About 5 years ago, I was invited to a street party. I can’t remember what it was but it was something to do with royalty, either a wedding or anniversary or something of the like. Whatever it was, I didn’t go because I didn’t want to.
Instead, I walked a long stretch of the River Kennet revisiting the fishing venues of my youth in what was my own little day of English nostalgia. As I did so, I wondered to myself why I couldn’t face joining in with such an event where, after all, everyone was going to have a good time waving flags and eating scones under the village bunting.
However, I just couldn’t do it. Something inside me won’t allow myself to attend what I can only see as celebrating subservience. I was adamant with everyone that I was more than happy to have a day of isolation and let them get on with enjoying their day in peace. However, despite not criticising their choice of entertainment, I left under a cloud of negative accusations that I found grossly unfair.
Since then, I have often wondered why, if you are apathetic towards royalty and don’t fly flags or weep uncontrollably when one of them passes away, you are bracketed as unpatriotic? After all, I love the most English of games, cricket, I love the hills and the patchwork fields, I love our craggy coastlines and I love real ales. However, I also love the idea of equality and I would have to be starving to death in a ditch to bow to anyone.
Patriotism is a subject that you can’t talk about in public and definitely not in your professional capacity because it can cost you friends and business. If you are a politician, it will cost you votes. Even if you had definitive end to economic uncertainty and a cure for cancer, people would vote against you if you were reluctant to bow to Her Majesty. Why is that? It’s utterly ridiculous when you think about it.
So that leaves a large number of patriots in a sort of England’s no man’s land, not wishing to show patriotism as it placed in a box labelled ‘MONARCHIST’. These equality patriots have given up hope and stayed quiet and the political leftists refusal to embrace patriotism has undoubtedly left a vacuum for far right loons to fill. There are plenty of them as well, gaining popularity through patriotic buffoonery (Johnson, Farage, Rees Mogg etc etc) is all the rage right now.
I watched something by the comedian Micky Flanagan the other week called ‘Thinking Out Loud’. I found it helped me understand my patriotism or accusations of lack of it, a lot more. Flanagan is an unflinching patriot. He loves all things British but just can’t understand subservience. Of course, as a comedian, patriotism is a really thorny issue as it has the potential to lose you your audience, just like it does for an amateur blogger like me.
With that in mind, I found it really heartwarming that whilst it would be really easy to shut up and say nothing, Flanagan was prepared to stick with his instincts and tackle a subject that is littered with danger in a world of social media where one irrational tap on the keyboard can have you branded as satan.
Shortly after I watched that, I came across a programme on Radio 4 called ‘The English Fix’. The programme focused on George Orwell’s book ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ and the fact that Orwell was a leftist patriot. The book has had a huge influence on songwriter and socialist political activist, Billy Bragg, who, as a guest on the programme, laments the internationalist ideologies of political left. Bragg sees the left as neglecting patriotism at home, blaming them in part for it falling into the hands of political right, then the far right.
As well as being really interesting, it helped me understand my own patriotic status. It convinced me that yes, I can be a patriot without being a Monarchist. Inclusive patriotism was one term I heard on the programme and I can kind of remember feeling that kind of culture in Italy (Sorrento) a place where you can enjoy tradition but if you dare interfere with it, stand well back.
In case you were unsure, Italy has been a republic since a referendum abolished the Monarchy in 1946 and whilst it hasn’t been without its problems, if anyone tells me it has become unpatriotic since losing the Monarch, they are a liar. The same can apply to France, Germany, Ireland and countless other countries across the European Union, in fact, across the world. America is a republic of course but examples of American patriotism are not perhaps ideal, particularly in the context of this post.
So anyway, whatever your patriotic feelings are, this programme is a really interesting insight into a traditionally prickly subject where the political right have hijacked patriotism and the political left have neglected it to such an extent it has often become too poisonous (look at our football fans) to be associated with any longer.
When I walked along the River Kennet all those years ago, I was furious at the accusations levelled at me because they were without substance. Just because you don’t feel obliged to wave flags or throw roses at a hearse, it doesn’t define you as having a negative and miserable personality. It also doesn’t make you unpatriotic either, we are just taught to think that way.
It appears to me that it is a case where the political left played straight into the hands of the right.
The River Kennet looked resplendent by the way.
You can listen to ‘The English Fix’ by clicking on the link below.