“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”, wrote Dr. Johnson. Indeed! - nowadays it is one of the cries of the Labour Party as it tries to rescue itself from the corner it has been battered into by the press in the wake of a series of scandals.
Chancellor Gordon Brown wants Remembrance Sunday turned into “British Day” – a sentiment no doubt supported by Nick Griffin and his band of trustee bone-headed lobotomismos in the BNP who, like Brown, are very keen to promote British history, culture and identity at every opportunity.
The problem with Remembrance Day is that we are supposed to remember the dead of the two World Wars, seemingly forgetting why those wars were fought, who profited from them and the true cost paid by the working class. The proposed ‘British Day’ will be another day for collective historical amnesia when no mention will be made of the tens of millions killed as Britain expanded its empire around the world, of the battles fought protecting the spoils from far off countries, the mayhem unleashed in those countries and the mess Britain left them in after “independence”. And the British history that will be celebrated on ‘British Day’ will definitely not remember 1000 years of bloodshed and murder on British soil in defence of ruling class interests.
Speaking to a Fabian Society Conference, Brown said: "In any survey our most popular institutions range from the monarchy to the army to the NHS. But think: what is our Fourth of July? What is our Independence Day? Where is our declaration of rights? What is our equivalent of a flag in every garden? Perhaps Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday are the nearest we have come to a British day - unifying, commemorative, dignified and an expression of British ideas of standing firm for the world in the name of liberty."
The monarchy, the army and the NHS are our most popular institutions? Really? Fifteen years ago a survey of foreign tourists found that 1 in 10 expressed an interest in catching a glimpse of the Queen when they came to London. A similar recent survey found that figure had changed to 1 in 1000. The army is popular? So that is why they are inundated with requests to enlist and why only a handful of people turned out to protest against the British army being sent to Iraq. The NHS? Would this be the one that New Labour has kicked the shit out of, the remains of which Blair is slowly handing over to the private sector?
Brown asks: “what is our Declaration of Rights?” Are you taking the piss, bonny lad? If the Labour Party had its way we would live in a Big Brother state, our every move monitored every moment of the day, each of us carrying biometric ID cards, afraid to think outside of the box. A declaration of rights would mean no more in Britain than in the US, where it has been recently replaced by Patriotic Acts 1 and 2.
Brown cites the patriotism of the US – a country where selective amnesia should be a UN recognised mental illness – as a model to emulate. But, when did you ever see poor America wave the flag? Do they fly from the windows in downtown Chicago, New York or Washington? Hardly. In general, flag waving in the US is the orgasm of affluent right-wing suburbanites.
Countries like the USA and France may well have their national days – but here they celebrate the overthrow of tyranny. Other countries have national days too; a fair few call them Independence Days, and celebrate freedom from oppressive colonial rule when the union jack was removed from government buildings.
Brown believes the British flag should be recaptured from the far-right - an interesting statement considering the Labour Party is nowadays to the right of the historically right-wing Conservative Party. Moreover, Brown should learn from History – Thatcher’s nationalistic rants, far more than the anti-fascist activities of the left, resulted in the drop of the National Front vote at the 1979 and 1983 elections. People who had previously voted NF simply voted for the Tories. I wonder if Brown is after the BNP vote? The way he is going he will certainly get it.
In truth, your average Briton does spend much time pondering British achievements, history or culture. The most popular foods are big Macs, pizzas and pasta – none of them British in origin. England’s patron Saint George was actually a Turk who seems to have risen to fame slaughtering a crocodile and who never set foot on British soil and perhaps never spoke a word of English. No one sings or even knows more than one verse of “God Save the Queen” and only the desperately sad can tell when the Union jack is upside down (I lived over thirty years before finding out there was actually a “right way up”). And, I wager that there are more people in Britain that have the union jack on their underpants than have the flag neatly folded away to be waved on cue.
Fuck all flags, Gordon. The union jack is nothing but an imperialist, blood-drenched rag that should be burned along with every other prop of nationalism. It is a hindrance to human progress, not an aide. No doubt, though, you’ll get your way and Parliament will move that we have a British Day. I’m just wondering if a Patriot Act will bring it into being.