Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Red Pique

So then, we have a contender for a new flag for New Zealand, though many of us did not ask for one, and many of us who would like a new one did not pick this particular choice. Still, that's STV voting for you, and as Cardinal Borusa said, there is only truth in numbers (and Jamas breaks down the whole fatal exercise with statistological swagger here!)

NZ Herald's Rod Emmerson provides his take on the process.
For what it was worth, I was a Red Peak man. Aaron Dustin's Red Peak, or 'First To the Light' to give it its formal title, completely passed me by in the top forty line-up, and like a few others I'd say, it completely won me over during its social media campaign to at first get on the ballet at the eleventh hour, then into the running for the final vote. Ah, but we Peakers lost and the tea towel / clip art / T20 cricket uniform one of Kyle Lockwood's two submissions (TWO! Two colour options of the same flag account for fifty per cent of the final four? I'm still astounded at this) was the winner on the day.

A popular image, flipped for continuity's sake. 
The final vote, it seemed, was always going to be about the fern - that problematic emblem that the Prime Minister repeatedly said he preferred, featured on all of the original four finalists, apparently immediately identifies us and makes other countries think we like feathers. Oh, honestly, don't get me started. I had a favourite for the first time, and it lost. I may take some time to get over it.

But when Red Peak emerged via a concerted social media campaign, it seemed at the time that the closest thing to a public nomination from the forty finalists as opposed to the Panel's four picks) had materialised - and when I read its story, I pretty much fell in love with the whole thing. But one mans treasure is another man's 'Lefty anti-Key rag' or similar, and it seemed that amidst the criticism of the final four, even a new pretender couldn't get a break. The lesson here, as a sage on Twitter remarked, is that social media is no replacement for mass engagement.

Essentially I liked Red Peak for many of the same reasons other did. It didn't opt for lazy Kiwiana symbols, it didn't kowtow to cringing concerns about identity or history, and it actually is a great design that sufficiently fulfils the criteria set by the Flag Review Panel: it was simple, versatile, timeless, had elements of symmetry, reduced well, looked great at rest and flying, and unlike the Lockwood flags, it didn't look like a make-do collision between the past and the future. I short, it looked like it had actually been thought through and designed afresh (Lockwood's is ten years old in its three iterations), and - yes, it tells a story. The creation story woven into (but not intrinsic to) Red Peak evokes Rangi and Papa, and may not be to everyone's tastes, but I like it. Maybe now we can have the flag for Paparangi?

Moving on, the final vote, between Lockwood's fern flag and the existing ensign takes place in March. I'm dreading it as a believer in public engagement, someone who is at best ambivalent about the existing design, a fan of a losing flag, and a detractor of the new alternative. I think I'll hold my nose either way, and fear I'll vote for the existing standard out of equal parts spite and good design.

Let's try this again in 25 years, for the bicentennial, shall we?

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