Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Being created a Knight “greater than receiving an Oscar”

Prime Minister John Key may not be well known outside New Zealand, but his announcement that the titles of Knight and Dame are to return to the New Zealand honours system has excited not only his electorate.

The 2010 New Year’s honours list features former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark, film-maker Peter Jackson, businessman Douglas Myers and US philanthropist Julian Robertson. It is an irony that Helen Clark, the administrator of the UN Development Programme and who in 2000 abolished titular honours list, joins a raft of new Dames and Knights.

The National Business Review:
“Ms Clark joins the elite Order of New Zealand, which is restricted to 20 living New Zealanders and at the moment has only 17 members.

Sir Douglas Myers, 71, has long been thought to have been a knight, judging by the many descriptions over the years in the media.

He becomes a knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit along with Sir Peter Jackson, health professor Sir Mason Durie, senior judge Sir Bruce Robertson and educationalist Dame Lesley Max. American citizen Julian Robertson becomes an honorary knight and cannot call himself ’Sir.’

Sir Peter’s honour comes as film career recovers from a hiatus since he collected a raft of Oscars for The Lord of the Rings trilogy in 2004. His latest film, The Lovely Bones, started its New Zealand season on Boxing Day while earlier this year his production of science fiction thriller District 9 was a critical and box office hit.

His company Weta is responsible for the special effects in the blockbuster Avatar and he is deeply involved in several new films, including a Tintin series, a remake of The Dam Busters and a new version of Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Sir Peter did not give an interview but issued a statement saying the knighthood was an "incredible moment" that was greater than receiving an Oscar.
The 85 New Zealanders who were given honours between 2000 and 2009 which used to come with a title had the opportunity to accept the title of Knight or Dame.

"The Queen has given approval for the reinstatement of titles. The changes will be finalised and come into effect in time for the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June," Prime Minister Key said in March 2009.

Recipients of the titleless honours system were poised to take titles, according to reports. Miki, the wife of Peter Snell, a three-times Olympic gold medallist, said her husband would "go with the change".

Professor Peter Gluckman, one of New Zealand's most eminent scientists, who was also be eligible, said a title was of great value in terms of gaining recognition overseas.

What have the opponents to say? Well, here’s Idiot/Savant from “No Right Turn”:
Against knighthoods
So, out of the blue, the National government has decided to restore the archaic institution of knighthoods. Talk about turning back the clock. So instead of having our own honours system which reflects our modern society and values, we'll be aping thousand-year-old institutions of oppression and aristocratic privilege. Which is the sort of thing that happens when you retain a monarchy.

Make no mistake: this is about aristocracy, it is about hierarchy, and it is about deference. None have any place in New Zealand, a country where "Jack is as good as his master". This move is deeply at odds with egalitarian kiwi values, and it exposes National's true nature as the promoters and protectors of privilege. It also exposes their cultural cringe, their sense of insecurity and crawling sycophancy to our former imperial masters. New Zealand honours aren't good enough for them. New Zealand isn't good enough for them. I humbly suggest that if they feel that way, they should piss off somewhere else. The UK still has titles. If they want one, they could always buy one there.

Still, there is a plus side: firstly, we'll be able to find out who all National's secret donors are - there's no hiding a payback knighthood behind an anonymising trust. And secondly, we can have great fun speculating on which other "worthy" New Zealanders they'll reward. "Sir" Roger Kerr, anyone? Or maybe "Dame" Diane Foreman? What about "Sir" Richard Prebble or "Sir" Don Brash? Or will we finally see "Dame" Ruth Richardson...?
Posted by Idiot/Savant at 3/9/2009
Is it really about aristocracy?
The 2010 New Year’s honours list does not create an new aristocracy, but gives visible credit to people who served their country. A money aristocracy does not need titles. Business empires are handed down to the next generation in monarchies as well as in republics, even if the latter one deem themselves “egalitarian”. Children cannot inherit a knighthood, but receive wealth from relatives, it has always been possible. The Murdochs come to mind. Or the Packers.

The equality fetishists get upset because someone receives an honorary title, but only the fiercest Marxists would address the issue of the inherited wealth. And these Marxists certainly don’t look to China for help. Even the most Stalinist country on earth, North Korea cannot offer help, because a Communist dynasty has been established and wealth, power and titles will be handed down to the next generation of the Kim family.

People are strange. They get upset by the most insignificant things. Take this example from Germany. The country’s defence minister has ten Christian names: Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jakob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester. And he even has an inherited title. He could call himself Reichsfreiherr von und zu Guttenberg, however, for practical reasons, he is addressed as Herr zu Guttenberg.

Does this make him a better politician? I don’t think so, but it also does not make him a bad politician. In September 2009 he was re-elected to the Bundestag with 68.1 percent of his electorate - a German record. His political action should be judged by his deeds, not by his name. However, reading leftist German blogs or newspaper comments one could think, this man could do nothing right, because his parents gave him ten Christian names. Should they have called him Kevin? There are already jokes about a Chancellor called Kevin (see this video).

We are all bearers of names given to us by our parents. Should an egalitarian society have any influence on this? Restrict the number of first names? Everybody would call this ridiculous. So, why do people get upset, that a country honours its scientists, its successful artists and, yes, even business leaders or sports people with three or four additional letters in front of their names? That’s beyond me.

New Zealander J Williamson of Napier said: "There is a bit of envy becoming apparent in some of these replies. By necessity this type of system is going to be based on tradition, and our history is tied up with Britain and the Queen (who is our Queen as much as their Queen!). And what is wrong with that?"

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