I'd like to begin by thanking my opponent for offering this challenge. As a fellow New Zealander I care much about this topic.
- Flag-makers wouldn't have to make a bunch of new flags, because the silver fern is already so commonly used.
- The silver fern has a long history of being used to represent New Zealand in sport, military and civil capacities. It is rare to see a major New Zealand event with no silver fern flag present.
- The silver fern is a uniquely New Zealand symbol - the plant it depicts grows nowhere else in the world.
- It's not under general copyright to anybody and completely free to use.
- The silver fern has greater popular appeal. All of the last 3 prime ministers of the country have favored the silver fern.
- The silver fern looks nothing like our current flag, which has all kinds of issues that I'll get to in a moment.
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OHBOYOHBOYOHBOYOHBOY! I can't wait to have this debate. I'm very excited about the chance to discuss this topic and I thank my opponent for graciously taking the weak side of the argument.
As another proud kiwi, I feel it's my duty to note that there were MANY inaccuracies made as PRO took us through that short review of our nation's history. I know many of them were made in jest and several of them are irrelevant to the topic of discussion but there were one or two that he slipped in there that I feel obligated to point out. I'll do that as we go because I'm only really interested in them as far as they pertain to this debate.
I'd like to open MY side by letting everyone know WHY we are having this debate. You'll notice that the rules qualify the resolution as being that NZ should adopt a flag NOW. ("...at its earliest convenience") This is because our country is yet again gripped with the question of whether now is the right time to finally change our flag. This question is not a new one, it comes up every Waitangi Day, (Our National Day) every Olympics and every Commonwealth Games. You must understand that it is not brought up by the people of NZ, it's brought up by the media, hungry to generate news. Most polls still show a strong support for the current flag and these debates usually rage for about 2 or 3 days before fading off for another year or so.
My side of this debate will happily address the weak arguments FOR the adoption of a new flag, (PRO has already given you two of them but to save time I'll give you all four.) before giving a few reasons why the Silver Fern flag he has PROposed is not the best choice for a national flag. Before we do that though I'll give you the one over-arching reason why we shouldn't adopt a new flag now.
Why we should keep the current Flag:
There's no good reason to change it.
National Flags are pretty important things. They're not logos or brands. They're not like paint on your house or clothes that you wear. When you change flags constantly, they lose their power to connect with people. Just ask the state of Georgia who seem to change their flag every 4 years or so. What I'm saying is that a country should only change their flag when something really significant happens. Let me give you some examples...
Malta: In 1942, the entire island nation of Malta was awarded the UK's highest equal medal, the George cross in recognition of their courage during the war. This was a hugely significant event after the traumatic experience they had collectively endured and they commemorated it by placing it on their flag.
South Africa: In 1995, South Africa was finally freed from the system of Apartheid and the ANC political party swooped into power. They commemorated their new government by a radical and exciting new design for their flag.
Georgia: After well over a century of rule by the Russians, Georgia finally got their freedom in 1991 and eventually adopted a flag which tied the new nation all the way back to their brightest time in history around the 13th century.
My point is that these countries all changed their flag because of a significant change in their nation's histories. NZ is not going through any significant change. There is absolutely no reason to change our flag right now. The logical time for NZ to change the flag will be when we become a Republic. Thanks to baby George who we absolutely adore, that won't be happening anytime soon.
4 silly reasons to change the flag:
The following are the 4 reasons that people give for wanting to change our flag:
1. It looks too much like Australia.
2. It has a Union Jack on it and we are not British.
3. It doesn't represent [insert ethnicity here] and they're an important part of our country too.
4. It doesn't POP like Canada's one does.
1. It looks too much like Australia
To understand why this point is so silly, you need to understand the purpose of a Flag. A flag is supposed to describe the country. Nations do this with varying degrees of success. Some, like Kyrgystan absolutely smash this out of the park. Their flag tells us information about their Geography, History, Culture and Social organisation. Actual proper information too, not just "Red for the blood of the people". Others like perennial fan favourite, Canada do a terrible job, telling us absolutely nothing. More about that later.
NZ does an ok job. I would rate us a solid high 5 out of 10. Might sound low but it'd actually be a bit above average.
Our country is an island nation which immediately sets us apart from most of the world. That's why we have so much blue.
We belong to the British Monarchy - still do; and the Union Jack reminds us of that fact.
We are one of a small selection of countries that can see the celestial South Pole. This means our night sky remains the same year round. Our native people were navigators and used the stars. The Southern Cross is on there for these reasons. Of all the countries in the world who have stars on their flags, only a small handful of them have actual constellations. We are one of those.
Australia is a very similar country to NZ. It too is an Island nation surrounded by water. It too remains part of the British Monarchy. It too can see the Celestial South Pole.
NZ and Australian flags are similar because... WE ARE SIMILAR! There's no shame in that, tons of countries share the same fate, represented in their similar-but-different flags: consider the flags of Central America, West Africa, Scandanavia ; countries like Netherlands - Luxembourg; Mali - Guinea; Columbia - Equador; Slovakia - Slovenia - Croatia - Serbia... the list goes on and on. Clearly looking similar to a neighboring country is no reason to change a flag.
But are we really that similar?
Our flag is made up of 3 elements, listed above. Australia has a 4th - the "Commonwealth Star" located below the Union Jack. Let's look at those a bit closer.
- Their flag is light Blue, (Royal Blue) and ours is dark Blue (Navy Blue)
- Their stars are white, ours are red.
- Their stars have 7 points, with the exception of one 5 pointed one, ours are all uniform with 5 points.
- They have a 5 star southern cross, (the more conventional one) we have a 4 star cross.
- The four main stars of their cross are the same size, ours are different sizes.
The only thing our flags actually have in common is the Union Jack! Every other element is as different as it is possible to be without actually being a Banana.
So our flags are similar because we are similar, but they are subtly different in the way we are subtly different. We are faster so our stars are red. They try to hard so they have more points on their stars.
People mistake our flags less because they look similar and more because they know very little about our countries.
2. It has a Union Jack on it.
This is actually not the craziest point. The Union Jack ties us historically to Britain and more specifically to the Monarchy. Over the last 100 years we have slowly turned our attention away from Europe and into the South Pacific. The main reason that the Jack should stay there now though is that NOTHING SIGNIFICANT HAS CHANGED! We are still part of the Monarchy, just as we were when the flag was adopted. We still maintain close ties with mother England and if there was a war right now, we would be more likely to be against China than with her!
There is ONE time to get rid of the Union Jack and that is when we become a Republic. That would be an event significant enough that it would DEMAND the flag to be changed. Only then would we truely be able to say that we have severed ties with the Queen.
3. The [Ethnic minority] are not represented and they're important. You Racist!
This one is easy. Much like most of the flags in the world, the NZ flag has no ethinic groups represented on their flag. None. Sure certain groups are important as is our multi-cultural vibe. But so are Pineapple Lumps and you don't see them on there! We split the atom but there's no radiation symbol on it!
The fact is you can't have everything on there. (unless you're Kyrgystan) We have chosen to represent a little of our history and a lot of our geography and that's it. And that's ok. Maybe when we change the flag we could try to add a few more elements but this point is no reason to change the flag.
4. It doesn't POP like Canada.
I'm sorry. As mentioned in the first point, to understand why this mentality is so weak, you need to understand why we even HAVE flags. It seems like everything in the modern world is geared towards making us feel like we are so special and unique. Flags are seen by marketing people as being a tool to show everyone else that we are here and we are awesome. I'm sorry but that is not what they are designed for. That's what those silver fern flags are for. Keep making and modifying those. The national flag should be something a little higher. A little more dignified. It should say as much as possible about a country's history, geography, culture, people; as much as possible without looking cluttered and cheap.
.As already mentioned, probably my favourite example of this is Kyrgystan. Just check out all of the information they packed into that simple flag. It's very impressive.
Now contrast that with Canada. Yes it's one of the most recognised flags in the world and frequently wins popular votes for the best looking, but what does it say? It is basic red and white which will stand for nothing particularly special or unique and then they have a Norwegian Maple leaf on it. That tree is not even a Canadian tree! It's Norwegian! The tree was actually considered a pest in Canada because it was so aggressive and was killing off all the actual Canadian Natives! Still - I guess it looks cool. Forgive me, but I'd rather have a flag that actually has some meaning and depth to it.
So to sum up: I've demonstrated that Flags should only be changed when a significant event happens, not just when the people get bored. Otherwise you end up like Georgia State and who wants that?
I've then proceeded to list the 4 main arguments for changing the flag and why they are all irrelevant.
Finally, and I'll keep this one short because you've done so well to make it this far, here's
Why the Silver Fern flag is a poor candidate:
1. It says very little of anything with any substance about us as a country. The existing flag says more and it is only a high 5 on the nzlockie scale. This is the most important reason.
2. Black is a poor colour choice. Black fades very quickly in the sun which is a big reason why it was seldom used in flags. It will also naturally blend into the background when flown with other flags. Black is not a colour that pops.
3. The Fern DOES look like a feather. I'm sorry but it does. Americans ask me about that all the time. It IS iconic to us, but the Southern cross would make a much stronger symbol, as would the Koru you mentioned. (The Tiro Rangatiratanga is NOT the official Maori flag. The closest thing to an official Maori flag is the United Chiefs flag.)
4. The Fern is too hard to draw. Try asking anyone, including most Canadians, to draw their maple leaf free hand and without looking. It's not as easy as you'd think. Without cheating, most people couldn't tell you how many points there are on it. (Did YOU think there were 9?) A fern is going to be way harder than that.
I am a proud Kiwi and I love the Silver fern flag. It has a history stretching back far further than most people realise - but it is a logo flag, just like the boxing gold kangaroo on the green background is for Australia. It is something special and iconic for us, to be used at sporting events and the like. If we were given the chance to design a new flag for our country, we could make one that said so much more about us that that. Learn from Canada's mistake!
Sorry for not posting any pictures, I'll do better next round. PROs trick with the Google reverse search was cool although it didn't work on any other NZ flag images I tried. Just to verify the accuracy of this feature I ran PRO's image and got the following results:
I don't know, I'm not sure it's something we should be putting too much faith in...
Well that's enough for an opener, I'll address more of PROs less accurate statements in later rounds, but there's one thing I'd ask him to clear up for my own curiosity... the current flag was adopted in around 1903 depending on what exact source you believe. Aside from changes to the wording in the description of the flag, it hasn't changed since then. What exactly are the 7 other official flags we have adopted since then?
That aside, Vote CON. We rock hard and often.
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While the silver fern is used in sports games, I provided countless examples of how else it is already respected by New Zealanders. It accurately describes everything about our identity - where we come from, where we are headed, our people, our culture, our geography, our biology - everything that defines us as a nation is absolutely embodied in this flag.
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I’d like to thank PRO for continuing his case.
It seems to me that this debate can be broken into to two separate issues. The first is whether the time to change the flag is now, and the second is whether “Black flag” is the optimal choice for our new flag. I’d like to structure my 2nd round argument this way.
PRO doesn’t contest my point that it would be breaking convention to change the country’s flag at a point in its history where nothing of appropriate national significance has occurred. Vexillology and Heraldry are all about convention. A nation’s flag is a powerful symbol of its internal strength which is why there are strict rules surrounding every facet of the flag itself and the way in which it is used.
The fact that Denmark has had their flag for literally centuries without change sends a clear message to everyone else that they are stable and established. Have they changed in the last 400 years? Undoubtedly! But by maintaining what, it must be said is not the most exciting flag in the world for so long, they have created a legacy – a pure connection from the Denmark of the past to the Denmark of today. The fact that NZ has one of the older flags in the world, (not really that surprising given the tumultuous 20th century) should be a mark of strength – not one of weakness! More about this later.
Considering that breaking convention in this manner is so serious we need to be REALLY REALLY sure that doing it now is the right move.
NZ’s current flag was birthed shortly after we engaged in our first major international conflict, the Boer War in South Africa. Since then our flag has seen us through the hardships of two World Wars, major conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Palestine; and the triumphs of Commonwealth, Olympic and World sporting glories. The flag has been used in some of our nation’s lowest moments on the world stage, such as the Mau Massacre in Samoa; but also some of our proudest moments, such as telling the Yanks to keep their nukes at home. There is a lot of history that has gone on under that flag and to close the book on that is not a move to be made just because it looks kind of like Australia’s flag.
Let’s quickly revisit the previous round’s points and see what’s changed!
Reason 1: Too similar to Aussie
PRO correctly summarised my stance on this in his 2nd round. Firstly, it’s entirely normal and completely fine to have a flag that is similar to a neighbouring country and secondly, our flags have many differences which make them far easier to tell apart than many other countries.
He didn’t really contest the fact that our flags have many differences although he did call them minor. I don’t mind that because I feel that the differences between our two countries are pretty minor at a global level as well.
He is going to succeed in sucking me into one of his little distraction points though…
He claims that the features on our flags suit Australia more than us, for the sake of anyone reading that has not made the trip down under yet… (Do it. We have hobbits and we’ll show you a good time although I’ll leave Lars to handle all the MLP stuff.) …let me just address some of these things:
BLUE – NZ is an Island surrounded by water and so is Australia. The difference is that in NZ you are never more than a few hours drive to the ocean, most of the time a lot closer than that. Australia is an island as well, but it’s an island only slightly smaller THAN THE CONTINENTAL USA! There are MANY places in Australia where you are days from ocean. Not to mention that Australia is one of the driest countries on earth, so I’d say we win the rights to the blue…
SOUTHERN CROSS – Both the Maoris and the Aborigines used the stars to navigate, but it has to be said that navigating across open water in a hollowed out tree, the stars are probably going to be a little MORE important to you than if you’re on dry land. The constellation has at least eight different names by various Maori tribes and is associated with many stories and legends.
COMMONWEALTH STAR – This star has 7 points to represent the seven states and territories of Australia. NZ doesn’t have states. We are too small. Of course we can’t have a commonwealth star.
UNION JACK – I’m going to elaborate on this more in this round, but suffice it to say, all polls conducted in the last 20-30 years show Australians are far more in favour of disowning the Queen than we are.
Finally on this subtopic, here are some visual aids:
Compare these to the following countries...
Clearly looking similar is by no means unusual, especially when the countries share so many commonalities – and poses no significant reason to change our flag.
PRO requested some info on shared history between our countries as well. He has actually provided a great deal of it hmself, detailing the interaction between our countries in the 19thand early 20th centuries. For quick extras, I’ll throw in WW1 and WW2. If he REALLY questions this further, he can read all about it here.
Reason 2: Relevance to Britain
Gentle readers, my opponent would have you believe that Britain was once very influential to New Zealand, (mostly in bad ways) but is now basically ignored and irrelevant – much like the afore-mentioned Tama Iti and Hone Harawera. This is not true.
New Zealand’s relationship with Britain has changed over the last 100 years, but to say we are not still close is simply wrong. We needed her like a Mother when we were little, now we’re a little older and a lot more independent, but we still love her. This analogy is closer than it may appear at first glance.
“The relationship between New Zealand and Britain remains strong and close. This closeness arises from our historical connection with Britain, common traditions and values, and family ties: New Zealand has enjoyed several waves of immigration from Britain, the most recent during the seventies. Beyond these personal links, Britain is still a significant trading partner and often throws its weight behind New Zealand in the EU where trade access issues are concerned.
The areas of interest to Britain and New Zealand are not as homogeneous as they once were. In Britain's case, intangible historical and cultural links have increasingly given way to a closer focus on Europe and its obligations as a key EU member state. There is, however, a symmetry of political perspective between the countries' two governments in many areas. This is particularly clear in the common ground displayed on a broad range of domestic policy issues. In economic policy, education and public sector reform, New Zealand and the UK find each other's experiences relevant and warranting closer study. This is a prevailing element in most ministerial travel in each direction.
Numerous bilateral agreements exist between New Zealand and the United Kingdom. These include a reciprocal Health Services Agreement, a reciprocal Agreement on Social Security, a Double Taxation Convention and an Air Services Agreement - the latter was recently renegotiated and replaced in 2005 with a liberal ‘open skies’ agreement. “ - NZ Foreign Affairs Dept
Visitors from the UK still comprise one of the highest groups – on a par with visitors from China. They also are one of the largest groups of migrants to our country. And it goes both ways with large numbers of Kiwis living and working in the UK.
The UK is hugely relevant to NZ today and there is certainly nothing prompting us to remove the Union Jack from our flag. A strong case could be made that NZ should remove the Union Jack upon becoming a republic, a move that many see as a certain, if distant, future; although precedence has been made for retaining it for its historical significance by countries like Fiji and even the state of Hawaii.
Reason 3: Ethnic Representation
PRO concedes that Ethnicities don’t NEED to be represented on a nation’s flag and doesn’t contest that the majority of flags don’t have such a reference. I hear his personal desire to have such a representation on a new flag. Should such an event come up, this is definitely a discussion that should be held.
Nothing to rebut here.
Reason 4: The “Pop-iness” factor
Couple of quick points here:
“The flag should pop because WE pop.” – Nope. Flags are classy things full of dignity and decorum. (Except for the Seychelles) Nobody likes a “look-at-me” country. We ARE unique and special, but so is everyone.
“Canada wasn’t trying to be cool and trendy” – Good, because a new flag doesn’t have magical properties. It can’t make Canadians cool OR trendy. NZ does NOT have a need for a flag that represents us, the existing one does. As stated above.
“…uninspired flags…” – Sorry but offence taken at this. I can’t think of a single “uninspired” national flag – Canada included! Some are less inspirational than others but once you learn the meaning behind them it’s impossible to say that no thought had gone into selecting a nation’s flag.
Popularity of changing the flag of NZ
As stated before, given how many people have fought, died, won, lost, laughed and cried in over 100 years of history under our current flag, there would need to be a significant majority of public opinion to warrant such a change. And that just simply isn’t there.
In the extensive 1958 poll, over 80% of Canadians voted for a new flag. That is a significant majority.
Since 2009, opinion polls on the flag change debate in NZ have resulted in figures ranging from 40 to 75% in favour of retaining the existing flag. In 2010 a concerted effort was put in by a group to force a referendum on changing the flag. It failed to get even half the number of signatures required.
Even the most biased of polls still only show a small majority in favour, nowhere near the numbers required to indicate that it should be changed.
My opponent would have you believe that we don’t love our flag. Let me assure you, this isn’t true.
The Black Silver Fern flag:
Some quick points of rebuttal:
1. I never said that the fern said nothing of substance. Of course it does – it’s a Kiwi icon. I agree with many of the points my opponent brought up as to why it would make a good symbol of NZ. I did make the comment that the flag says little of substance. I stand by that. I also stand by the fact that there are other ways of stating the same points – many of them much clearer.
2. My opponent must not be married. As someone who lives with a woman who loves to educate me on my fashion choices, I can assure you that Black is well known for its ability to hide and blend. Ninjas wear black, magicians use it to hide objects in plain sight – black is known to compliment all colours, an ability made so by the fact that it always provides the background for THEM to pop.
I hereby repeat my statement that Black does not POP – unless the background is completely white, in which case I concede the point. Too bad the flag is rarely flown on a white background. The point stands.
3. Black fades. Dark colours absorb more UV light. Black is almost universally regarded as the colour most likely to fade in sunlight. Again, my married life has taught me this by my wife’s insistence that I hang her black clothes inside out.
4. Risky play with the feather picture! Hats off to my opponent for making the gamble. I’m happy to leave his demonstration as is, due to the fact that I think he’s proved that the “fern” DOES, in fact, closely resemble a feather – albeit a stylised one. Unless one was reasonably familiar with a plant, which my opponent points out, only grows in NZ, one could be forgiven for thinking that the picture was a feather. In much the same way that I don’t get grumpy with Americans who ask why we’re named after a fruit.
5. The fern is still a hard thing to draw accurately. By that I mean, most people would not remember how many points there were and how the thing goes exactly. That results in a lot of crude “squiggly lined” drawings of the proud symbol of our uniqueness. Not very respectful. The fact there are harder flags to draw is irrelevant. The fact remains that when choosing a flag, easy to draw is a PRO, hard to draw is a CON. Southern Cross is easier to draw than Silver fern.
Finally I’d like to attack my opponent’s claim that the Southern Cross was not a meaningful or loved icon of early NZ history.
When New Zealand soldiers sailed off to to fight in South Africa at the beginning of the 20th century, they were singing: ‘We are the boys of the Southern Cross, our stars shine on our flags’. Over a century later the constellation continues to be relevant to nationhood and national honour. It is depicted on the New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, unveiled in 2004. Featured on the lid of the tomb, the stars are seen to have guided the warrior back to New Zealand from distant battlefields.” - www.teara.govt
Thank you as always for reading – vote CON.
Notes to PRO:
Thanks for the reply re: the number of flags. This is what I thought you might be referring to. This is totally normal practice, every country has multiple versions of the flag for different purposes. State Flag, Civil Ensign, National Flag, War Flag etc etc.
Also re: the Maori flag, I know it’s not pertinent at all to this debate but FYI, the Tiro flag is not OFFICIAL official, as in, it hasn’t been included into the NZ Ensign Act. I concede the point that in 2011 it was officially recognised by the government as being the “nominated” flag for flying on the Harbour bridge. Even though it was only on the back of 1200 people, 20% of whom weren’t even Maori, and it was also JK being a grade A douche. That was my bad. Let the record show that you were right on that point.
Even though the United Chiefs flag is an insult to half the Maori tribes in the country, it does remain the only “Maori” flag written into NZ law. I totally agree with any comment that it fails to represent Maori though.
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We're now at the last round of the debate. This is where I summarize what's just happened and why I've won. This is also the exact point where new arguments should not be brought up, out of fairness as the scope for both of us to respond to these arguments would be limited.
- They disowned us
- They stole our flag
- They were a British colony (much like the many colonies that I have pointed to which removed the union jack)
- They are often confused for us
- They're closer to Britain than we are (I'll get to this soon)
- They adopted their flag by a slightly different mechanism
- They have a completely different political background
- They stole some other stuff from us too
- They are also on the same half of the planet
- They have practically nothing in common with us
- They want to invade us with an army of kangaroos
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I’d like to thank PRO for the excellent debate on a most excellent topic. I’m a little bummed as he’s called conclusion a round early by my reckoning… we have reply rounds to come yet; that being said, I don’t think it’d be fair to introduce new information in this round so I’ll try to contain myself.
I disagree with PRO’s summation of the steps to his winning this case. His basic steps are right but as usual they’ve been simplified too much. Here’s how I’d see it...
What PRO had to provide to win this debate:
1. A problem SIGNIFICANT enough to warrant finishing over 100 years of continuous history.
2. A solution which would remedy this problem more effectively than any alternative.
3. An explanation of this solution.
4. Proof that the solution is a net benefit.
The major focus of this debate has been over exactly how significant the problem is.
In the previous round I established that fact that the current flag has had and does have enormous emotional impact on millions of proud kiwis, both past and present. Personally I agree with PRO when he says that people today feel apathetic about the flag. Fortunately we disagree on the ratios of those people! Every significant poll done in recent times has shown that Kiwis are still strongly in favour of our current flag – a fact which my opponent does not contest.
It’s my personal hope that young New Zealanders would take the time to LOOK at our flag, learn its history and symbolism and begin to really engage with it; it’s a shame that a vocal minority are spreading a message that may see us end up with a flag that may be distinctive, but ultimately says little.
So let’s look at how PRO did:
a. Significant Problem 1 – It is too similar to Australia.
I began by establishing a base line. I argued that Vexillology is not necessarily about looking different and distinctive. That’s what logos and brands are for. Vexillology is about representing the facts about a country; Geography, History, Culture, that kind of thing.
I presented the flag of Kyrgyzstan as an example of a flag which ticks ALL of those boxes, as opposed to Canada which barely ticks one.
I supported my argument with the fact that countries ALL OVER THE WORLD have flags which are very similar to the untrained eye. PRO has repeatedly indicated that these are an abnormality. Not true, these are the NORM. I mentioned several regions which have well known “Flag Families”, and then last round I presented a selection of some of the better known examples.
Having established that being similar was not unusual but was totally normal and happens for a good, logical, reason – I then pointed out the MANY differences in our two flags.
These differences were obvious and having been pointed out ONCE, would be enough to stop the confusion of anyone who had a desire to get it right.
Way back in round one I also postulated that maybe the reason our countries got so easily confused was less to do with our flags, and more to do with the fact that we are just a little country that not many people know much about.
And is a flag going to help you with that?
He mentioned that many people confuse Niger and Nigeria and then brought up the fact that they have very different flags. He’s right! They do and people still confuse them!
Conclusion: Having a similar flag is not a problem. Certainly not significant one that needs a remedy that would go against the wishes of such a large percentage of the people.
He’s provided NO evidence that the “harm” of people not knowing we’re here, and we’re not Australian would be remedied by having a distinct flag and has, in fact, actually supported it by bringing up Niger and Nigeria.
NOTE: PRO also did a rehash of my defence of the elements on our flag. I want to address those because he’s made many statements that I don’t want to see go uncontested. Some of them might meet the definition of new information but since he started it and we still have a reply round, I’ll allow it…
HOW BLUE CAN YOU GET? Here’s a cool spin lesson kids. Check this statement out:
“First he said we both have blue because we're both islands. Great, almost 50 countries in the world are islands. Do you see blue on Japan's flag, or Tonga, or Madagascar? “ – Chris Barron (aka Spin Doctor aka Lars aka PRO, Google it if you weren’t listening to music in the 90’s)
Everything he says there is true and yet it paints a negative image. Now watch this:
“We’re both Islands. Less than 25% of the countries in the world are islands. Of those, only about 12 do NOT have blue on them.” – CON.
He’s listed 3 names of Islands with no blue in their flag. I can list about 38 names of Islands that do – way more if I’m allowed territories as well.
It is crazy to say that the ocean is not still significant in our lives. We work in it, play in it, write songs beside it… it is hugely significant and always will be.
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION He says that there are more Australians living closer to the sea than Kiwis. This is true. Then he says it’s only partly because there are more Australians – this is false. It is ENTIRELY because there are more Australians! Sydney alone has more people in it than our entire country! If you look at the top three inland cities in Australia – ALL of which are a LONG way further from the sea than it’s possible to be anywhere in NZ, the population of those three cities alone is over half the population of the entire South Island! And that’s only three cities!
STARS IN MY EYES Being able to see the celestial south pole is kind of a big deal. We are one of only a handful of countries for which the Southern Cross never sets. This means we can make cool pictures like this:
The Southern Cross was thought of as a hole in the sky by the Wairarapa Maori, through which the strong southerly storms came from.
b. Significant Problem 2. Colonialism is Dead.
PROs whole argument around this point was that the Union Jack symbolised that we are a colony of Great Britain. I explained that although that may have been the original intention, it still serves a purpose today to pay tribute to the fact that we are still proud to share the same Monarch. I gave you EVIDENCE that NZ still shares very strong ties with the UK, PRO merely made unsubstantiated statements.
The most important angle I took on this point was that if the Union Jack bothered us so much, we should have removed it as soon as we became independent! By not doing so, we’ve allowed the Union Jack to morph into something else –a symbol of where we came from.
The right time to remove the Union Jack from our flag is when we take the final step to independence and become a republic.
Conclusion: The “harm” for this problem was never clearly established by PRO. He basically just said it annoys us. He provided no proof for this and again, he can’t win by just making unsubstantiated statements.
If his “harm” is that an element of our flag annoys an unestablished percentage of the population, then he has not explained how giving us the solution of his proposed “Black Flag” will mitigate that harm. An unestablished percentage of the population will still be annoyed by an element of the flag.
c. Significant Problem 3. Pop-i-ness of the Flag
My approach to this unfortunately popular comment was to try to educate PRO as to why we have a flag. I explained that how much a flag POPS is infinitely inferior to how much a flag SAYS. I’ve said it numerous times throughout this debate – a flag is NOT a brand. It’s not a logo. It is dignified and classy and tells a story.
There is a place for the kind of flags my opponent is talking about. They are flags like the orange flag of the Netherlands, the Double eagle of Austria, the Boxing Kangaroo of Australia and yes, the Silver Fern of NZ. These flags are used in celebrations and DO play a part in representing the people – usually at sporting events; but they do not meet the criteria for a National Flag.
Occasionally countries get a flag that tells a story AND pops –South Africa is a good example. This would be a nice thing to strive for IF we did change the flag, but this is always a fringe benefit, not an ultimate goal.
Conclusion: The “harm” my opponent spoke of for this problem was that people might not realise how special and unique we are.
[On a personal note, I have to say that even as a proud Kiwi I am sick to death of the “small country” syndrome I see here in NZ. Every major news event has to have a “kiwi-connection” and we have to take every opportunity to remind the world that we are here and we punch above our weight. What makes us so arrogant that we feel like we need to be that annoying country in the playground saying, “Look at me! Look at me!” Everyone hates that kid!]
Firstly, PRO has not provided any proof that this harm is even harmful. There’s nothing to suggest it impacts us in any way except maybe a bruised ego. Which maybe we need.
d. Insignificant problem 4. The current flag is racist
Fortunately both sides of this debate agree that the current flag doesn't promote one race above another at all. I made the point that NZ is in the clear majority when it comes to this issue by not actually mentioning race on the flag at all.
So was there even a problem? Well no, not really. Maybe a little one?
My contention here has been that NZ does NOT face a problem significant enough to warrant giving away all of the history we share with our current flag.
I proposed that changing the current flag would significantly impact a wide cross section of our population who have fought and competed under it. PRO did nothing to rebut that point so it’s safe to assume that it stands. With that in mind, it was never going to be enough for PRO to simply state a problem. He needed to explain why the harm from that problem was so egregious that it required immediate action.
He’s failed to do that.
In this debate, the proposed flag that PRO nominated was the Silver Fern flag. As per the rules of this debate, he had the option of merely debating that we should change, or that we should change to a specific flag of his choice. He chose the argue the later meaning that for PRO to win this debate he must convince you that we should change from our existing flag to his new one.
He claimed that his new flag communicated all the same things that the existing one does, let’s look at that a little closer…
1. Geography: His argument here was that the fern only grows in NZ. He failed to address the fact that this makes it much less likely that it will be recognised by anyone else in the world. On the other hand, I explained how the blue background of our existing flag visually portrays as being an island nation, linking us with other Pacific nations and that the Southern Cross locates us firmly at the bottom (or top, depending on how you look at it) of the world.
This is a strong win for the current flag for giving us more information in a clearer fashion.
2. History: His contention is that the Silver Fern icon carries as much link with NZ’s history as the Union Jack and or the Southern Cross. My contention is that he’s right it does.
I score this point a tie.
3. Culture: We both made the point and submitted evidence that the Southern Cross and the Silver Fern are strongly regarded emblems of the NZ people. I also made the point that the Union Jack speaks to the strong emotional ties our nation holds with our Royal family.
This point goes to the current flag because it has two elements communicating two different aspects of our culture.
By my reckoning, this comparison has come out as a clear win for the current flag.
There were some other points discussed…
THE COLOUR BLACK: PRO was all over the place here. First he tried to say that Black is a colour that will pop. Along with every season of Project Runway, I pointed out that Black is praised for its ability to hide rather than to highlight.
He also tried to say that Black doesn’t fade as fast. Once science and I established that it fades faster, he brought up a bunch of flags – none of which have more than 33% black in them. For heaven’s sake – he included such heavy weights as South Korea and Swaziland! Go check their flags out and tell me how much black you see!
MULTI-CULTURAL: PRO suggests that our multi-cultural society is shown on the fern flag by the number of individual points on the ends of the fern. This is an unfortuante side effect of symbolism. People get all arty-farty about it and start reading things into it. Or did I forget to mention that each of the different points on the stars in the southern cross on our current flag also represent our Multi-cultural make up?
Give me a break. If this is true, PRO should be able to tell me exactly which are the 46 races represented here? And what will they do when the 47th race shows up?
LIKE A FEATHER: PRO actually conceded that it DOES look like a feather. He says that the similarity will give us a chance to talk about ourselves more. Hmmm. Even if that were true and what we wanted, (which it isn’t and it’s not) the exact same argument can be made for our current flag which apparently looks similar to Australia!
HARD TO DRAW: I’ll confess to missing the chance to pick this one up any more than I did in the first round. I’ll just echo the point I made there which still stands: It is a harder design to draw accurately than the current flag and on balance, it is preferable to have one that is easy to draw.
Does the solution solve the Problem?
I don’t believe that PRO has demonstrated that the solution WOULD solve the problem. This HAS been addressed all the way through but was summed up most succinctly in the above sections.
PRO has never addressed the issue that changing the flag from its current design would not be a popular decision. The way he’s presented his side of the case it sounds as though it would be no major deal at all. This is not the case.
As discussed, I don’t that there WILL be a net benefit. NET benefit means that the pros will outweigh the cons and in this debate, I believe I have demonstrated that the few pros will not even come close to outweighing the cons.
Judges, Pro makes an attempt here to convince you that the people of NZ don’t care about our flag. This is simply not true. A statement like that means nothing without proof. I am one of the Kiwis he’s including there and I personally love my flag!
PRO introduced some new information here as well, saying that we carry an Olympic flag into the games. I’m afraid he is very much mistaken here as this picture will show.
I believe the NZ Olympic flag he is referring to is the one flown by a few athletes who unofficially attended the 1980 Moscow games. NZ was part of a boycott of those games but a few athletes were in with a chance to win medals so they went anyway. In times like that, the IOC creates a special “Olympic” flag for those athletes. For obvious reasons, the IOC goes to some lengths to ensure that any reference to the actual National flag for that country is avoided – which is why that flag had no southern cross on it.
Olympic flags are a fun little side-study, you can also see ones for South Africa, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and many more. They are always designed by the IOC and the actual country represented has absolutely no say in the design.
I explained in my side of the debate that changing a flag puts a bookend on one chapter of a country’s history. This is a natural part of a country’s life and WILL happen for NZ one day – my point is and has always been that that time is not now! The right time is in the future, when we become a Republic with no more ties to the British Crown.
When athletes compete and win against competitors with far greater resources and financial backing, they will stand at the same spot and hear the same anthem and see the same flag be raised in triumph as their own heroes did a generation earlier. That moment creates a special link from present to past that will be lost if it is not the same flag.
The time will come, but the time is not now.The Resolution is negated.
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I have thoroughly enjoyed this debate and I hope that this important issue has been clearly represented by both sides. I thank PRO sincerely for the spirited discussion.
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A baby otter sure is hard to top. To conclude the debate I only have this rat, demonstrating what I feel like doing right now.
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