Just after noon in Wellington today, the sound of a
booming gun disturbed the air. Not just once but
several times. I had to think for a moment; then I
remembered that it was the Queen’s (real) birthday.
How quaint. So long as archaic rituals like this persist,
let us sit back and savour the irony of the chorus
coming from those who keep telling us that it’s way
past the time when the state should have stopped
saying sorry to Maori and making reparations for the
crimes of British colonialism in the 19th century. This
absurd business of the 21-gun salute—the officially
sanctioned method of tugging a forelock—is a grubby
little reminder that, while Maori are expected to
‘move on,’ the predominantly Pakeha state is quite
happy to stand still in the name of imperial tradition.
There is also a grubby big reminder of this: the
grotesque nonsense of retaining at great pomp and
cost a ‘governor-general,’ on the doing up of whose
Wellington residence $43 million is currently being
lavished. Roll on the republic.