RED PEAK WAS ALWAYS A MIDDLE CLASS GANG-PATCH

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My greatest fear about Red Peak was that it was less a popular movement and more of a brand logo for the Grey Lynn Farmers Market. A middle class gang-patch for expats residing in London flats and New York lofts. Despite a media-savvy social media campaign to get it on the referendum ballot, it only achieved 8.7% in the first round. Red Peak appealed to people like myself, my friend group, and social media connections. Inner-city suburbanites living in restored villas or bungalows who tend towards organic and/ or vegetarian diets, cycle to work, and profess cosmopolitan social values and centre-left to radical and green politics. The downside of this is a bubble mentality. Too often, we naturally assume the superiority of our lifestyle choices and superior thinking and tastes as opposed to the poor choices and tastes of others. We frequently mock ‘their’ cul-de-sac outer suburban, ‘meat and two-vege’ eating, Holden-V8 driving, Dan Brown-reading, privilege unchecking, Lockwood flag-voting lifestyles. Though our interaction with them only truly extends to family, snark, or appropriation of ironic cultural or fashion trends, we demand that, in order for things to improve, that they change their tastes, beliefs, and flag aesthetics.It’s the equivalent of gentrification but applied to whole swathes of the population.

Surely, our greatest delusion was the failure of the Red Peak social media campaign to translate into a popular movement. We overestimated the contribution that Facebook, Twitter, and the online petition made to the public discourse. We Facebook posted the latest Guardian, John Oliver clip, or Pencilsword piece on the flag debate to great applause from our social bubble but not beyond it. Likewise, Twitter merely served the debate equivalent of sniper showdowns between Twitter personalities that the public by and large weren’t following. Most people don’t generally use Facebook or Twitter to debate politics but to reinforce their online identity – something we ‘politically engaged’ do with left-wing Red Peakism. This is not new, as last year’s Green voter ‘ballot selfies’ was part of a long line of examples of reinforcement rather than outreach. If we seek to change hearts and minds, talking about ourselves isn’t the place to start.

Red Peak has come to represent a symbolic divide between an upper-middle class social bubble and the public at large. Though our passion for Red Peak is genuine, we misread the situation because we can be insular and sometimes condescending about towards those who don’t share our tastes. Red Peak is probably not going to become the NZ flag in the future if the next referendum fails. Any new designs that are truly agreeable must not only be shortlisted by a more open panel of qualified designers and historians, we must also confront the reality of where New Zealanders’ aesthetic sensibilities lie. If we are genuine about our social media promotion of Red Peak for the greater good, we cannot assume that our ideas are superior. If we merely engage with those inside our bubble, ideas like Red Peak are merely middle class gang patches for our own social media brands rather than visual symbols that represent everyone.

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16 comments

  1. Pingback: Right Wing Mayoralty Candidate whose business advertised on Whaleoil talks leadership « The Daily Blog
  2. Pingback: RED PEAK WAS ALWAYS A MIDDLE CLASS GANG-PATCH | mehgeneration
  3. Hans Versluys

    Completely true. As one other wit had it: it’s the white urban liberal tino rangatiratanga flag. Plus also the most Maori flag in the contest. No wonder it didn’t get through, but its cult status is guaranteed for years to come, whatever the teatowel that will be approved in March.

  4. useful idiot

    Yeah nah. I live in Glen Eden and am definitely not ‘middle class’ (whatever that means: paying $800 p/week in rent for a damp rental perhaps??). I liked red peak because it was the one design that referenced the indigenous culture of this land. That is, it looks like a wharenui.

    Simple as that really

  5. nzslovak

    Surly the koru references the indigenous people of our land better than a triangle designed to look like a mountain?

  6. Jules

    Absolute rubbish. Some of us just like Red Peak because it is a strong, striking and elegant design, that actually looks like a flag designed by someone who knows a thing or do about designing a flag. You have no idea about the politics of people who like it – and let’s not forget it was championed by the ACT leader. Hardly left wing!

  7. Mr Fluffy

    I grew up struggling to draw the NZ flag accurately, the Red Peak was the only flag that addressed symbolism and reproduction. It promised to make the NZ flag internationally do-able. If thats snobbery, then I am a snob, now a sad snob. How will I be able to draw the alternative accurately at will, sad.

  8. Pingback: A designer’s last lament for this whole sorry flag fiasco | The Spinoff

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