It’s been yet another overwhelming few weeks where every time we have tried to write, we’ve either been a) exhausted by the onslaught of news or b) just don’t know where to start.
We live under a constant, rotating maelstrom of shit. We have a new Covid variant in town directly because of the incompetent and irresponsible decisions made by Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. He failed to stop travel to and from India in time to keep the new variant out. Indeed, the ‘Indian variant’ has been rebranded as the ‘Delta variant’, we think in part to obfuscate the link between where it came from, and Johnson failing to impose a travel ban to and from said location.
We’ve been through this TWICE already, remember once with the original virus from Wuhan and the other with the Kent … I mean Alpha variant.
So, what else would a cult-like leader such as Boris Johnson do when the chips are down, and the vaccine bounce is beginning to display side-effects because Covid cases are the highest they’ve been since February 2021 directly because of the Delta variant?
You endorse the ‘broad aims’ of ‘One Britain One Nation’ (or OBON, as it is catchily shortened to) whereby school children are lined up in their classrooms and told to sing a little nationalistic song on Friday 25th June. They can even wear red, white and blue. You show some generic support for it but keep enough distance so that if it isn’t popular, it doesn’t look too bad for you. If it’s a success, you can say that you always supported it. Win-win.
The superficial aims of OBON endorsed by Johnson and Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, are to ‘promote fundamental British values.’ A spokesperson for Johnson said, ‘The prime minister supports schools promoting [. . .] tolerance and respect. We endorse One Britain One Nation’s aims to help children learn about equality, kindness and pride.’ (The Times).
Tolerance. Respect. Equality. Kindness. Pride.
Now, these are indeed very important values for young people to learn and display. The problem is that those in power, and particularly the PM, demonstrate none of these values (except perhaps pride, but that’s more in The Seven Deadly Sins sense). The truth is they don’t endorse OBON because they believe in these values: they do it as a form of propaganda to win votes. They don’t want unity, they want conflict, because that is what they feed off.
So, OBON does a couple of useful things: it stokes up patriotism and allows that to be the topic of debate for a while. It should work to get escalating Covid infections out of the papers and help to keep the polish on the vaccine rollout that Johnson is so heavily reliant upon. The papers will be full of, ‘What’s wrong with children singing a sweet song about all being one together?’ Any debate on patriotism and Englishness/Britishness allows Johnson to do his best Winston Churchill impression and grab a few headlines without the party-pooping spectre of Covid. It returns Johnson to his preferred territory of jingoism, getting Brexit done and the identity politics of Englishness (he cloaks it as Britishness, but it is always, always Englishness that he really means).
We don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this predictable display of authoritarianism and opportunistic nationalism. It’s authoritarian populist 101. It plays heavily into identity politics, but we find the use of children in this charade particularly distasteful. If ministers supported the ‘broad aims’ of this wannabe anthem at any time before 2016, they would have been regarded as right-wing nuts with an extreme agenda. Unfortunately, these right-wing nuts are now part of an actual right-wing UK government, where these kinds of absurd displays are becoming increasingly common.
OBON also splits people into two very broad camps: you’re either a) for it and support children singing this proud, stirring song or, b) you’re against it. You are not patriotic and might as well just spit on The Queen.
Pick your side because there is no middle ground. You either draped in a flag or you’re burning one.
However, we feel confident that Johnson and Priti Patel will be actively supporting a child’s right to boo during the song if they wish. Just like Johnson and Patel said it was the right of English football fans to boo whilst players took the knee before matches. Johnson and Patel stated that they don’t like passive gestures, you see. They only like action.
And children singing songs, it would appear. Also, don’t forget clapping.
The irony for us is that this is so wholly un-British. We don’t do stuff like this. We are not Kim Jong-un’s North Korea, and we are not Vladimir Putin’s Russia, where these kinds of nationalistic songs are sung by children. To be brutally honest, it is a bit Hitler Youth. Indeed, Hitler Youth groups:
‘[Allowed] the Third Reich to indoctrinate children at their most impressionable [and] let the Nazis remove them from the influence of their parents, some of whom opposed the regime. The Nazi Party knew that families – private, cohesive groups, not usually under political sway – were an obstacle to their goals. The Hitler Youth was a way to get Hitler’s ideology into the family unit.’ (History)
Are you scared yet?
Government support for One Britain One Nation Day demonstrates, along with other things that are happening, e.g., the shutting down of protests, plans for voter ID, just how far to the right our beloved little island has gone. All these things, and others, would have been unthinkable pre-Brexit.
We hate to agree with those in power, but the time has indeed come to pick your side. Except, we differ with the government’s definition of patriotism. For us, patriotism is resisting this harmful, criminal and reprehensible government. The very essence of patriotism is resisting what you know is harmful to your country, not just acquiescing to what your government tell you to do.
If you think that what we have written here seems far-fetched or even hysterical, please remember that the Third Reich did not start with firing squads, lynching, death camps or any one of their worst atrocities. Those things came later as support grew and resistance was stifled. It instead began insidiously, with young boy scouts singing nationalistic songs around the campfire.
~ L&A 24.6.21 ~