service heads, CEOs, and unelected Prime Ministers.
Those funded to perform specified tasks, should, at the end of their careers, be simply graded as we do with hapless NCEA students. For instance, depending on performance, they might receive an AWD (Achieved With Distinction), an AWM (Achieved With Merit), an A (Achieved), a CHDB (Could Have Done Better), an NA (Not Achieved), or a WOS (Waste of Space).
It would then be up to the individual whether to append the designated letters to their name.
However, just as gongs are awarded "For services to ... ", equally there must be recognition of any subsequent disservices. For instance, Sir Ralph Norris got gonged for services to business, particularly his association with the country's biggest welfare beneficiary of the time, Air New Zealand, although one may ask why Air NZ required such a mega bailout in the first place.
A titled individual should receive demerit points should later disservices occur. If demerit points exceed a pre-designated merit point worth of any given gong, the gong-holder would be required to cough it up.