Sorry John, you’ve got the honours wrong
It’s sickening to see so much support for Prime Minister John Key’s idea that we start dishing out knighthoods again.
Why we awarded titles when we were part of the British Empire is easy to understand. Those were the days when many New Zealanders, even Kiwi-born, saw England as “home”, and the bonds between us strengthened during two world wars.
But things have moved on in 60 years. Britain deservedly lost its empire, and Commonwealth countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand have a substantial history of establishing their own identities.
Part of our identity is a distaste for privilege, posh accents, undue wealth and any signs of a superiority complex. It’s an egalitarian approach to life we like.
Naturally there are those who are impressed by titles, possessions and status. And there are still those who look to Britain as if that’s where we’ll find the guidelines of how we should behave and sound. But just because there are Kiwis who don’t appreciate the strength of our egalitarian style doesn’t mean we should abandon those values.
Helen Clark copped criticism for the honours system she introduced but she was on the right track. It was time to do away with Kiwi sirs and dames, a system that was objectionable for several reasons. Too often titles went to men who’d done nothing more than make money or do their jobs as politicians or judges.
Governments, not neutral panels, decided who should be rewarded.
For every Kiwi who has deserved an accolade, such as Murray Halberg or Howard Morrison, there have been several – Bob Jones and Roger Douglas, for instance – who have warranted no such honour.
Where Clark went wrong was in replacing the system with one too complex and clumsy for us to embrace.
But our energy should be directed at getting rid of all that British stuff and coming up with something simple with a Maori and Kiwi flavour.
John Key has made a few good calls since he took over. But he’s got this one wrong.