On the dangers of patriotism, with reference to the referendum

It is five years from now. Economic growth has slowed, prices have risen, wages have fallen. The economic and political climate is unstable. Racism and xenophobia continue to rise. Life is bad.

But at least now we live in Great Britain, ever since we took back control. Control of our identity, control of making Britain great British again. A Great Britain that is about being British. British values. Values of Britishness. The British people. The patriotic British people, who have pride in their country and their heritage and their people. Because pride, after all, is a good old British value.

Yes, life is bad. But we don’t mind. At least we have our patriotism.

You head home from working eight straight hours without a break. It’s hard, but you don’t mind too much – you need the money to cover the petrol costs of the commute, even though you carpool. The buses haven’t run for months, now. Unfortunately, you’re only 23 so you’re not entitled to the gloriously generous National Living Wage. Otherwise life would be a breeze.

The referendum debate was dominated by ideas and ideals of nationality, identity, patriotism

There’s just enough time to pop into the bank before heading home. Your financial situation had a bit of a complication when the last branch moved out of your local area. For some reason a lot of the people who worked there have moved to Dublin now.

On your way to the bank, you see a dirty foreigner being verbally abused in the street. At least, that’s what you would have thought was happening a few years ago, but now that we’ve done away with political correctness the abusers aren’t really doing anything wrong. They’re entitled to their opinions, anyway. The foreigner doesn’t say anything about it. Stiff upper lip and all. The few non-Britons who are left are finally learning our values.

You turn off your windscreen wipers as you pull into a parking space next to a “Nissan” car, whatever one of those is, and you tut loudly at the car opposite that’s taking up two spaces. Isn’t Britain great. You have to wait half an hour to see anybody, but at least everybody waiting knows how to queue properly. But how couldn’t they, after all. They’ve got British values running through their British blood.

The default nature of patriotism is extremely dangerous

The city centre is starting to get a bit rundown since EU funding for projects was withdrawn. On your way back home, you switch on the radio. Your local BBC station was shut down after the Tories cut funding for it. White noise. You consult the depths of your knowledge archives for the best British value to mitigate the situation. Ah, got it. You apologise to the other people in the car.  They say it’s fine, really. You feel good about yourself, your country. You are a Great Briton, and proud to be one. You live in a great country, and you are happy to do so.

/

The referendum debate – and, indeed, increasingly politics in general in this country – was dominated by ideas and ideals of nationality, identity, patriotism. The narrative was created, and created successfully, by the Leave side that they were patriotic optimists, sticking up for Britain and everything that made our country great in the first place.

They invoked ideas of duty and betrayal, of past greatness and future return, of pride and patriotism. People listened.

But why should they have? Regardless of which option was “patriotic”, why should we be patriotic?

please do not use ideas of pride and duty to further ideas of racism and xenophobia

This, increasingly, is not a country that I am proud of. I don’t think I do “vigorously support” my country. Of course, there are aspects of it that I love and that I am proud of, but in its current state and undertaking its current endeavours I cannot call myself a patriot.

In fact, I think the default nature of patriotism – the fact that national pride is something we should all feel, something that unites us, and something that those who don’t feel it should be shunned and stigmatised as traitors for – is extremely dangerous.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with being proud of your country, but when this pride is a default or an expectation or a feeling that comes from a position of assumed superiority, then it moves precariously towards being frightening.

I am perfectly happy for people to belt out the national anthem while waving St George’s crosses or Union flags. Please do queue properly and apologise needlessly. No, really, do, I love it. But please do not use ideas of pride and duty to further ideas of racism and xenophobia. Patriotism easily becomes nationalism. And that only leads us towards a dark, scary road that I thought the world would never travel down again.

the calls for change and the desires for political revolution must be answered more positively

However, it seems to me as if this road is currently under construction.

Of course the referendum was not singly about immigration, but it would be a lie to deny that it wasn’t the main issue for most of the public. And the public attitude appears to be becoming more and more intolerant. Hate crimes rose 500% last week. Across the continent, and, indeed, the world, the xenophobic far right are making ground. The current economic and political instability, coupled with the public’s disenfranchisement and (rightful) mistrust, will do nothing to help this.

But this is a situation we have been in before. And this time the calls for change and the desires for political revolution must be answered more positively.

Hopefully, in true British style, the roadworks will do very little. Hopefully we will choose a different journey.

But if we don’t, then I dread to think what this country will become. There will be chaos. And that definitely isn’t very British, is it?

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Author: Jack Taylor

Hey, I'm Jack, a 19 year old English student at the University of Nottingham. Writing goes from creative fiction to serious non-fiction. Hope you enjoy :)

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