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?
[Get apoplectic.me’s more whimsical and personal cousin here.]
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….
3 thoughts on “The State of Origins, Pt. 2”
There’s a lot of conversation over here right now about “New York Values”, thanks to Ted Cruz and his various bemoaning of said values and Donald Trump responding at scale for his own benefit. But it does make you think about what bits of art you want to represent your nation.
Before you go changing your anthem, I’d suggest you realize that the state song of New York is “I Love New York”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO7s02PvG2U, which I’m sure sounded like a good idea when they picked it in (I guess) the 70s but I can’t exactly see our brave soldiers or athletes walking on field to it during an event of state or competition of some sort. So I guess I wonder what the songs are actually for and where they have to fit.
Right now I’m listening to BlackStar, which is a pretty good Bowie album actually. But no anthems there. And as much as I’d like “Low” to be the album from which we were forced to pick anthems in some sort of 1970s tribute future dystopia (and that’s not a bad sci-fi story maybe), I don’t think that’s it. Though perhaps Sanders or Corbyn would pick Changes because they haven’t listened to the words?
Then of course, there’s the fairly famous “Born in the USA” Ronald Reagan / Springsteen mix up. And Charlie Crist / David Byrne. And many other examples. I think the Nuge is pretty happy for the R’s to use his songs, but I do wonder how the original artists would react to Rubio’s well-documented love of hip hop.
And (true) this week I went to talk to a group of fifth graders about “El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido“, the song most associated with the Allende government, and the Rzewski re-imagining of it as a modern theme and variations.
So what am I saying? Modern music seems political or insufferable when placed in the service of an anthem if you aren’t in a point of tumult. So sticking with oldies may be OK, as long as they don’t have obviously terrible lyrics. I’m sure there was some anthem at some point with some lyric like “and we shall press our slaves / to raise our glory” or the like. Lets get rid of that obvs. Otherwise change will be tricky, unless it’s accompanied with real change in the underlying state of affairs (like the Allende-era song).
But really, we are lucky in America to have some really great current music be about the formation of our country. So if I had to pick a new Anthem, I guess I’d pick this.
Wow. New York really is special. If only they’d had the courage of their convictions, and just gone for The Hustle. (Don’t forget folks, apoplectic.me discusses the origins of “I Love NY” over here.)
That’s whole comment is such tremendous fun that I think I’ll be taking a little diversion next week. In the meantime, I’ll forward to hearing more about your G5 (if you will) lecture. Personally, I prefer the Sham 69 version. And I’ll remark that “Heroes” is a pretty good Bowie number for having its multiple messages smothered by a rush to anthemic adoption.
Hamilton‘s indescribably awesome My Shot is
really what’s driving this little period of apoplectic.me. Of course. Here’s another link for anyone who’s in a location where the one above doesn’t work.
Suffice to say, after checking the Hamilton cast recording on Spotify, I rushed off to buy the whole thing. I can’t encourage anyone reading this to do the same thing quite enough. As noted in off-line correspondence, I want to be Lin-Manuel Miranda when I grow up to be some years younger than I am today.
A comedy writer I follow on Twitter (@damienfahey) tweeted out this beeb clip where you can hear the isolated vocals in the song. Worth it