Waitangi when we could party?

Ardern makes history at Waitangi marae Otago Daily Times

Too Right

A regular column by John Black

Let me take you to a poignant moment of my dissolute youth. Circa 2002, I?m part of a group of stoned backpackers sitting in the lounge of a seedy backpackers in the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand. The unshaven tie-died assembly is international if slightly commonwealth heavy: a Yank, a few Canucks, an Aussie, a frog couple, a Paddy, a Jap and two Kiwis.

For some reason lost in the mists of time (and gusts of leisurely exhaled Thai stick) the talk turns to national days. As the joint makes its way around the room, each traveller expounds on what they do to mark their nationhood. The illicit substance and the opportunity to share arrives at me and my Kiwi brother. We take long contemplative puffs and look at each other.

?Er?we go to the beach?

Looks of not entirely drug induced incomprehension ping pong around the room.

Next up is the Yank who, hand on heart, gives us a word for word recitation of The Declaration of Independence followed by an a capella version of The Star Spangled Banner before falling over a bean bag.

But we New Zealanders were the embarrassed ones.

Because our national day is an embarrassment.

We all know it.

Mongolia?s national day during the Naadam festival is spent playing complicated games using sheep anklebones. On their Independence Day, Indonesians oil each other up and attempt to clamber up tall trees with prizes at the top. In Bermuda, they celebrate Bermuda day when the entire nation changes into?well, Bermuda shorts.

And still ours is the most embarrassing national day on God?s sweet earth.

In fact, Waitangi Day is an anti-national day. It fosters not belonging and patriotism but division, discord and general dickheadery. If we think about it at all, Waitangi day makes us not proud to be New Zealanders but something between uneasy and ashamed.

FOTOPRESS A history of conflict at Waitangi – then National leader Don Brash is targeted by protesters in 2004.

A day that should be for all of us native to these islands, a day for celebrating citizenship in the greatest little country on earth gets constantly hijacked by Tangata Whenua tantrums and the urge to shame the majority of the populace for having the wrong DNA. A day of mourning, a ?tangi? for some pre-treaty Maori utopia that never was.

John Key is jostled at Waitangi (Source: ONE News)

 A day celebrating the existence of a nation should be bigger than any one group that comprises that nation. Obsessing over the rights and wrongs of 1840, defining our nation along racial lines rather than common ideals and shared triumphs, casting colonialism as original sin rather than historical fact responsible for most of us being here, is pure madness.

The type of madness we may one day have to pay for.

There is something both sad and strangely annoying that the largest and most vibrant celebrations held in New Zealand this month will be marking the Chinese New Year. That?s not a slight on the Chinese. I envy their unabashed enthusiasm for their country of ancestral origin and its customs. What lays me low is that there is nothing local that compares. Nothing for Kiwis, born and bred here and with no other place to call home, to get excited about.

It is true that we are largely a practical phlegmatic people and not given, like our American friends, to flag waving and emotional hand on heart patriotism. However, as Lord Acton said; “patriotism is to political life what faith is to religion”, it buttresses the nation state by binding its citizens together; without it we risk the whole thing toppling over.

If our national day keeps being sabotaged by the ethnically obsessed I suggest taking their cue and introducing something even more absurd than ?Waitangi Day?. During the early years of last century Queen Victoria?s birthday, May 24th was celebrated as a day to appreciate being part of the British Empire. It was called ?Empire Day?. Let?s revive it. All of those whose ancestors came here in boats rather than canoes can don safari suits, pith helmets, top hats, waistcoats or Jodhpurs, drink gin and wander about talking about ?trouble with the natives?.

Not only would this annoy the kind of people who buy fair trade coffee and wear Che Guevara T-shirts (and that?s always a good thing), it would highlight the stupidity, in fixating on 1840, of trying to untie the knot of citizenship to separate us all based on our ancestral genomes.

I mean, would anyone really want to go back to that?