Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Lion, the Unicorn and the Olympics

This is a bit off topic but even I have noticed that there's a big sporting event going on.

Since the Olympic opening ceremony diluted the cynicism of so many of us on the left about what had seemed a corporate jamboree, and moreso since so many medals have been won for "Team GB" by a wonderfully diverse body of athletes (answering so decisively the stupid bigotry of the BNP and EDL), many on the left have been wondering how to relate to patriotism.

The answer has always been in front of us in the words of one of our greatest - if deeply flawed - English socialists, Orwell (http://www.k-1.com/Orwell/site/work/essays/lionunicorn.html). Follow that link and read that essay if you have not.

I know that the whole world is my country and my only law is liberty - but I also know where I come from and that this place gave human history the Peasants' Revolt, the first execution of a monarch by republicans in modern times, the Levellers and Diggers, the first trade unions, the Suffragettes and the Welfare State - never mind the hard won tolerance driven by the sacrifices of those who arrived in the Empire Windrush and in so many other ways.

I also know that, from Sussex, Thomas Paine took ideas of liberty to both America and France when it mattered most.

As Orwell acknowledges in his essay, there is of course much that is shameful in the history of England and Britain. Much of this relates to Imperialism. The Union Jack has deservedly been called the "Butcher's Apron".

I'm a British Subject not proud of it, while I carry the burden of shame - but I am also an English, and therefore British, citizen in a tradition which includes all the native radicalism mentioned above in which there is much that is laudable from the perspective of human progress.

I don't stand up for "God Save the Queen" (believing in neither deity nor monarchy) but I am proud of where I come from and of the contribution to humanity made by people from the place to which I belong.

After the Olympics I look forward very much to our chasing the English Defence League's inebriated and ugly "March for England" out of Brighton next year for the last time - and to finding out whether the flabby bigots can run as fast as our diverse and multicultural Olympic athletes.

I'm not sure any of this amounts to patriotism but there's nothing wrong with pride in a place to which you have a connection.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've read Homage to Catalonia, Animal farm and a collection of his articles from his time on Tribune, so I would be interested in knowing what was so 'deeply flawed' about one of the greatest if not the greatest English political writers of the 20th century.

Dave Draycott

Anonymous said...

Jon,
Firstly you say Orwell was 'deeply flawed' , a generality. When I ask in what way, you reply that he forgot to be part of the left in the end. Another generality.
Orwell struggled to find a publisher for '1984'. Was Orwell 'flawed' or were the left wing publishers flawed. They knocked the book back because it attacked Stalin's USSR. Orwell had the moral courage to stand against the common sense of a lot (not all) of the Left at the time and Orwell did it at the time that it mattered.
So again how was Orwell 'flawed'?
My apologies to Orwell by the way. Had a think. He was the greatest English political writer of the 20th century. Not least because he had guts.
Dave Draycott

Anonymous said...

Jon,
Firstly you say Orwell was 'deeply flawed' , a generality. When I ask in what way, you reply that he forgot to be part of the left in the end. Another generality.
Orwell struggled to find a publisher for '1984'. Was Orwell 'flawed' or were the left wing publishers flawed. They knocked the book back because it attacked Stalin's USSR. Orwell had the moral courage to stand against the common sense of a lot (not all) of the Left at the time and Orwell did it at the time that it mattered.
So again how was Orwell 'flawed'?
My apologies to Orwell by the way. Had a think. He was the greatest English political writer of the 20th century. Not least because he had guts.
Dave Draycott