Monday, 4 June 2012

Musings on patriotism

I'm not especially proud to be British. I'm pleased to be British. I'm pleased at being a small part of a historic nation. I like the Union, and would rather be British than English. I'm happy that I have the benefits of being British; I am aware of my national global privilege, but I like that I have free and fair elections in my country, that I have reasonable freedoms and all that good stuff. Proud, though? That's like being proud to have size 5 feet. I like that size 5 feet generally makes shoe shopping more straight forward, and I think they look nice and in proportion on the end of my legs, but I'm not proud of them.

I'm musing on patriotism at the moment, as the Union flag (fun fact: only the Union Jack when at sea!) has exploded everywhere, a bit like spores on moss. The Queen is having a diamond jubilee, something about which I am deeply ambivalent about. There is going to be a pageant of boats across the Thames. Last time this happened it was to welcome Catherine of Braganza to the country in 1662. I have no issue with Catherine of Braganza – seemed like a nice lady! - but she failed to have any children by Charles II, and unlike Hency VIII this probably was her fault, given that Charles had something like 35 acknowledged bastards by seventeen other women. This led to a major constitutional crisis and quite a lot of bad times for the monarchy. You know, just after Charles I had his head chopped off.

I'm just saying.

Anyway, the diamond jubilee is a thing that is happening at the moment. I am delighted to have a day off work, in much the same way I was delighted to have a day off for the last royal wedding. And I sort of respect the Queen, mostly for still being alive, even if she and her family are a set of parasitic leeches on society. So is my Aunty Phyllis and her brood, mind you, and I don't know if I want anyone to chop her head off. Then again, I'm not being encouraged to have street parties for Aunty Phyllis, either.

One thing that makes me quite skeezy, though, is the Jubilee song.

I am basically an emotional sponge and am fairly easy to start blubbing. I have been known to get a little bit weepy at adverts, and DIY SOS. To throw Gary Barlow at me (I love Take That with the passion that only someone who liked them the first time around can muster), Andrew Lloyd Webber (yes, I am an awful person) and then put in a bit of Gareth Malone is basically designed to make me weep like a child. It's a reasonably stirring song with vague lyrics.

And yet, the whole thing makes me uneasy, possibly because it reminds me what the monarchy really is. The Military Wives are defined by their relationships to men, not what they do as a living, and it says that we are a country at war, a country nearly always at war, and one that has belligerently pushed around big chunks of the world via a militaristic power, where those who are signed up and those who are left behind are made to feel Like It Really Matters. Lots of shots of angelic African children singing away are beautiful, yes, but how relevant is a tiny little British woman with a big hat to Kenyans? She was on the throne during the Mau-Mau Uprising, for goodness sake, there is not always good history there. The Commonwealth has made some good strides forwards, but there's an uncomfortable colonial history there that this song just blithely brushes under the carpet, and I don't know that's the right thing to do.

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a crowd, to be blown away by the spectacle and pageantry, and I might find myself watching that Jubilee concert tonight. But then, the pageantry is a show designed to hide the cold steel that lies behind the history of monarchy, the sense that if the Queen is in her God-given place then so are us underlings. That's a concept I'm really not comfortable with.

I'm enjoying my long weekend, although to be honest I spent the weekend catching up with some friends and have spent today watching so much Game of Thrones I think my eyes are going to fall out. That's probably as close as I'm getting to royalty today.


  1. The Military Wives make me SO uncomfortable. I mean, I'm sure they're very nice ladies and do lots of very good things for good causes - but to be reduced just to a waiting wife makes me feel a bit ill. As much as I do feel for them. It's just... ick.

  2. I love a bit of Gareth Malone, I really do, but the Military Wives thing is... well, I think the word is 'ick'.