Sunday, 16 May 2010


When did patriotism become a dirty word? I remember a time when celebrating your national colours, a patron saint or your national heritage was taught in schools, celebrated in the streets and sung about at sporting arenas.  In England, St Georges Crosses were displayed in shop windows, on top of flagpoles and moulded into plastic bowler hats.  They showed a love of the Queen, a tribute to those lost in war and a large chunk of pride for a country synonymous with stiff upper lips, self-righteousness and ‘British-ness’.   The majority of people these days would rather stab themselves in the eye with a sharp stick than wear an St Georges cross hat.   Displaying the national flag on ones personage has become a symbol of thugishness’, racism and ‘chaveness’.

This phenomenon seems to be fairly recent; I seem to remember that it was still ok to display a flag - during the Silver Jubilee, Diana’s ill fated wedding, celebrating Torvill & Dean winning gold, the Falklands War, Botham’s 1986-87 Ashes series, Jonny Wilkinson playing football to win the rugby world cup in 2003, and probably the last time it was respectable to support England - the 2006 European football championships. These episodes in history cut across boundaries of class, culture and social standing, those that knew nothing about Rugby enjoyed Jonny’s biceps, and millions of people celebrated the works of the 19th century composer Joseph-Maurice Ravel without even knowing it.  In fact I remember proudly displaying a St Georges Cross from a flag pole at our home in Shanghai – that was until the local Gestapo intervened and demanded we take it down – the Gestapo in question were actually a family of Welshies who lived nearby and hated the fact that I hung a flag that reminded them of the English who had invaded their small hamlet in the valley’s by buying all the houses for holiday homes, either that or they just hated the English!

Of course you may have guessed that I am talking about the flag of England, rather than the flag of Great Britain, when asked abroad unusually I say that I am British first then English second.  I say unusually because I understand that the Scots, Irish and Welsh will always claim they come from their respective enclave before (if at all) saying that they are British.

Our neighbours have always come across as more patriotic than the English and I am not so sure if this denigration of a country’s flag as happened to our neighbours? Not the most independent or unbiased of newspapers, The Daily Mail recently published a survey that showed the English as the least patriotic people in Europe, I am sure the survey was intended to spur on public feeling and the headline grabbing sentiment certainly made me read on, what it actually goes onto say is that most people are concerned about displaying their patriotism for fear of being thought of as racists.

Adopted by the BNP, xenophobic pit-bull terrier breeding, lager swilling, tattoo wearing, beer gut spawning, shaven head wearing, Sun newspaper reading, football hooligans, and all other far right crack heads. The cross of St George has become associated with all that’s wrong with England and distanced from all that is great.   In 2008 St George's Day parades were banned by local authorities in Bradford and Sandwell in the West Midlands on the grounds they could cause trouble or were 'unhealthy' and 'tribal'.

It seems that being patriotic is not a desired virtue in modern England, as with politics leaning too far left, too far right or even having a strong opinion is frowned upon.  Patriotism shows passion, a strong strength of feeling, and belonging, living with principals, history and a sense of knowing where you have come from. 

Perhaps this is why patriotism is out of favour, like British politics everyone is now too scarred to say what he or she mean, take affirmative action or make difficult decisions, too worried that it may harm their chances from getting into office.  But then is this so surprising?  Putting yourself up for government is like attending a job interview, you seek to understand what the interviewer is after, and alter your answers accordingly, reading the situation is key, and how far your willing to abandon your beliefs, ethics and standards is I guess a measure of how much you want (or need) the job, as much of a measure of your principals.

Which brings me onto the recent political farce in the UK, despite one party receiving a resounding majority – that is a majority in everyone else’s definition of the word, we cant decide that it should govern alone.  So now we have to have a yard sale of policies to try and gain a coalition between both sides of the force.  Akin to a coalition between George Bush and Sadam Hussain, Hitler and Ghandi, or Kate Perry and Lily Allen, it should never happen and wouldn’t unless the protagonists were power hungry, job seeking hypocrites who would dance with the devil in order to get what they want.  Still we may at least get a Bank Holiday for good old St George as stated in both party’s policy documents – or will we?

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