In the early part of last decade there was a well known Canadian beer advertisement by Molson. It was known as the “I am Canadian” beer advert because it featured a young Canadian man talking about what it meant to him to be Canadian and at the end of it, he said “My name is Joe and I am Canadian”.
Fast forward to 2017 and New Zealand entering election year in a world being rocked by the resurgence of nationalism. The election – and yesterday’s inauguration – of Donald Trump to be President of the United States, combined with Brexit and surging nationalism in France, Germany and other countries has many internationalists worried for the existing order.
Whilst I have no doubt the world is better for shake up that the world order has suffered, some quite disturbing trends are emerging. The inauguration speech of Donald Trump was anything but conciliatory. It did not reach out across to wounded Democrats, whose co-operation is needed for getting things such as whatever replaces Obamacare done. It did not acknowledge the sheer ethnic and cultural diversity that resides in the United States. It did not even acknowledge Mr Trump’s rival in America’s dirtiest political race thus far.
I do not want to see such divisive tactics employed in New Zealand. All New Zealanders, regardless of whether they are the newest citizen or permanent resident or someone who was born here and has New Zealand ancestry dating back to 1840, are at the end of the day, New Zealanders. It does not matter what their ethnicity is or their socio-economic background; what their sexual or religious orientation is. As long as they are prepared to abide by our customs and uphold New Zealand laws, there is hope and a future. We should view immigration as something that should be made sustainable, rather than stopped or increased and increasing the quota of refugees we take per annum to 1500 is not only beneficial for them, but for us as well in the long term.
Yes there are protests and sometimes I think some doth protesteth too much. However, as long as it is peaceful, it is their right. Along with freedom of association and freedom of speech, it is a right worth protecting. The protests that pop up at the Treaty of Waitangi grounds during Waitangi Day celebrations are as much a reminder there is still work to be done as an irritant on our national day. The idea that we have gone too far with settling Treaty related grievances does not sit well because if we stop now, with Ngapuhi and several significant hapu still to settle their cases, we invite a backlash not worth having.
New Zealand needs to address the terminal decline of the egalitarianism that made this nation great. Can we make the decline no longer terminal? I do not know, but the New Zealand that seems likely to replace it, where divide and conquer politics rule is not what I want to see. The respect and unity we show on A.N.Z.A.C. Day, the provincial pride that comes out during provincial anniversary holiday periods are all part of being New Zealanders. So too are the cultural festivals that adorn individual cities social calendars.
New Zealand can set a good example for other nations to follow. We can show the world what fair play is. They might not immediately grasp it and some certainly will not believe it to be a good thing. New Zealand can continue to be a nation that puts human rights and it environment in a place of priority and we can continue to be in the top five nations when it comes to transparency.
It is all this and more that makes New Zealand great. It is all this and more that sets the foundations for a unified New Zealand.