Patriotism, The Flag and The Royal Wedding
As we stagger towards the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, bloated with Victoria Sponge and groaning under the weight of accumulated tourist-trapping tat, it seems ‘British pride’ and patriotism is all but unavoidable. Thousands of people are being swept up into the fairytales of a bygone era, supported in their delusion by miles of cheap bunting and hours of gritted-teeth neighbourly cordiality. The classic street party image, with all the trappings of a jingoistic Kipling poem, is being dredged up to sell a love of monarchy and country that we have almost been rid off. Resist it, and shun it as the bitter affectation it is. Patriotism has been amongst the most corruptive forces in the 21st century, surpassed only by organised religion and media misconceptions; we know this and we must remember it now.
The problem, or the chief symbol of it, is our readiness to hang, praise and worship a flag in the hope that it might make us look united, even if we have nothing to unite over. Although it’s invariably some combination of red, white and blue, your particular motif doesn’t really matter. It could be St George’s, St David’s or St Andrew’s flag, the Union Jack, the star spangled banner or the tricolore, all represent a mindless philosophy that can, quite literally, be run up the flag pole and hung out to dry.
Consider first, the patriotic clubs membership. There are two routes in; birth or immigration, and both are oddly loathing of the other. The first, as a potentially defining factor for any of one’s political or moral principles, can and should be dismissed with nought but a humble nod. In simple terms it has no bearing on humans relation to one another; there is no reason to believe a man who drapes himself in the English cross is any less concerned with terrorism than his counterpart with the Bundesdienstflagge, and it is pointless for either to confront the issue from such divisive starting points. Or to put it another way, there is just as little justification for taking pride in your delivery onto the planet, as there is for spitting at someone for theirs. And it is not unusual that the former tends to be the paramount prerequisite for the latter.
The second route, be it by land or sea, comes with a slightly more understandable tendency to love ‘queen and country’ for it at least demonstrates a choice to be her subject. However, don’t you find the choice often sits uneasily with the rest of the clubs membership? Die-hard patriots, even part-time special-occasion patriots, are often the first to hail the exclusivity of their particular ideology, and subsequently exclude those without the right skin tonalities or language. Britain is for the British, we all too often hear, and somehow those who merely move ro the ‘green and pleasant pastures’ of our small island are less qualified to sing it’s praises or, as we should fear, ‘defend’ it’s honour.
And it is this tendency to become somewhat bullish in our patriotism that we should be particularly wary of imitating whilst sandwiched between the day of our patron saint and that of our Royal’s wedding. It is understandable in times of austerity, when the prosperity of a once abundantly affluent society descends before a generation eyes, that patriotic valour and collective strength resurges in a bid to hold on to passing supremacy. But it is a base, primitive and dangerous urge.
The ‘rush to the flag’, as it is known historically, has been the starting point for nationalism, neo-conservatism and ultimately fascism for hundreds of years the world over.
It was seen in the newly united Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm when it bled into the weltpolitik that ushered in the First World War, and it was reincarnated in the same towns and cities 20 years later for the second.
It warranted, silenced and provided the mood music for 100 years of British colonialism and still colours our military foreign policy enough to cast doubt over our moral actions abroad.
It whipped Joe the Plumber into such a frenzy that the US government (encouraged by the ultimate example of one-state hegemony on the other side of the iron curtain) was forced to employ reactionary policies of the worst kind. Patriots were placated with the emboldenment of the Stars and Stripes on world police uniforms, and a simultaneous, horrifically selfish global economic policy.
These are the macro-examples of patriotism in the 21st century, and the ones most readily recognisable, but they are but the tip of an iceberg. Flag worship needn’t have a flag to be exercised, and certainly not one we can pick out of the uniforms on fallen soldiers on CNN. The tendency to divide ourselves, to pit one group against another and boast lethally about which is the best, can be seen in every conflict from the failed state of Somalia to the pitch of Old Trafford. The problem comes when we have an economy, an army, and a flag to back up our ludicrously un-evolved definitions.
In recent years, where religion has left off, patriotism has begun to step again to colour our worldly perceptions. But just as there is no provable reason to define yourself by the rules monotheistic doctrine, a fact more and more people are realising, there is none to live or die for queen and country either. If we must label it, if we must live and die for something, let it be for our fellow human, regardless of his faith or his colour or which side of the border-line he was born on (a line probably drawn by patriotic expansionists, lest we forget). Let that be the purpose for our street parties this Friday and leave the flag-waving, anthem-singing pomp and ceremony to the hallowed few unfortunate enough to be invited to Westminster Abbey.Tagged in: america, britain, england, flag, Nationalism, Patriotism, royal wedding, st. andrew, st. george
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