Don’t be hoodwinked by “nationhood”

Dame_Susan_Devoy2

New Zealand’s Governor-General, Dame Susan Devoy

 

It’s time for some more second-rate drivel on constitutional matters. While I have no right to claim credibility on such issues, I feel that ignorance, bigotry and small-minded denigration are not at all out of place when demolishing the case for a New Zealand republic. So I pass off the following ignorant rant as informed comment. Because it is. Badly cobbled together assumptions, fundamental errors, and rank ignorance are important debating tools for the limited thinker whose mind is closed.

The case for a New Zealand republic sets out the main arguments for why New Zealand should become a republic. They fall into three categories:

Independence — New Zealand should have a New Zealander as the head of state;
Nationhood — the constitution and head of state of New Zealand should reflect New Zealand’s national identity, culture and heritage;
Democracy — New Zealand should have a democratic and accountable head of state.

I’ve already demolished the “Independence” argument that New Zealand should have a New Zealander as the head of state. In this post, I’ll take a look at the Republicans’ argument that the constitution and head of state of New Zealand should reflect New Zealand’s national identity, culture and heritage, under the heading “Nationhood”.

Nationhood

“The case for an independent republic of New Zealand is summed up in one word — nationhood. It is a statement to the world and ourselves that New Zealand is a mature nation, that we possess a constitutional framework that best suits New Zealanders.” — Michael Laws, Mayor of Wanganui.

Well, according to the Republican Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand, the case for an independent republic of New Zealand is actually summed up in three words — independence, nationhood and democracy. So why quote Michael Laws—of all people—if you consider him not even half right? Last I heard, Laws was claiming that the city of which he is mayor does not possess a name that best suits New Zealanders. His opinions on what constitutional framework best suits New Zealanders are surely tendentious.

New Zealand is a unique, dynamic and diverse country. New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, national symbols and head of state should reflect this.

There’s no argument here. Just the assertion that New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, national symbols and head of state should reflect the fact that New Zealand is a unique, dynamic and diverse country. Why should New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, national symbols and head of state reflect this? And how? It’s unclear.

A republic affirms New Zealand’s sense of nationhood

“We exhibit symptoms of retarded nationhood: a widespread insecurity about what others think, a search for applause and endorsement by visitors; and, conversely, a begrudging willingness to extend applause here at home.” — Simon Upton former minister and National MP.

I frankly confess, in my teen years I used to exhibit symptoms of retarded nationhood. I felt insecure about what others thought of me and sought applause and endorsement by visitors. If the young folk of today can be spared the terrible angst I endured simply by promoting Dame Susan from Governor-General to Head of State, then I must be all for it. But I remain skeptical.

Becoming a republic and electing New Zealand’s head of state will foster a deeper and more sophisticated sense of nationhood. It will clarify to New Zealanders, and to the world, what New Zealand stands for.

What do you stand for? Republicanism can help you answer this important question. Perhaps you have some idea but you’re not clear. Or perhaps you’re just shallow and unsophisticated. What you need is to wake up one day to find yourself living in a republic, and everything will come swimming into focus. You will carry on living as before, but now with a deep sense of nationhood.

How New Zealanders understand their place in the world is crucial to New Zealand’s success in an increasingly globalised world.

We’re a small nation of 4.5 million people in the South Pacific. It helps to know that.

New Zealand excels in sport, in its human rights record, in business and in the arts. New Zealand’s constitution lags behind these achievements.

New Zealand’s constitution lags behind Nathan McCullum’s dismissal of England’s Joe Root at Trent Bridge. Does that even make sense?

Our current constitutional arrangement causes confusion overseas as to whether New Zealand is linked to Britain, or whether it is part of Australia.

I think overseas confusion over whether New Zealand is part of Australia is caused by ignorance of the geography of the South Pacific, not by our current constitutional arrangement.

We send conflicting messages about who we are and what we stand for.

I don’t think I do. Perhaps the author is using the “royal” we. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

The debate and discussion around becoming a republic affirms the values that are important to New Zealanders. It will promote discussion about New Zealand’s history and future. It will clarify the values we all see as important. Becoming a republic will be a celebration of New Zealand’s unique culture and heritage.

No, it won’t. New Zealand is a bicultural nation. While many Maori (and, indeed, non-Maori) go to strenuous lengths to preserve Maori culture and heritage, many Pakeha seem hell-bent on severing all connection with their own. New Zealand originated as a British colony. Becoming a republic will be a deliberate repudiation of our colonial heritage and cultural past which has its roots in Great Britain, Ireland and Europe.

It will demonstrate New Zealand’s confidence and independence and it will symbolise a shared sense of nationhood.

I’m going to close on a serious note here. The last time I read someone banging on and on about a shared “sense of nationhood” was when I read the opening pages of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. Let’s be clear. All talk of and nurturing of “nationhood” is thinly disguised fascist social engineering. There, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve invoked Godwin’s Law and completely and utterly demolished my own argument.

Feel free to name-call in the series of strange comments below. Diatribes welcome.

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4 Responses to Don’t be hoodwinked by “nationhood”

  1. Kiwi Dave says:

    What a load of tendentious windbaggery! (Most of their arguments for the republican case, that is, not your criticism of it.) And I say this as someone very mildly supportive of republicanism.

    Still, when we become a republic, our GNP will double, our rivers will run clean, Auckland motorways will unclog, our prisons will empty, no child will go to school hungry, no infant will die at the hands of its parents, we will all rejoice on Waitangi Day….

  2. Vince McLeod says:

    There needs to be a corollary to Godwin’s Law, for cases in which it is perfectly valid to point out that a particular social phenomenon is exactly like the kind of social engineering that Hitler did use to the detriment of its target.

  3. Richard says:

    On Facebook, New Zealand Republic says

    Hi Richard, given how inaccurate your first attempted “demolition” was it’s probably not worth our time to respond.

  4. Pingback: Fact Correction | Eternal Vigilance

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