Patriotism is Green and Thoughtful and Free
I stared at a retweet on Twitter just now: “Streets of #Braunton look busy and patriotic in Red, White and Blue #Olympictorchrelay #NDevon”
I thought about this for a while. I’m not a flag-waver, I never have been and all this fuss in my local area for something which costs ridiculous, RIDICULOUS amounts of money is making me cross on many many levels.
There are people who simply cannot afford to survive day-to-day living costs and the government is telling them to keep tightening their belts – that there is no money – and yet we can afford this???
Our youngest daughter’s school are walking to watch the Olympic torch (well, one of 8,000 torches!) pass through the area today. I love the idea of taking kids on a walk out of school with a picnic to take part in something with kids from other schools. Bring on integration and fun and getting outdoors more often – Hooray!
But for this?
I’m also not impressed by the attention the Queen’s jubilee is getting. More expense, more pomp, more hype, more flag-waving. More ‘little people looking up to big people’ mentality. Can’t people see what’s happening here?! The have and the have nots divide has just exploded. I thought we were trying to undo that inequality in this country. We’re very quick to criticise other countries for it.
So I don’t like the Olympic torch relay.
I don’t like the Queen’s jubilee.
I don’t like flag-waving.
Does this make me unpatriotic, I thought?
I looked at the word ‘patriotic’. I looked at the dictionary definition. I thought about my country, my life, my loves and I decided I am most certainly not unpatriotic. Far from it.
I love the coastline and birdsong and badgers and butterflies and foxcubs and bees and gardens and countryside of our country. I love our scraggly little misshapen, tea-drinking island plonked in the ocean. I support our farmers, our fishermen, our schools, our NHS, our wildlife, our eclectic culture. I am so patriotic it hurts when I see any of those things suffering.
I think all the forced pomp and ceremony is distracting – at the moment it feels deliberately so, but I can completely understand people’s need to get excited about something, to be positive about something, to feel part of something – especially right now. One of the most wonderful experiences of my life was when I took part in a combined schools concert in the Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple as a teenager. The feeling of being part of something big and public was so wonderful that when the first notes were playing I felt as if my heart was bursting out of my mouth. That feeling is unbeatable and unforgetable and we should have opportunites to feel like that more often instead of stapling children to their desks. I just think the costs of all the ceremony in 2012 outweigh the benefits way and above anything patriotic. I think it is all false. And I am sad. Because I love people and worry for them and because I want to protect what’s real. Because I am patriotic not because I am not.
I’ve just read this: The Olympics represents the triumph of that class of people who used to obey orders without question, and have ascended to giving orders in turn. In consequence, there is order, hierarchy, “stand behind that there barrier”, and a belief that what really matters about your nation is that some bloke can suspend his education for years and at the end of it jump three inches further than a fellow from Papua New Guinea on here: Olympic Torch Route, day 3 – Philip Hensher explains why he is not feeling the wow factor as the flame makes a ‘historic’ visit to Exeter. He’s an associate professor of Creative Writing at Exeter University, don’t cha know, and he’s just got himself a new fan. 🙂