Not my king's birthday

3 Jun 2024
King Charles birthday

Liam Rātana is tired of honouring colonisation, colonisers, and an establishment that represents all that is wrong with the world. 

Personally, I despise the monarchy and everything it represents. The Crown has built its wealth on stolen land, exploited resources, slavery and genocide. These are facts, not opinions. So why are we – a purportedly progressive, liberal nation – continuing to celebrate the birth of the figurehead of such a vile establishment? Because we get a holiday?

The national anthem; the country’s flag; the language I am writing in; our system of law; our system of governance; my name; the names of our roads and suburbs; churches; our cash; the building I work in; the police helicopter flying over my house every night; fucking Bridgerton — these are all reminders of how the Windsors came to rule the whenua my ancestors once roamed freely on. And you want me to celebrate King Charles’ pretend birthday? He isn’t my king.

A few years ago, I found myself talking to a man with a heavy English accent at a bar on the waterfront in Rarotonga. Staring out at the tranquil blue sea, the man told me he was an ex-member of the British special armed forces and now a private mercenary.

It soon became clear this guy was also a proud royalist. In fact, he was so passionate about the monarchy it seemed like he was ready to fight me to prove his point about how mighty the royal family was.

“The British army could have crushed you Māori,” he said through gritted teeth. He was so close I could smell the lager on his breath.

The comment was in response to my point that the British suffered some of their highest casualty rates in history from their colonisation efforts in Aotearoa. It was a point that clearly offended him. I reminded him that Māori weren’t crushed; instead, a treaty was signed between the Crown and tangata whenua.

“Consider yourself lucky we were preoccupied,” he said as he downed another gulp.

At the time, the British were indeed preoccupied. They were busy fighting in wars and attempting to colonise numerous countries around the globe. Aotearoa, thankfully, wasn’t high on the priority list of places to conquer.

Aside from his interesting day job and intense pride in the historical might of the British army, the thing that struck me about this man was his love for the then monarch Queen Elizabeth II. I guess it was part of his military background and the fact that he had sworn allegiance to the sovereign, who also served as the head of the British armed forces. I had never encountered someone with so much love for the royals, and it served as an ugly reminder of the colonisation of New Zealand.

I don’t think many people here in Aotearoa share the same passion that chap had for the monarchy any more. If they do, they’re probably pretty old by now and were raised in an era when royalist propaganda was rammed down their throats. Unfortunately, such propaganda continues to affect us both consciously and unconsciously.

The King’s Birthday holiday is another unwanted reminder of colonial rule. There are several occasions we could instead honour as a nation, yet we continue to celebrate the birth of a coloniser. Ask anyone you know whether or not they really care about the king or his birthday. My guess is, probably not.

Public attitudes toward certain holidays are changing. Valentine’s Day is now more commonly remembered by Polynesians as the day Captain Cook was killed and cooked. Occasions like Halloween, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have become increasingly commercialised. As Aotearoa continues to become a more ethnically and religiously diverse nation, the relevance of Christian holidays such as Easter or Christmas becomes even murkier.

I’m tired of honouring colonisation, colonisers, and an establishment that represents all that is wrong with the world. It’s time to do away with this holiday. Let’s celebrate the day Queen Elizabeth II died instead. Or, if you’d rather not celebrate a death, why not officially honour our country’s own heroes and occasions? I’m sure we could all get behind Jonah Lomu day, or honouring October 28, the day He Whakaputanga was signed. Regardless of what it might be, I think we could almost all agree that there are many more relevant occasions and people to celebrate and honour with a public holiday than a British monarch. 

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