Saturday, September 10, 2011

Land of Hope and Glory?

So I find myself, without really meaning to, watching the Last Night of the Proms...

This is fairly nostalgic in some ways, because it is a big childhood memory for me. But I found myself wondering if Britain has finally cracked the idea of patriotism without nationalism. Is is possible to be proud of who we are without some kind of superiority complex?

Watching this evening, one thing was particularly noticeable to me, amongst the many union flags being waved by an audience clearly having a very very good time were the flags of many nations. In about 5 seconds I spotted Arab nations, Scandinavian nations, as well as at least one German flag.

I have to admit a certain tingle down my spine at the sing-along of Land of Hope and Glory but then the music is a powerful anthem and when one listens to music, one is choosing to allow oneself to be emotionally manipulated by it. And maybe it doesn't run any deeper than that, but I wonder, we have so much to be thankful for as Britons, so many freedoms and benefits that much of the world does not have. These are things to be proud of, grateful for, never complacent of and willing to fight for.

Can we be proud of who we are and yet not consider ourselves better than others? Given our history - especially of empire building which was much more self-serving than benevolent (but strangely, not entirely) there are clearly massive issues. But in the past half-century we have changed as a nation and we don't see ourselves as Imperialists any more. Maybe that makes Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory completely out of place and wrong.

But maybe, just maybe we can be proud of who we are and yet not nationalist-supremacists. If the flags are anything to go by, I think we can.