Well they’re out. The final four design have been reached and they’re all a bit terrible.
Now, in true cart-pushing-horse fashion us Kiwi’s first get to vote on which of these designs that we hate the least and then vote on whether or not to change the flag at all. The absurdity of the whole process doesn’t appear to be lost on folks either, the submission stage was inundated with a staggering number of joke submissions and adorable children’s drawings that made for some excellent fodder on international news parody shows and refrigerator doors.
Up until today, I was actually kind of on board with changing our flag; the old design is fairly cookie-cutter and doesn’t feel like it truly represents our country by any merit beyond tradition. This week’s reveal of the final four has sapped any enthusiasm I might have held onto for one reason: none of these designs are good enough to topple the incumbent. Essentially we now get to choose which of these final four will go on to lose in the final round of voting this year.
The thing is, we always knew this was coming. Concerns were raised about the selection committee from the get go; a bunch of old rich white folks with some token, demographically diverse representatives tossed in. Notably absent from this line-up? Professional designers.
“We couldn’t find any actual Māoris to be on the panel but we did find this English-Te Reo dictionary!”
It’s not all that easy when living in an echo chamber to take a step back and remember that you’re living in an echo chamber. We’re all guilty of it. So it shouldn’t be all that surprising that our national sports team logo is now a core element in three out of four flag designs either. When you’re old rich and white and all your friends are old rich and white it’s easy enough to assume that most people are old, rich and white. John Key’s turgid man-crush on the McCaw’ll Blacks isn’t just a known quantity, it’s part of his campaign platform. The majority of his peers voted in approval of the extended licensing bill for the Rugby World Cup, so naturally any disapproval must be coming from non-patriots and party poopers. I like rugby and I like beer, but I still resent the government sanctioned correlation of the two. But John Key didn’t particularly care what I, or any other detractors thought about it. Likewise, it was easy to ignore the concerns coming from Kiwis all over the country about the flag referendum.
This is really the core of the problem and why I’m so confident that there’s absolutely no way one of the selected designs can beat the old one. It’s the same reason we use MMP instead of FPP here in New Zealand: no one flag will suit the tastes of everyone. We can vote on one of these four designs and that one will go forward. In the unlikely case of a perfect four-way split between preferences we can assume that roughly ~75% of voters will be disappointed with the finalist. Obviously the numbers won’t be that perfect but we can still assume a majority won’t get the horse they backed into the finals. It’s not at all unreasonable to think that a large number of these people will strongly dislike the final contender and will actively vote to ensure it doesn’t win.
It was never going to be easy, in fact it would’ve been literally impossible to find a design that suits everyone. Some seem to think the Union Jack is a relic of imperialism and needs to go, others consider it a crucial part of our nation’s heritage and should be kept. There are perfectly good reasons to keep the traditional red, white and blue and equally good reasons to choose something less generic and more in-line with our individual national identity. It’s not even a case of who is right or wrong, it’s just a question of what people like and what we would be proud to see flying over our team in next year’s Olympic Games. With a heavy heart I’ll be voting to keep the old flag when the day comes. The saddest part about all of this is that a lot of New Zealanders, myself included, would have really liked a change to the flag and this whole farce has meant we probably aren’t likely to have this subject proposed again for a very long time.
Anyway, now that we’ve dispensed with all appropriate despair I’d like to take a sharp turn down Levity Lane and leave with a semi-hopeful outlook for the future. I submitted a few flags for review just before submissions closed and never got any kind of acknowledgement that they were received. I figured they were starting to tighten the filter on facetious submissions so cut my losses and filed them away in some folder on my desktop which I just tracked down again today. If there is another flag referendum in my lifetime maybe I can try submitting them again and see if they gain any traction. In my mind the most important thing was to try and capture the common essence of our nation, some things that literally everyone can relate to. By that self-imposed brief I give you, my personal top four flag designs (I seriously did about 20 of these things):
What’s the easiest way to be all-inclusive? Put a little something on there for everyone! Mandatory ‘kiwi’ apparel; that one animal we have in spades; a bee; yuck Vegemite; the scary lake monster guy; the less scary convenience store guy; and of course, for people who don’t like change, I replaced the Union Jack with our old flag! This one covers all the bases!
NOTHING TO HIDE
Us Kiwi’s pride ourselves on being good honest folk. When old mate Ed Snowden revealed the extent to which our own government was spying on its citizens, at first we were horrified. That is, until we realised it was only criminals who had anything to fear; now we don’t really care! Rest easy knowing the bald eagle is looking after our flightless little friend!
Do you know how expensive it is to buy ad-space at sporting events? This nifty design does double-duty as a billboard for the NZ investor market. Buyers will be rushing to get a chunk and once they own a big enough slice they can slap their own flag where our previous sovereign’s used to be. The Little dollar sign houses are also arrows mapping the inevitable trajectory of NZ property investments! Right?
What’s so great about rectangles anyway? Let’s buck the trend like our friends in Nepal! I had to show this flag in use in order to give the right idea of how it would look. Instead of the usual boring quadrilaterals we have a flag in the shape and semblance of our nation’s number one export. Oh you thought it was milk? Well maybe it is, but milk lacks colour variety and is really hard to trace around. Also some people are lactose intolerant but literally everyone loves Lorde.
So there you have it, four objectively terrible designs that I cooked up in the space of an afternoon. If you’ve cast an eye over the referendum finalists you’ve now seen eight designs that don’t stand a chance of becoming the official flag of New Zealand.