For some reason this week I have been thinking quite a bit about the concept of patriotism, and a West Wing session tonight got me thinking even more. In one of the episodes I watched they talked about patriotism, and duty, and being proud of your country so much so that you would do anything you could to improve and contribute to that country. The country, of course in that case, being America. And Americans are a fiercely patriotic bunch, evidenced by many things, not the least the fact that a slow mo shot of the stars and stripes (preferably at sunset) is pretty much mandatory in any gung ho Michael Bay type flick. But I would argue that Americans may not be the most patriotic country in the world. We here in NZ may well give them a run for their money.
Really? I hear some of you ask. But heaps of kiwis leave for Australia every year. And people complain about the price of milk/houses/everything else ALL THE TIME. Yes, that’s true. But, at the same time, can you name any other country where just the outline of their islands on a bag can be considered a fashion statement? Where ‘Born Here’ over that very outline is commonly seen on the t-shirts of hip 20 somethings heading off on their OE? Where previously ‘tacky’ kiwiana items like tikis have become something that you make into a ceramic and hang proudly on your wall? I can’t. New Zealand seems pretty special in this respect.
I wondered whether the fetish with kiwiana was something that I latched onto when overseas. That it wouldn’t be a big thing when I came home. But it isn’t true at all. Trendy shops on Ponsonby Road are packed to the gunnels with such trinkets – and they aren’t for the tourists, they are for us – the kiwis. For us to wear, put up in our homes, hang on our walls. And why? Because we like them. Because they remind us where we are from. Because, dare I say it, we are proud of our country.
I have blogged about the Rugby World Cup before, and that was a fantastic example of the country joining together and being damned proud of it. It wasn’t just about the 20 or so guys who claimed the big prize, it was also about the hundreds of people involved in putting on a spectacular tournament, and the many hundreds of thousands more who welcomed tourists onto our fair isles. New Zealand flags – both the standard Southern Cross version along with the silver fern and many others (the Huntervasser version being my personal fave, but that is a debate for another blog ;-)) – were on display everywhere you turned. And not just the NZ flags – but the many flags of the Pacific were also on ubiqitous. Because – and ‘kiwiana’ is reflective of this also – our country is a hodgepodge of nationalities and backgrounds, and every one brings something interesting and different to the cultural buffet.
So, what is it about this wee country that makes its inhabitants so proud to be from here? Well, for me, there are heaps of things (bro’). There is the fact we consistently punch above our weight – be it in Hollywood, in international politics (previously, not so much now…ahem, Jonkey…), or on the sports field. The fact that we have a reputation as a friendly, hard working and jovial group of people who are a pleasure to know (and employ). The fact that, despite our relatively short history, we have a reputation for adopting and adapting to change at a faster rate than many others, and on standing firm on what we believe to be right (again, previously…not so much now…ahem, Jonkey…). And sure, we aren’t as 100% Pure as the ads say we are, but you can’t go past the fact that we are blessed with natural beauty that many other countries would love to have even a fraction of.
We may not call ourselves ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’. We may not put our leaders up on pedestals and worship at their feet. We may not make big Hollywood movies about people who have done important things in our history (though I think we should do more of that). We may not be so patriotic that we go blindly where our government leads us and never challenge the status quo (and that is definitely a good thing!). But we are patriotic. We are proud of where we come from. And most of us are proud of where we are. And you know what? That is pretty damned cool.