June 14, 2006

Threatening patriotism?

I heard a comment last week, I think at the beginning of a TV programme I didn't actually stay up to watch, that someone found the abundant England flags that are so prevalent at the moment to be threatening. This interested me.

As a country I don't think we are particularly patriotic any longer. Indeed, as a contrast, Anna remarked on arrival on the other side of the world that the Brazilians for one are incredibly proud of their country and are not backward in showing it. Why do we not fly the flag to the same extent as we once did? Do we feel that it's politically incorrect in some way (do we not express feelings of pride because we feel they are inappropriate or do we really no longer feel so much pride)? Why does it take the advent of a major sporting tournament for us to become so patriotic?

Why on earth should an English person feel so threatened by a flag representing his own country displayed in his own country? Is it because of the association with the darker and more violent side of football that has gained some England supporters unwelcome notoriety? If so why should all displays of patriotism be associated with this minority?


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  1. Lucy Griffiths

    I was actually thinking as I drove to work this morning how few cars I spotted with flags on them. It's probably because the hail storms have knocked them off (an amusing story that Terry Wogan read out today on Radio 2 was about a chap who put 2 flags on and within minutes the only thing he was patriotically supporting were 2 white sticks)
    I for one absolutley detest the stupid little things and wouldn't put one on my car unless my life absolutely depended on it. I don't find them intimidating though. I think my repulsion comes from the fact that they are only there because of the world cup (of which I am most definatly not a fan) and that they are cheap and look ragged within about a week. I don't think they can be intimidating to me because I've seen them on family cars as well as vans, young lads cars and coaches alike.

    I think we should probably all be more proud of our country but that we are afraid we might be branded as raving members of the BNP or something if we plaster our houses in flags. There is some fantastic England bunting on Bristol Road in Earlsdon and the sight of that made me smile because even if I'm not a fan of the world cup it does seem to be something that brings the nation together.

    14 Jun 2006, 12:26

  2. Rather than complaining about the lack of visible patriotism, I'd argue why England in the 21st century needs it in the first place.

    And the English flag has historical connotations far worse than football violence.

    14 Jun 2006, 13:41

  3. Joe, I'm not sure exactly what you mean by a need (or lack thereof) for visible patriotism. Why should a change of century necessarily rid us of a need to display it? Are you implying that it is a feature to be looked down upon and that we should in some way be above it by now? Is it the pride in ones country or only the displaying of it that is the problem?

    14 Jun 2006, 14:04

  4. Naomi Howell

    I think it's good to be proud of your country and not afraid to show it. There's nothing wrong in it – I mean if you look at other countries (I'm thinking particularly of European ones out of my own experience), there's often a great deal of pride in their heritage and culture, and this is rarely looked down upon. The problem is when people hide behind the notion of being proud of their country, to use it as an excuse to abuse other countries and nationalities. It's such a shame because the vast majority of people are proud of our country for all the right reasons, yet this is tarred by a minority. Despite the few people who claim to be patriotic but are in fact just racist, I think there is nothing wrong in putting up flags in good nature as a gesture of support for England, and it's a shame if the extremists stop this from happening.

    14 Jun 2006, 15:45

  5. Benjamin Keates

    And the English flag has historical connotations far worse than football violence.

    Such as?

    14 Jun 2006, 16:41

  6. The British Empire?

    Having spent a week resident in the student union watching the World Cup I have seen some of the positives and negatives of patriotism. Trinidad & Tobago were fun. Watching beered up Englanders shout "fuck the pope" and chuck beer at people was not.

    I'm all for people looking into and taking pride in their country's past, as long as they're prepared to acknowledge the darker side to every nation's history. They can also take pride in their nation's achivements in the modern day. I just don't see what all this has to do with sticking the English flag on everything.

    National boundaries are also relatively recent constructs, and national identities even more so. It's a fascinating subject for study, and one that is often obscured in favour of cheap plastic flags on cars and blind patriotism.

    14 Jun 2006, 21:53

  7. Naomi Howell

    People were saying that? That's awful – even if it's only a few people like that, it's a shame some people don't know better. Thankfully, I'm hoping that those were a minority.

    I agree that we were certainly shouldn't put a rose–tinted glow on everything and like you say, we shouldn't forget about our darker side. I think that the wide usage of the flag is because it's an easy convenient way of showing support. It makes sense to use it (even if I do have the same opinions of Lucy as to the tackiness of car flags!).

    14 Jun 2006, 22:20

  8. James Black

    ‘National boundaries are also relatively recent constructs’

    No, not really. Proper Nationalism (as we know it) has been around since the 1860s.

    The reason we are so ashamed of our nationalism stems from the 50s and 60s. In this era of social upheaval people wanted to overturn the dogmas of the past. The illusion that is England was a perfect sacrifice for the hippy rave. It was obviously weak (due to two wars which we needed US support for, 50 years of relative economic decline, and the loss of the colonies). Plus the prevailing morality of the time deemed that belief in the British Empire was small minded and naïve (not really evil, I don’t think the empire got that distinction until at least the 70s). Hence it was naturally attacked.

    Our nationalist spirit never returned after this initial attack because the attack was so complete that a new anti–British orthodoxy had developed. Whenever some enterprising individual did show his or her patriotism it would be responded by cries of racism (normally by retarded middle class kids who think they are enlightened). A perfect example of this was in 1991 when Morrissey walked on stage at a gig with the English flag. The result was NME (who was in a liberal centre–left self–righteous stage at this time in its history… after its intellectual stage but before its commercial stage) basically calling him a racist on their front page, and hence Morrissey boycotted the magazine for 13 years.

    15 Jun 2006, 00:29

  9. No, not really. Proper Nationalism (as we know it) has been around since the 1860s.

    Yes, hence the phrase "relatively recently".

    And the whole Morrissey thing is a bit more complex than that. From "National Front Disco" to his bizarre admiration for English working class gang violence, he's courted controversy for a long time.

    The illusion that is England was a perfect sacrifice for the hippy rave

    I don't even understand what that means.

    the prevailing morality of the time deemed that belief in the British Empire was small minded and naïve (not really evil, I don’t think the empire got that distinction until at least the 70s). Hence it was naturally attacked.

    What's your take on the British Empire?

    15 Jun 2006, 01:25

  10. Dean Love

    The big difference in us (England) displaying the flag and celebrating our nations history and heritage and someone like Brazil doing the same thing is simple, and has been alluded to already: our history is one of the oppresion of other nations. The Empire might be far in the past but like it or not, the symbol of the English flag was the symbol of that empire. Hence it has far worse connotations than other flags (imagine if Hitler had adopted the German flag instead of the swastika for the Nazi symbol? How would you feel about German flags then?)

    The second reason is that these flags are currently being flown by football fans. This isn't about about pride in our nation's heritage at all, it's about cheering on a football team. And if you had the misfortune to be out in town on saturday night, you'll know that the set of all dedicated England supporters has a much higher percentage of violent bigoted fuckwits than the set of all English people. It's not just the actions of a few hooligans abroad that bring the flag into such dis–repute in this context (international football) but the general attitude of the majority of people watching it in pubs. It truely brings out the worst in people.

    That said, the Pope can still fuck off.
    (and before any Catholics get upset about that, that man said I was going to suffer eternal damnation in hell, so a simple 'fuck off' is a fairly light riposte).

    15 Jun 2006, 02:59

  11. James

    This is a subject which has puzzled me ever since I moved to the UK in 1998. Despite all this talk about English patriotism being 'not for the C21' (as if a change of date on its own ever justified anything), the self–hating bien pensant mentality of the English cultural and intellectual left is nothing new. Here is George Orwell, writing a piece patriotically entitled "England, Your England" at the height of the London Blitz (apologies for the length of the quotation):

    "‘The mentality of the English left–wing intelligentsia can be studied in half a dozen weekly and monthly papers. The immediately striking thing about all these papers is
    their generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion. There is little in them except the irresponsible carping of people who have never been and never expect to be in a position of power. Another marked characteristic is the emotional shallowness of people who live in a world of ideas and have little contact with physical reality. Many intellectuals of the Left were flabbily pacifist up to 1935, shrieked for war against Germany in the years 1935–9, and then promptly cooled off when the war started. It is broadly though not precisely true that the people who were most ‘anti–Fascist’ during the Spanish Civil War are most defeatist now. And underlying this is the really important fact about so many of the English intelligentsia – their severance from the common culture of the country.

    ‘In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left–wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. All through the critical years many left–wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro–Russian, but always anti–British. It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some. If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were ‘decadent’ and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible. Both the New Statesman and the News Chronicle cried out against the Munich settlement, but even they had done something to make it possible. Ten years of systematic Blimp–baiting affected even the Blimps themselves and made it harder than it had been before to get intelligent young men to enter the armed forces. Given the stagnation of the Empire, the military middle class must have decayed in any case, but the spread of a shallow Leftism hastened the process."

    Orwell goes on, and it's worth reading. He himself was on the intellectual left. He asks in that last paragraph quoted: 'It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some'

    Well in the subsequent years it's had a bit more, and it's no longer questionable.

    15 Jun 2006, 10:54

  12. James Black

    Joe, I am against the British empire, but I am completely at a loss to understand what relevance this has to the current conversation.

    James, well done you hit the nail on the head there.

    15 Jun 2006, 12:23

  13. James

    The Empire is always brought up in these discussions as a stick for the left leaning to hit their own. It is true that there were countless examples of barbarity and stupidity on the part of the empire, and I personally do not regret its passing.

    Interestingly, however, my octogenarian Sri Lankan family friends cannot speak too highly of the British Empire. Nor can a number of older former East African Asians whom I happen to know. It is all a bit more complex than the bien pensants will allow. Even in terms of slavery the full story is seldom told: the extent to which it was established before the Empire, the extent to which it has revived after being halted (with substantial British help), and the extent to which the British themselves were victims of it (on which see, for example, link) are all matters the anti–patriots choose to ignore.

    On the other hand, those on the cultural right continually whine that 'fings ain't wot they used to be, often with scant justification. The global position of the economy (fourth largest) was the same in 2001 as in the height of Empire, 1901, although it's since slipped a place behind China (hardly a surprise given the relative sizes of the two countries). People live longer now, and are far richer than ever before. All a far cry from the desperation of the 1970s winters of discontent, general strikes and the like, when jet travel was the preserve of the wealthy, and consumer goods were uniformly rubbish by today's standards. Never mind the C19 poor houses.

    15 Jun 2006, 13:04

  14. James Black

    Oh yes James, your perfectly correct, it is a complicated issue whether the empire was a good thing for not. I myself debate the issue philosophically, economically and socially in my head for well over an hour before coming to my conclusion. I came to the conclusion that (assuming the France, Dutch, or Spanish never built their empires) then it would have been better, from both a 19th century and 21st century perspective, if we never underwent the empire project. This was because, socially speaking, Britain had better investment projects at home at the time. Plus I think that the world would have been more interesting if we never did it (North and South America and Australia and Africa would still be even poorer then Africa today and most likely highly reliant on European manufacturing goods. China would probabally be significantly richer, but India probabally even poorer. Hence the world would consists of two giant geographical superpowers, Europe and East Asia, while the rest of the world living in poverty and completely subordinate to our economic superiority).

    15 Jun 2006, 13:58

  15. James

    Very interesting speculation, but wild speculation nonetheless. It is just not possible to have any real idea of how things might have turned out otherwise. Why China so much richer? It's pretty rich now, through exporting to the former Britsh Empire.

    Perhaps with slightly more accuracy, we can imagine what might have happened had either of the world wars gone differently. If the Germans had properly kept to their plan to draw the French into Germany, they'd have cut the French to pieces in 1914 and there wouldn't have been enough British boots on the ground to prevent them reaching Paris. Germany would have become a superpower, assumed all the French and Dutch colonies, and would have engaged with Britian in an empire battle, probably winning it.

    In WWII, had Hitler not stopped the tanks when he did they'd have cut off the Dunkirk escape route. The Halifax contingent would have overthrown Churchill, and a peace brokered in which Britain would keep her Empire and Germany would have Europe (and, assuming they'd got cracking earlier in the summer and not been diverted to Stalingrad, would have had Russia as well). America would not have got involved and so we'd have a token British empire, Britain a puppet of Germany, America in splendid isolation and everyone else doing the bidding of the Germans and Japanese.

    Compared with either scenario, the British Empire was never the worst.

    15 Jun 2006, 15:18

  16. 1.:
    "I think we should probably all be more proud of our country"
    Absolute fallacy. Why?
    "...it does seem to be something that brings the nation together."
    Been reading the Sun too much? The First World War "brought the nation together", doesn't mean it was a good thing. Likewise any number of disgraceful military ventures. This is before we get on to the real issue: "something that brings the nation together"...what exactly does this mean, who benefits, why does it come about, does it really come about? Just because the press say something is "bringing a country together", doesn't mean anything practical is actually going on.

    Comment 8. is severely retarded. 1860s not relatively recent. You make me laugh.

    10.:
    "That said, the Pope can still fuck off."
    Anyone condoning that kind of chanting does not understand the political connotations to it, which have nothing to do with legitimate intelligent criticism of policies of Pontiffs past or present, or the Catholic heirarchy as a whole. Either that or you're just a racist.

    11.:
    "It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box."
    and so they should do!

    15 Jun 2006, 16:28

  17. James

    Vincent, suggest you read comment 8 again (not that it was mine, or requires my defence).

    15 Jun 2006, 16:37

  18. Interested Asian

    James Black,

    Can you back up your claim that India would probably have been poorer without the Empire? There is little evidence to suggest this. For sure India was struggling when invaded by Britain, but things only got worsened by British rule, to the extent that only recently has India started its recovery. I find it amusing that you should suggest India would have been poorer without the Empire.

    15 Jun 2006, 16:57

  19. James

    Again, not my post to defend, but I would observe that Britain brought the train system to India. And the education system and common law weren't so detrimental either. For anyone who likes knocking English commercial law, have a look at how much overseas legal business is conducted here. There must be a reason why Saudi oil merchants and New York bankers agree to litigate here when their particular agreements have no connection with London.

    India's recent recovery owes less to the time since the Empire dissolved than it does to the free market reforms introduced by recent Indian governments. A lot of international business comes India's way because the business language in India is English, a legacy of the Empire, of course.

    And India also had the incalculable benefit of having cricket brought to its shores, the highest achievement of humankind.

    15 Jun 2006, 17:14

  20. (and then beating England at it…)

    On the flags: threatening? No. Patriotic? No. Indicative of a load of morons jumping on a bandwagon because they can't be bothered to think for themselves? Yes.

    15 Jun 2006, 19:28

  21. Why should people identify with millions of people whom they will never meet just because they think they share a common culture?

    Is nationality/ethnicity a greater bond than age, gender, politics, religion or class? Some claim that consumption habits (e.g. whether or not you like football and/or fast cars) mean more to most people than national cultures.

    When I lived abroad I found that bonds of nationality were rather weak.

    15 Jun 2006, 21:31

  22. Anna Davies

    Hmmm most interesting…

    Just attended a Englandl–Trinidad+Tobago match in an Irish pub, in Rio that was at least 40% Brasilians in England shirts.

    Yeeees

    15 Jun 2006, 22:12

  23. I think this sums up some displays of "patriotism" fairly well: link

    15 Jun 2006, 23:06

  24. Globalisation has plenty of bad aspects, but undermining patriotism is a Good Thing in my opinion.

    Football allows men to express emotion. Men dealing with their emotions in a bad way leads to war and/or suicide link.

    So perhaps everyone should support teams from far away.

    16 Jun 2006, 09:34

  25. George, is it patriotism you object to or the actions of people in the name of patriotism? Obviously separating the two is sometimes difficult, but I think the distinction can still exist. Is it a general assumption that patriotism excludes the possibility of the acceptance of other cultures and even pushes towards racism? Because I'm not so sure it necessarily does.

    Vincent, what on earth is wrong with people feeling like they belong to some kind of community, be it a group of friends, a village or even a country? In my humble opinion many of the things that are dragging down society at the moment are at least partly associated with a loss of communities and identity (including even the basic family unit). Yes, there are plenty of things that are perhaps less glorious about English history, but there are also many, many reasons to be proud. Why overemphasise the negatives all the time?

    16 Jun 2006, 12:00

  26. James

    I wouldn't call myself especially patriotic, particularly in some sort of jingoistic sense, but I can't see the harm when it comes to sport. I think we are getting away from what Sarah posted about originally – those who see fit to object to people flying the English flag about a football match. My German friends were at a loss to understand why anyone would object to that – look at the German flags flying everywhere in their country at the moment. The negative connotations about the English flag that get wheeled out on these occasions apply with rather more historical weight in Germany, as everyone knows.

    It's all very well objecting to Col Blimp style blind patriotism. But there is a sinister alternative which the English like to cultivate – blind dislike of one's country instead. This leads to all sorts of things, one of which Mick Hume has written about in the Times this morning, and which I have reported on in my own blog.

    16 Jun 2006, 12:05

  27. How does patriotism help people identify with a community? In what sense can something as large as a typical country be considered a single community? Not being patriotic myself, I can't tell, but it doesn't really seem to be working. What, if any, benefits does patriotism provide? Why should you be proud of the achievements of people who happen to have lived in the same country as you?

    16 Jun 2006, 12:20

  28. James

    I wonder if Vincent is currently enjoying the football world cup? I'm not, because I consider it an inferior sport, to say the least, even if it is the most popular in the world. Instead I've been watching West Indies v India at cricket, and Ireland v New Zealand at rugby. All three games gifted to the world by the English. When any of those teams speak to each other, they do so by the world's language – English, which accounts for 80% of what's written on the web. A couple of things there to make you proud, Vincent you old curmudgeon.

    16 Jun 2006, 14:46

  29. "Vincent, what on earth is wrong with people feeling like they belong to some kind of community"

    I never said anything about it being "wrong" to feel like one belongs to a "kind of community", so I don't see why you've directed that at me.

    16 Jun 2006, 16:10

  30. Re comment #25.
    I don't know why I feel threatened by patriotism but I do. It all seems to be about excluding outsiders and creating a false sense of community – false as it glosses over the real differences between people who comprise any particular nation.

    Look at link from comment 47.

    OK I was being a little mischievous in seeing what happened when a claim was made that cleanliness wasn't exactly an English attribute – but instead of a debate about exactly how high the English are in the cleanliness league I got a load of abuse from some anonymous "nutter".

    As a matter of fact when my mother visited me in Stuttgart in the mid 1980's she remarked how clean it was – unlike the England of the day but like the England of the 1950's.

    16 Jun 2006, 16:11

  31. George, I'm not sure whether to thank you for directing me to that entry as it was far from pleasant! However, I take your point: I've see many similar examples, some of which have been here on my own blog.

    Why does a sense of community have to be false just because people within it are different? Are my friendships false just because I don't always see completely eye–to–eye with each of my friends? I know I probably seem naive in pushing this point, but I fail to see that the implications of community and patriotism always have to be negative. Should Christians not wear crosses, Muslims be forced to discard their hijab, or university students not wear society clothing because it's exclusive and threatening? These are all expressions of both individuality and of belonging. Granted, some have more negative connotations (the England flags being one, it seems), but is this due more to the actions of the minority than to the actual existence of the community itself?

    Vincent, to quote you:

    The First World War "brought the nation together", doesn't mean it was a good thing.

    Thus implying, I assumed, that you though it was a bad thing. Also, you questioned, 'who benefits' from bringing the nation together. I again assumed that you were implying there were no benefits. If I have assumed wrongly then I apologise. To clarify, do you just disagree with the reason for the existence of the community, i.e. a pride in the country, or are you saying that its very existence is a bad thing (or just not a good thing)?

    16 Jun 2006, 17:02

  32. "Football allows men to express emotion."

    Just as long as they don't do so in ways that involve starting riots and sending death threats to the referee whenever their team loses.

    16 Jun 2006, 20:51

  33. With religious faiths or political beliefs there are fairly clear criteria for inclusion. The beliefs can be pinned down; those who have them are members of the "community" (perhaps belief–group would be a better word – how can one be in a community with people whom one doesn't know?) those who don't, aren't. But what are the criteria for Englishness? Their very vagueness creates an enormous opportunity for unjust exclusion.

    After two World Wars and the events in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990's the sooner that patriotism dies out the better.

    17 Jun 2006, 09:22

  34. "Thus implying, I assumed, that you though it was a bad thing. Also, you questioned, 'who benefits' from bringing the nation together. I again assumed that you were implying there were no benefits. If I have assumed wrongly then I apologise. To clarify, do you just disagree with the reason for the existence of the community, i.e. a pride in the country, or are you saying that its very existence is a bad thing (or just not a good thing)?"

    First of all, "who benefits?" does not imply that there are no benefits, I'm asking you to think about who benefits. Just like I said. Funny that. Equally, when I said I thought it was incorrect to say that x "should" have more pride in their country, this did not mean I was saying any "pride" in a country is wrong.

    Secondly, you've confused two different things. "people feeling like they belong to some kind of community" is unrelated to the creation of chauvanistic nationalist opinion for the dual purposes of keeping the working class blind to their opression and forwarding the aims of the ruling elite. Very different to "people feeling like they belong to some kind of community", which essentially could be refraining from vandalising their area and looking out for old people.

    17 Jun 2006, 14:42

  35. James Black

    Vincent, I know you wont listen to this, but here it goes anyway.

    The rich/poor distinction in understanding the dynamics of ideologies is wrong. You get plenty of rich people believing violently in nationalism and you get plenty of poor people who are above these opiates and do not let themselves be indoctrinated. In truth the reason people believe in stuff like nationalism is because they are weak and stupid and hence they need a strong ideology to cling onto to give their lives meaning.

    Saying that it is the rich indoctrinating the masses is wrong because, as Lincoln (and Bob Marley) said, ‘you can fool some people some time, but not all the people all the time’. People aren’t fooled continuously because of some evil elite but rather its because they let themselves to be fooled and indeed they even want to be fooled (as they cannot handle the absurd truth of a life without meaning). Economic elites arise out of manipulating the ideology that is already in place, it doesn’t create the ideology.

    For example in the first four centuries of Christianity it was a dangerous and revolutionary religion spawned among the slave classes. At first the economic elite (the Roman nobles) were threatened by it, hence they persecuted Christians, but then by the fourth century they learnt how to adapt so you live with them and maintain their prosperity. But its important to note that it was the elite that was forced to changed. Their old Roman Gods and morality (like their love for war and selfishness) had to be sacrificed and the elite had to force themselves to become Christians to live.

    Another more modern example is the rise of capitalism. Originally the elite were the rural landlords. However then the middle class industrialists started advancing, and their power was put in risk. The old elite hated the new ways of the new industrialist class with their belief in ‘progress’ and ‘being practical’. However they realised that they couldn’t stem the tide, hence by the end of the 19th century they had migrated to metropolitan finance and had given up their old rural and religious ways.

    17 Jun 2006, 22:08

  36. James Black

    What I’m getting at is that its wrong to see the situation as the elite controlling the masses. In truth it’s the masses who need and hence sustain the ideologies. The elite just have to try to change appropriately to stay on top of an ever shifting and dynamic social structure. Hence if you get rid of the elite nothing would change in the long run. There could be some short term changed, but in the long run the stupid masses needs their lies and false consciousness. Consequentially they would create a new one for themselves, and as always as longs as there as mass movements there will always need to be an elite to rule them, and some enterprising individuals would take the place.

    However I think that many Marxists may agree with me on this point. Remember Marx’s famous aphorism about the philosophers only interpreting the world, the point however is to change it? The Marxists want to see a continuous revolution, continually bringing down the new dogmas that are being continually created (they believe by the rich, I think its by the weak), and hence continually force society back down to a state of equality. Hence society is a dynamic progress and is kept fresh (admittedly this isn’t full Marx, Marx himself believed in an end of history, however from conversations I had in the Marxist society and Marxist books I have read, I think that this is the general modern consensus among the modern radical left). I suppose that this mightn’t be a bad idea to run society. I am against this effort to bring continuous revolution, but that’s a different story which I cannot be bothered to go into right now. All I wanted in this blog comment was just to note that Vincent’s Marxist comment that Nationalism is the result of the elite indoctrinating the poor is actually wrong, or at least significantly short–sighted.

    17 Jun 2006, 22:08

  37. Emma

    I agree with Dean the pope can fuck off.

    17 Jun 2006, 23:17

  38. Vincent, I'm afraid I do think you're missing the point. I would argue that there's no particular reason why you can't class a country as a kind of community, albeit a large one, since all members share certain similarities. I agree that the ties are tenuous at times but the point is that there are many people out there who believe in patriotism. My point is that you are unwilling even to consider that a country might be a community on the basis that you don't agree that nationalism is positive. The two points are totally separate. Just because you don't think, because of your negative opinion towards it, that something isn't true doesn't mean that the fact that many others differ in their opinion is completely irrelevant.

    18 Jun 2006, 01:10

  39. James Black

    Sarah, I think that you’ve misunderstood Vincent. He’s not saying that a country cannot be classed as a community, he’s just saying that it’s a bad community because (as a consequence of its size, etc) its social structure is elitist and thus the vast majority of people in this ‘community’ as alienated from the reigns of power controlling it, hence they become mindless twats indulging in the illusion of the community but having no control over it.

    Take for example a microcosm, our University. Currently (lets assume) all the community relations in our universities are represented in the different clubs and societies. These are good because they are all quite small and democratic, hence people satisfies their needs to belong in a community but at the same time they have power to change that community, hence they become full and active humans who are not reified and can take command of their own lives.
    However what if tomorrow Kat Stark underwent a ‘university pride’ program. Posters were put up everywhere promoting the glory of Warwick University, a ‘we love Warwick’ day was set up, and so forth. The consequence would be for people not to identify with the communities set up in societies, like identify themselves as a member of the brass band society, but rather they would identify themselves as members of ‘Warwick University’. However the problem with this is that those who define what Warwick University is only an elite few in the students union. Consequentially they will naturally steer the community to such a coarse so to benefit them, the mass of believes on the other hand would just drift under the dogmatic rule of the union because they are alienated from the decision making powers. Thus the masses would be exploited while they stay stupid and reified and never becoming true human beings.

    P.S. have I interpreted you correctly Vincent? I’m might have got you wrong as this is actually what I believe (partially) and I wouldn’t want to miss define you for personal gain.

    18 Jun 2006, 10:42

  40. James, I kinda understand what you mean:

    "People feeling like they belong to some kind of community" is unrelated to the creation of chauvanistic nationalist opinion for the dual purposes of keeping the working class blind to their oppression and forwarding the aims of the ruling elite.

    I took the 'is unrelated to' to mean that community cannot be applied as a concept to nationalism and then the justification is unrelated to the point. However, I can see that it could mean that the existence (or not) of a community is independent from the creation and adaption of the society itself. I think. Hmmm, I'm not sure I'd agree with that…

    18 Jun 2006, 12:34

  41. James Black

    I didn’t read that ‘unrelated’ bit in my first reading, and now that you have pointed it out I not really quite sure what Vincent meant by it. My opinion anyway is clearly stated above. There is a relationship between people wanting to be part of a community and the creation of nationalism. Regardless of how extreme a Marxist you are it would be absurd to imagine that nationalism is purely the result of elitist indoctrination and in no way whatsoever partly because people willingly accept this indoctrination because they want to be part of a community.

    18 Jun 2006, 13:28

  42. Anyone who believes that nationalism is purely the result of elitist indoctrination may well be extreme, but probably wouldn't be much of a Marxist.

    The other point is how can a nation be considered as a community? Each individual only knows a tiny number of others in the same nation. There is, something like, a common culture – but a person of a certain age, gender and occupation from Korea will have many cultural similarities with someone of the same age, gender and occupation from Romania which sets them apart from their compatriots.

    Is there a parallel between belief in the nation and belief in God?

    19 Jun 2006, 12:19

  43. Hamid Sirhan

    Why China so much richer? It's pretty rich now, through exporting to the former Britsh Empire.

    Comment #15 James (without the Black)

    Hmmmmm let's throw some keywords at you:

    Silver
    Opium
    Taiping TianGuo
    Opium again
    Treaty Ports
    Boxer Rebellion

    Cause and effect. Would the Qing have fallen? Would Yuan ShiKai have risen? Would Jiang JieShi have risen? How about Mao ZeDong? How would a peasant from Hunan have risen to control China without the absolute weakening of the Qing dynasty at the hands of the British (along with a few nations)?

    Hmmmm a large bunch of what–ifs. But I think it could be safely said that had it not been for the 150 years of rape China suffered at the hands of the British Empire and then, indirectly because of the British Empire, it might not have suffered as much as it did and, as a result, might have had a more positive economic progression.

    19 Jun 2006, 20:23

  44. James

    Way off the topic, Hamid, so let's not get into it here. All this is wild speculation anyway. Let's also say no British Empire = a very different America, maybe not a superpower at all = nothing to stop Japanese expansion = China or large chunks occupied by Japan in the C20 and Chinese thereafter treated as forced labourers. We could go on with this for a while, but it deserves another thread, out of respect for this being Sarah's blog and her question rather different.

    20 Jun 2006, 10:12

  45. unpatriot

    Patriotism is an outdated emotion. Hopefully Sweden will beat England today, then Germany will knock England out, and the ridiculous hysteria will stop.

    20 Jun 2006, 14:08

  46. PistolPete

    Its because the flags are enjoyed mostly by the thug working class, who confuse 'support' with violence and hatred of the other team.

    The last thing you need is an alcoholic redundant thuggish class feeling overconfident and proud to be thuggish and violent. That, unfortunately is what the flag represents in England.

    In other countries football is genuinely liked by people who like football and enjoyed. In England it remains largely what it always was, a game designed to amuse the working classes and enable them to release their (natural, genetic) aggression and stupidity As such flag–waving and football supporters will always be associated with small–minded territorialism and violence. One of the largest users of police time is shepherding moronic thugs back and forth to games because they can't be trusted not to express their passion with fists, and three word sentences that use the word 'you' and two other swear words.

    If you are a nice middle class girl watching a football match in England, the chances that a fat ugly working class thuggy tosser who supports the otehr side will throw a bottle at you is pretty high and the flags celebrate this, which is why people hate them.

    The flag waving is linked with this kind of football moron (as, actually is most football in the UK) and so naturally makes people feel intimidated.

    I know for example that any time there is a football championship that I will wake up to smashed glass, fights, windows broken, and fucking horrible fat underdressed slappers vomiting in the street and fighting. That is what the flag represents – Scum

    29 Jun 2006, 10:48

  47. Interesting Claims

    "A lot of international business comes India's way because the business language in India is English, a legacy of the Empire, of course"

    But for the British Indian Empire, English would not have been a business language nor have the status it has today ! More than £ 10 trillion (not including interest) was looted out of the quite rich India of the middle 18th century, due to the British Ruling & Merchant barbarians !! The world would have continued to be (economically) China, India and only then Europe. Why China & India – because they had the best industries and were the biggest exporters even as close as 1800, making products desired worldwide.

    The rape of China and India will continue to be the worst disasters known in the last millennium, apart from the slave trade.

    03 Jul 2006, 17:52

  48. Re Interesting Claims

    Um yes, you obviously have no idea of the history of global trade, the domination of European methods of production, manufacturing, seamanship, methods of warfare, economics, management of natural resources, and political systems. China and India were exporting a great deal, but they were exporting to the incredibly well–organised, wealthy and efficient European (and burgeoning South and North American colonies – who were also developed populated and maintained by Europeans) markets using European trading routes, economies, ships and crews.

    The kind of bullshit that the last post propogates is the kind of bullshit that leads to phenomena like the Al Quaeda. India was ONLY rich because of the trade with Europe that only existed because of the trrading relationships set up by europeans!

    China and India were not 'raped' they were quite evidently not robust enough economically or politically – perhaps because the leadership in china is manifestly corrupt and self–serving??

    05 Jul 2006, 09:39

  49. Re interesting..

    Not to mention the fact that China and India are still using methods of production and energy generation that were obsolete in Europe many years ago. Have you forgotten how attractive western educational establishments are to students from these nations? Have you ever wondered why?

    05 Jul 2006, 09:41

  50. Hero

    India is not the reason why English is the business language of today for god sake, it is the fact that the British Empire covered the world, and set up colonies in North America (the USA in case you forget, is the world's most powerful economy EVER), Australia, India, Canada etc, and we had strong trading links with almost every country in the world.

    It is also the language of the most universal cultural exports for example, popular music, films, theatre, literature, television, radio etc etc.

    Not only this, but it is the most commonly learnt second language in Europe and so unites speakers of almost every other language on earth, including those speaking several forms of chinese, hindi, urdu, and punjabi!

    I am amazed that someone who is so obviously pro–india should know so little about the history of trade involving it!

    05 Jul 2006, 09:50

  51. This is where patriotism gets you. One bunch of patriots backing one country fighting against another bunch who happen to back another. Arguing over history – which can lead to no definitive answers as the historical record is always partial, no–one can travel back in time to check the apparent facts. Preparing for another war.

    05 Jul 2006, 09:53

  52. Hero

    Oh For god's sake! – just because there is some partiality doesn't mean that everyone's view is correct – even the fanatical and the uneducated! You are in a uni for god's sake! How would it really be if everyone in the exam gets a mark whatever they say because we don't want people to feel offended that we don't understand their view!

    There are some facts here, that are clearly backed up by the modern china and india – there are MASSIVE disparities in rich, urban v poor, in technology, transport, economy, education healthcare, etc etc EVEN TO THIS DAY! to suggest that these were wonderfully efficient nations brought to their knees by barbarians is just making things up!

    05 Jul 2006, 11:54

  53. I'm not suggesting that there shouldn't be debate about how India, China or the UK got to where they are today. In fact I'd say that any calm investigation of the evidence would soon explode the simplistic myths of the patriotic "them verses us" brigade.

    Every so–called nation is made up of classes and fractions of classes, each battling away trying to get advantage and often claiming that their interests are the "national interest".

    05 Jul 2006, 14:33

  54. James

    Interesting however that one finds strident examples of Indian or Chinese patriotism whilst English patriotism is much more controversial.

    I don't have enormously strong feelings of patriotism, but I really tire of the anti–patriots of the sort I mentioned in posts 11 and 26 above. I am with WS Gilbert, who said of them in the Mikado that: ‘they never would be missed –

    The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,

    All centuries but this, and every country but his own.’

    06 Jul 2006, 10:49

  55. Anti–patriotism begins at home. How can one critise other nations' patriotism if one isn't prepared to critisise one's own?

    Years ago I used to be anti–English, but then it slowly dawned on me that a knee–jerk support of any and all opponents of England meant few would listen. The argument might be raised that one can't really critisicise one's own nation's patriotism if one is not prepared to criticise other nations as well.

    Then again perhaps the real issue is not really about being anti one country and pro another – but "tribalism" – feeling personally attacked when criticism is made of one's "own side", no matter what they have got up to. Feeling that it is necessary to defend (or sweep under the carpet) the indefensible.

    07 Jul 2006, 11:52

  56. Interesting Claims

    The kind of bullshit in posts 48 and 50 makes one wonder how little people know about the British Empire before making assumptions !!
    Look at any history book, written even by European authors – they will tell you that, from the 1st Century A.D till at least the middle of the 18th century, China & India accounted for nearly 50% of the GDP of the world + progress in ALL spheres of civilization. Yes, most of the markets were European, simply because they could not manufacture the goods of the same quality !!
    China – "Gang Raped" by the Opium trade and slicing of the "Chinese Melon" by the barbaric European empires

    India – Total rape by the British empire

    When two such nations had grown for 18 centuries "organically", they could be undermined only by "loot & plunder" – the European powers realised this.

    So, stop making bullshit guesses on what would have happened had it not been for the European barbarian empires !!

    As for the English language being widespread (I welcome it), read the historical novel "The Victorians" by a British Author – he explains why and confirms that India & USA were central to its spread – it may have been Spanish otherwise !!!

    I am surprised by the ignorance shown by some of the people in these posts – confirming again, that, the Empire history is still being viewed as "European Colonisers"

    Ask the natives of the colonised and they will confirm the rape, plunder, loot, racism, segregation ETC. ETC. ETC. Even the administrative machinery like railways etc. were primarily built to facilitate the export of raw materials from colonies and not for ther benefit.

    And British and French cruelties can be recorded as only next to the Nazis, in their colonies..

    07 Jul 2006, 13:08

  57. Interesting Claims

    "Have you forgotten how attractive western educational establishments are to students from these nations? Have you ever wondered why?"

    Yes, they are attractive and this is a fact.

    And so were China and India to the "European Illegal Immigrants" in the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th centuries for their wealth, products and civilisation. This is a proven fact..

    Unfortunately, unlike the modern students, the "European Illegal Immigrants" choose not to be grateful, not to integrate but to steal & take over / attempt to take over thier hosts !!! High examples of European "moral values" !!!

    07 Jul 2006, 13:31

  58. Interesting Claims

    The above said, and back to the topic – the abundant display of English flags should be rightfully done and deserves it, by ALL English citizens in the UK. (Modern England bares little resemblance to the England of the Empire)

    What should not be done is "Pride in the Empire and prejudice resulting from the Empire". Hope I have made my point very clear.

    07 Jul 2006, 13:39

  59. Re:Interesting Claims

    You are forgetting that to take over and 'rape' a nation, you must have more economic, military and political power to do so, in order to gain that power you must succeed in more areas than the nations you are taking over and 'raping' so by default those nations are lesser, not greater nations.

    For example, if china really was a great economic, political and military powerhouse, why were other nations able to decide how to control china's markets and by definition its economy?

    11 Jul 2006, 10:21

  60. Re:Interesting Claims

    You are forgetting that to take over and 'rape' a nation, you must have more economic, military and political power to do so, in order to gain that power you must succeed in more areas than the nations you are taking over and 'raping' so by default those nations are lesser, not greater nations.

    For example, if china really was a great economic, political and military powerhouse, why were other nations able to decide how to control china's markets and by definition its economy?

    11 Jul 2006, 10:22

  61. Interesting Claims

    A thief, who has failed in other spheres of life, invades a rich civilised man, murders the man and his family by using stealth, deception & violence and loots & scoots with all his wealth. Is the thief the "stronger" person ? Who will be deemed a "criminal" in the eyes of law ??

    In the previous explanation the "rich civilised man" is 18th century China (or any other part of East / South Asia) and the gang of thieves is Britain / France / Portugal / Germany.

    Failures in other fields (and failure to grow "organically") & greed lead to nations ('lesser mortals') attacking and plundering other nations ('greater mortals'). The Imperial European nations have yet (except Germany) to stand trial for crimes against humanity / genocide etc !!!

    11 Jul 2006, 12:12

  62. Interesting Claims

    To add further, look at how many goods today available in Western Europe are "Made in China" ? China is not a rich country, not even a developed country, but more than 50% of all goods in Western Europe are "Made in China". Why is Western Europe not able to compete despite "advanced techniques" and "better political systems" ? Why is Eastern Europe more "competitive" as compared to Western Europe ??

    11 Jul 2006, 12:18

  63. Interesting Claims

    "BECAUSE WESTERN EUROPE DOES NOT HAVE AN EMPIRE ANY MORE" is the clear answer to my previous questions. Western Europe cannot compete with either the USA or the East without any empire building !!

    11 Jul 2006, 12:34


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