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Too Seriously

Entry 728, on 2008-03-28 at 19:06:51 (Rating 4, News)

Some people take themselves too seriously. They take their religion, beliefs, and culture too seriously. When they do this they often make themselves look foolish or annoy other people who don't share their beliefs by trying to unnecessarily curtail their freedoms.

So what am I raving on about now? Two issues: one where an advertising campaign was shut down after complaints by Maori; and two, the debate regarding whether a Maori flag should be allowed to fly over public buildings.

The advertising campaign featured a series of fake signs which contained several Maori place names: "Whakamaru, Whakatane, Whakamoa ... Rent a car from only $25 a day. So you can visit any whaka." If you don't know the pronunciation of the "Whaka" part of the words, its something like "fucka" so now the problem becomes obvious. (Herald article here)

The Maori Language Commission complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that the signs were highly offensive because the Maori language was being used to curse. They claimed that if the advertisement was entirely in English it would breach advertising standards, but I can't see how that idea could be supported since the whole gimmick of the ad relied on a trick of Maori language pronunciation.

The chief executive of the Maori Language Commission said "Clearly the presence of this billboard proves that in some sectors of New Zealand society, ignorance and lack of regard for Maori language persist, and while we have come a long way, the struggle continues." This struggle seems to involve forcing people to accept a language which has little relevance to them while simultaneously making them so scared of not using it properly that they are unlikely to even attempt to use it.

If they really want Maori to be used more they should make it easier, remove this fake air of reverence they have tried to create, and let it be used in whatever way people want. All other languages (apart from those being kept artificially alive by political means) enjoy no special protection and by being this pedantic they make Maori less attractive to most people. Its the same old phenomenon we often see with people being offended: they usually achieve the opposite of what they really want to do.

So what about the second issue of the flag flying? (Herald article here) I'm not sure about this one. By having two flags we imply we have two different communities in this country (which is partly true) but I don't like our official flag much and having a Maori flag is not doing any real harm. Maybe this is a case where the bureaucrats who decide which flags are used are taking their job too seriously.

There is another issue though, that is where does it end. If the Asian community in New Zealand created a flag would that be flown too? With all the groups in our society our flag poles might become full! And who would decide which order they should be flown in?

The best answer would be to create a new flag which incorporates parts of the existing official flag and the Maori flag. We could use the Southern Cross and koru elements together. I think it would be far more attractive than either current flag. By removing the Union Jack part we could lessen our (now basically irrelevant) past ties with Britain. And the flag debate could also be avoided. It sounds like a perfect solution to me!

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Comment 1 (1352) by SBFL on 2008-03-30 at 23:58:41:

A good post. On the first issue I disagree with you. For goodness sake, how hard is it to pronounce Maori placenames correctly? And I am referring to NZers, not tourists. Just say 'Fungarei', not 'Wungarei' and get it right. If you don't know it, learn it! While the Maori language was not written, it's transliteration into roman characters is not the same as English. We were even taught how the vowels in Maori are different than English in primary school! The ignorance that exists still today astounds me.

I agree with the CEO of the Maori Language Commission in the quote you provided, but I agree with you that they have overreacted to the ad.

On the second issue, I generally agree. Hell we must change our irrelevant flag! On the matter of flying Tino Rangatiratanga at the Manukau City Council offices, this viewpoint is worth noting: Should Maori flags be allowed to fly on public buildings?. An extract: "the real issue is that the current "New Zealand" flag is culturally exclusive - "our" flag only represents the heritage of British New Zealanders. Who can blame Maori for wanting a culturally exclusive flag of their own?"

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Comment 2 (1359) by OJB on 2008-03-31 at 18:20:23:

The ads relied on the correct pronunciation for their humorous effect! So you think it was offensive. Sounds a bit like the Lookin' good for Jesus and Bloody Mary issues, doesn't it? Maybe you are just a little bit too sensitive about these sorts of things.

I find the current flag offensive too. It may represent my cultural heritage of the past but certainly not anything I feel is relevant now. We need a new flag. Seen any good designs?

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Comment 3 (1369) by SBFL on 2008-04-01 at 20:56:51:

First para: I haven't seen the ad, and from your description it doesn't seem offensive to Maori, let alone myself. Like I said, "I agree with you that they have overreacted to the ad."

Second para: yes, one I really like: http://flag.gq.nu/photo4.html

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Comment 4 (1379) by OJB on 2008-04-02 at 11:41:01:

Here's the ad:

Ad

I really like that flag. That's exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of.

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