Thursday, 27 May 2010

Patriotism is…

Call me an old cynic, but I believe that patriotism is believing that my country is best because I was born there. I say this because, wherever I’ve travelled, everyone says “This is the best place to live; it’s got (weather/food/culture/freedom) etc., etc.” Now, with the world cup almost upon us, I see England flags sprouting all over the place and it makes me a bit uncomfortable.

I love England; I love its damp, cold weather that suddenly turns into bright Summer or breaks into storms. I love its people and the way we do things. I love the sense of fairness even though I bemoan the mob mentality and our venal newspapers (News! Hah!). But, growing up politically in the late 60s and 70s, I came to associate the flag of St George (who he?) and even the union flag with racism, white supremacism, English nationalism and all the things I hate. I see nationalism as the great blight of the 20th century and I’m not sure it’s going to be any better in the 21st. As far as I’m concerned, “the more we do together, the merrier we will be” (sic). I don’t know what it proves to drive around with tiny flags of St George fixed in your car windows – “…more patriotic than thou…”?

Anyway, to happier things; the Olive tree we thought we had killed by not keeping it wrapped up during the pretty hard Winter is springing buds! And there was me thinking it had gone to the great olive press in the sky. We’ve been giving it a bit of feed, though I wouldn’t normally do this with an olive. Hopefully it might get off to a start and build up its strength before I have to move it into the Summer House for the Winter.

The May blossom is now out on all the trees opposite and the scent is overwhelming.

Our black tulips are just about hanging on, but the Lilac is a picture and, for the first time, the Wistaria, Cinensis Alba, that we bought after seeing the one at Wisley, is in flower.

We’re still buying plants for our huge collection of pots. I went down and supported the Gardeners’ Association – “…the more we do together…” and bought enough to be going on with but haven’t had time to pot them yet.

Ought to have a bit more time now that the Lord Mayor’s year for the charity of which I’m vice-chair is coming to an end. It’s been hard work, but I think we’ve done well. Now we have to think of our ongoing fundraising without the help of the Lord Mayor’s Committee.


  1. Like you Jim, I love Britain, but whenever I see that flag I feel uncomfortable. I feel uncomfortable with patriotism too being with Dr Jonson who said that it was the last refuge of a scoundrel. For me, patriotism is a short hop from jingoism.

    This is a wonderful patch of land to be born on and to live on, but I don't for a moment think it makes me better than anyone who lives elsewhere.

    I definitely agree that the more we do together the merrier we will be!! Whose round is it?!

  2. I don't recall seeing the English Cross of St George in the 60's and 70's except flying from a church on St George's Day.

  3. I feel uncomfortable when fellow Englishmen express their discomfort at displays of England's national flag.

    It seems other nations do not have this problem and fly their flags freely and perennially.

    You've been 'got at', gentlemen.

  4. There is a bit of up yours mentality about flying the English flag. Since devolution new labour/lib/dem in the main have harrassed people displaying the flag using racism and later health and safety regulations to dissuade people from using it.
    The fact of the matter is an English flag means an English Country and new labour were horrified as they were busy carving England into regions. The name of England has been studiously ignored since 1997 and the tories are no champions of England either.
    The racist cosh was easier to use for the Fabianistas rather than having to explain they intended to rub England off the map.
    The English Flag should be normalised and not used a flag of protest. The government should start by flying it over Westminster Parliament as proof that English concerns are being dealt with fairly within the UK

  5. It makes you fell "uncomfortable" to see the English Flag Flying !!as ALW says HAVE been got at,shame on you!

  6. An interesting piece, but I don't think you make the fundamentally important distinction between delusions of national supremacy -old nationalism- and patriotism -the love of one's country- the latter of which you expressed in your article. There is a lot to love about England without the infantile need to presume we are inherently superior to anyone else, and this is the kind of nationalism we need to take forward.

    To my mind, it is of paramount importance that we recognise the good things about the country, feel rightly proud of them and celebrate them accordingly. Only then will we see the end of arrogant jingoism or the use of national flags & symbols as emblems of hatred.

  7. The Cross of St George was prominently displayed on the sails of the Armada that preserved this country from being a pensioner of Spain.

    The Cross of St George has been the symbol of England for more centuries than you obviously can image.

    You claim to love England, and I don't doubt that you do, but to say that the flag of the country you love makes you 'uncomfortable' says far more about you than it does about those that fly it with 'comfort'.

    Sad really, who made you ashamed of your country.

  8. Thanks to all those who sent comments. I find them very interesting but I'm not interested in flames. What makes me uncomfortable is not that I'm ashamed of my country, just of the attitudes of some who claim to love it. I ain't been 'got at'. Don't patronise me or anyone else who tries to think these things through, especially if you're staying anonymous.


  9. Jim

    Permit me to remove a little anonymity.

    AlW = Al Wilson, septuagenarian, Yorkshireman and Member of the (non-political) Campaign for an English Parliament.

    Good wishes.