For an issue that I didn’t – and still don’t – care about very much I sure have spent a lot of time thinking about the flag. Or, actually, thinking about what I think about the flag and the debate about the flag.
- My original position was that I wanted change
- After the first referendum I decided I would vote to keep the current flag, simply because I didn’t really like the Lockwood design, and sticking with the status quo would make it easier to change to something better a bit further down the line.
- Would that really happen though? Realistically probably not for a long time; possibly not in my lifetime. So I was basically just voting to keep the flag. Which seemed a bit weird, because getting the Union Jack off our flag seemed like a progressive, left-wing thing to do, albeit only symbolically. Still, I really didn’t like the Lockwood flag.
- Why didn’t I, though? It was the most popular of the longlist when UMR polled on it. And, in the end, slightly less than half the country (43%) voted for it. Yet basically everyone in the online progressive left hated the Lockwood. ‘It hurts my eyes!’ ‘It’s a beachtowel!’ ‘It violates design principles!’ “We need a real conversation about identity!’ It seemed unlikely to me that all of these people – myself included – came to make an impartial aesthetic judgement that by chance, happened to oppose a politician we all disliked.
- This worried me a bit. Was I about to do something that was actually contrary to my values and then deluding myself about my motivation? Was I secretly motivated by a simple desire to thwart John Key? Or by the fact that the rest of the left had collectively decided on a position, and I was just going along with it? Or did I just actually not like Lockwood’s flag very much? In the end I let my daughter vote.
- This still troubles me though. How much of what I think and say about politics is based on my values, and how much of it is based on reactionary judgements and in-group behaviour?
- A few people have asked me why I recently deleted my twitter account (btw I recently deleted my twitter account), and the general stupidity of the flag debate and other even stupider instances of mass hysteria were partly a motivator (as was the amount of time I was wasting on twitter in general). But the platform itself, I think, encourages homogeneity of thought. The ability to provide (arbitrarily restricted) feedback on everything that everyone else says is a major component of the experience. The prolonged effect of that – at least for me – was that it trains you into expressing opinions that you know the group will approve of, and not expressing – and eventually not even thinking – opinions that will attract censure. Humans are hard-wired to seek the approval of our peers and avoid group ridicule. I do worry that in left-wing political online communities that these traits are becoming a recipe for mass-self delusion.