Thursday, November 29, 2012

Respectfully—No Bob, It is not Time to Ditch the Anthem

So Bob Jones wants the National Anthem ditched (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10850117).It is great that he lives in a country where he can freely state this opinion without fear of reprisal from the State or someone else with vested interest. I wonder why that is?   

Bob clearly set out to offend when he wrote the article. He begins by slamming the Australian song, claiming that Australia is not “young and free.” His basis is that Australia, NZ etc. are actually old nations in world terms. Well, in strict socio-political terms he may be right, but he misses the point. When one sings an anthem like this, one is not singing the latest pop song expressing how things are now, one sings a song that speaks of the founding principles of a nation, those ideals upon which the nation is built. It expresses the desire and sense of the nation then. It functions as a reminder, a link with history, our forebears giving their all to establish a people and singing a song that encapsulates present hope and future dreams. It works to stop us renouncing those cherished values—which is exactly what Bob wants us all to do. For what Bob? Materialism?

He then has a crack at the “bloody haka” as a “national embarrassment.” Really Bob? An embarrassment? Isn’t it rather glorious that the people of NZ have embraced Māori culture to the point that we are defined as much by the haka as by the anthem. Sure, it is overdone at times. But come on. I think it is a sign of our progress to finding our identity and unity as a nation that the “glorious haka” is now a central symbol of our life. Bob sounds like a tired old Euro-centric modernist to me.

He then turns his attention to the anthem. He seems annoyed with the manner of choosing the anthem, through a contest in an Australian-owned paper decided by Australians and Germans. Here we have more than another tinge of racism; after all, our history is intertwined with Australia and the colonialists came from Europe. The mundane name “Bob Jones” proves the point.

His diatribe pauses to slam God save the Queen because it lacks an object, “from what?” Here we of course have a case of metonymy whereby “Queen” represents the monarch and her people, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. It includes us actually. “From what?” Are you serious Bob? A glance over history suggests things like wars (remember Hitler?), economic recession, plague, oppressive rule, and more. We need God’s help now as much as ever.

His problems with the anthem are first, that it’s over the top lyrics. Personally, I love the lyrics, they express great hope. What is wrong with expressing our dreams for a blessed nation that is good and great, characterised by love, truth, freedom, peace, racial unity, honor and prosperity, and that we do not fall prey to dissension, envy, hate, and corruption? Bob seems to find the anthem boastful. It is not, it is a prayer that we will be great, an expression of human desire for the things listed above.

Bob is upset about our failure to uphold peace. Here he has a point. But rather than us then ditching the anthem, why not ditch violence and try and live the anthem and its desires? If we haven’t lived up to it, instead of abandoning it and settling for something less, shouldn’t we then sing it more in the hope that we get its point and work even harder for peace?

Then Bob gets to his real issue, the God-talk in the Anthem. For Bob, God is a “mythical entity” and embarrassing. For an atheist, I suppose it would be. He quotes Einstein, “religion is simply childish.

Well it may come as a surprise to Bob, that there are many scientists who beg to differ from Einstein. Furthermore, the majority of the world remains childish and believes in the myth (http://www.laidlaw.ac.nz/_blog/Our_Blog/post/Should_We_Be_So_Negative_About_Christianity%E2%80%99s_Supposed_Decline_Recent_Research_into_World_Figures/). I sure do! I love the myth. It is better than that Santa and Easter bunny nonsense! It changed my life, and I am thankful.

Bob seems to assume atheism has come up with a better explanation for the origins of our universe. They haven’t. Some of us consider the idea that the universe self-created or something came from nothing as childish and naïve. It is pretty childish to me to suggest that because we have sent unmanned space crafts into our solar system and a touch beyond, that we can now deduce there is no God. Really Bob? Get real. We can’t even get to the nearest star-system beyond our sun (http://www.universetoday.com/15403/how-long-would-it-take-to-travel-to-the-nearest-star/). What do we know about what is out there? Bob’s understanding of the Christian God is also deeply flawed. Thinking Christians don’t believe God lashes out with natural disasters; rather, he gives himself in love for a world he will not give up on. He won’t give up on Bob either.

I wonder if Bob has considered whether there is a link between this great nation we love and cherish and the song we sing? Could it be that the God of nations, despite the antipathy of some in our midst, has heard our prayer as it has been sung, and has acted in his gentle loving manner to shape NZ into what it is? Could it be that the prosperity Bob himself enjoys (good for him), is in part, a result of God working among us?

Nations need symbols. They need reminders of what formed them. They need to be bought back again and again to their core and original values. They shouldn’t just throw them out because some in the nation have a change of values. Neither is it about national pride, it is about wanting to be in a nation that is full of goodness and love, in which people can freely state what they believe (however wrong, wink wink), and enjoy peace and prosperity. I will keep singing and praying for that.

Bob finishes with his final swing—having a crack at the gay community. Really Bob? Is that the best you’ve got? I say keep the Anthem, sing it more, sing it often, and mean it. Perhaps if more Kiwis lived it soulfully we would be even greater? Whatever, in a world that is dangerous, we need all the help we can get. Is it time. Not in my humble opinion.