“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” said Samuel Johnson. “Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious” said Oscar Wilde.
What say you? And what say you to those who believe that patriotism can only be expressed by ostentatious embracing of the flag?
Or rather, The Flag?
By order of a scoundrel, The Flag must now be displayed outside public buildings 365 days a year. And other flags must be flown in a subordinate position in order to reinforce our colonial past. Its absence is now regarded as an indication of lack of patriotic fervour, according to a Tory MP who criticised the new (Tory, Tory donor) Director-General of the BBC for producing an annual report without a single image of the flag – a charge which, paradoxically or perhaps hypocritically, could also be applied to the 2019 Conservative manifesto.
This flag-waving is trivial and pathetic in itself. But it points to something rather more serious and profound.
The flag is no longer an emblem of unity and democracy, but a statement of political philosophy. Or, at least, a statement of a motley collection of prejudices and bigotry.
The extreme right, the Tommy Robinsons, the Nigel Farages et al, appropriated the union flag as a form of short hand for racism. Patriotism itself became a synonym for white privilege.
It is this manifestation of the flag which has been embraced by Johnson and the Conservative Party. And before we know it, it will be by law propping up classrooms and assemblies of all kinds.
Already, it has been adopted in a toadying, servile manner by Starmer and the ‘leadership’ of the Labour Party. And there are many, including me, who fear that this move anticipates the adoption of the policies and attitudes which the flag now represents.
Democracy is discussion, debate, disagreement. The flag is about none of these things. In the 21st century, it symbolizes the imposition of one set of values over all others.
And when it is flown atop any number of greasy poles, I for one will not salute it.
Today from the everysmith vaults: I’m listening to the Dead in 1981, a 3 hour plus show from Essen. The band is on great form until they welcome on-stage one Pete Townsend from The Who. It’s not a great mix, I’m afraid.