Having received an honour, that is, a ‘mark of respect’ made to a person who has also paid ‘allegiance to a code of conduct’; and the honour involving becoming a member of the NZ Order of Merit, an order made up of those whose work has been of meritorious worth to society, it is a significant pat on the back.
It’s an interesting process. Basically, someone has to feel the need to nominate and to then diligently spend time getting together a case, which also involves gathering referees. This is then presumably reviewed by the department before going before a panel of some sort. They then make an offer which one accepts or declines. I was surprised at how correct the citation was; this was well researched, and then the subtlety of the grading and the difference between meritorious work and loyal service.
There were ironies in accepting a pat on the back from the king – a la mainstream society – but after consulting with a reliable mate, we agreed it was worthwhile for a career in the arts and community which has always taken place on the margins of the mainstream and been critical of that mainstream, to be recognised as having merit. It was a good precedent, for so often this space of work is dismissed as therapy, do-gooding or propaganda – not fulfilling the goal of excellence. For it to be mainstreamed in this way was a positive thing. As well, allegiance to a code of activist conduct should be recognised as a worthwhile alternative.
More generally, it could be argued that it would be a good thing for the left to start nominating activists, unionists, researchers… so that they begin to appear in the list, to balance the business people, military and judiciary members and sportspeople, as contributors to the social good.