A blog established in the aftermath of a catastrophic stroke necessarily dwells on issues of personal identity. There have certainly been plenty of those sorts of posts over the past three-and-a-bit years.
But last week found me thinking about the origin stories and “values” of various countries. The French and the Americans have theirs, of course. Forged in, respectively, the white hot heat of revolution and, er, revolution. Eras that demanded flags and symbols and identities around which to rally. Their own spasm-ing bouts of apoplexy, if you will.
So, where does that leave national constructs closer to home?
Well once again, where apoplectic.me leads, others follow. Last week, the House of Commons at Westminster debated a 10-Minute Motion proposing that a that a public consultation be launched to decide which song would best serve as an English national anthem.
MPs agreed on Wednesday that the bill should be given its second reading in parliament in March. To be fair to the little Dutch boy above, the French and Americans’ ditties are also martial affairs, with varying levels of bloodthirstiness. The UK’s official national anthem (as usually sung), is a very different affair.
Some folks would suggest that the lines beseeching the Lord grant that Marshal Wade… by thy mighty aid… sedition hush.. rebellious Scots to crush are a mere aberration, but we’ll get to the Big Picture in due course.
Anyway, Labour MP Toby Perkins kicked off his proposal for the motion in the following terms:
I would like to say at the outset that I am neither a republican, nor an atheist nor an English nationalist … Members should detect no hostility in me towards God, her majesty the Queen, to God Save the Queen or to the United Kingdom.
Perkins’ wiki page is singularly uninformative about his political opinions, but from that I guess he must be one of those “moderate” Labour MPs I keep reading about. As opposed to the “left-wing” party members at large.
As Billy Connolly has pointed out, the Queen probably doesn’t need much saving. Her days of stripping asbestos from council flats and working down t’mine are long behind her now. And for all that 10-Minute Motions usually end up sloping off to die in the Westminster basement, eminent journalist Phil Space has been pondering the merits of possible replacements for God Save the Queen. Billy Connolly’s old proposal of The Theme to The Archers appears to have been supplanted in the public’s affections by William Blake’s Jerusalem.
I have to admit I’d be a little jealous if English sports fans got to tie that one down.
Please be upstanding for The JAMs, at 2m 40.
Phil writes that the religiosity of Jerusalem is unsuitable for a largely and increasingly secular England, and that its poetry is clichéd and hackneyed. Unsurprisingly, I’d agree with Billy Bragg, who recently remarked while playing Jerusalem in Edinburgh to warm applause – from a hall full of Scottish Billy Bragg fans – that the reinvention of Englishness for a modern world could be a force for reforming good.
Because surely a engagement in such a project could only be a good thing. In the meantime, we’re subject to hot air about non-existent “British values“, and an anthem that – in the absence of anything else on which to be based – beseeches the long life of a woman already living under the most favourable circumstances imaginable by an accident of birth….