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Ruuuuule Britannnnniiiaaa

It's a sensible course of action when you're about to say something which might be touch contentious to get your excuses in early doors, so I'd better get my mea culpa in sharpish: I am entirely aware that this whole argument about Rule Britannia etc is an entirely confected culture war row designed to distract from the truly awful fist that HMG is making of, well, most things. I am, furthermore, aware of it's relative irrelevance when set against the slightly more important issues which face us, viz. global pandemic, imminent economic collapse, and incipient destruction of the earth's ability to heal itself. 

But I'm going to write a blog post about it anyway, I am that shallow. Soz.

It won't be a particularly long blog, you'll be pleased to hear, because it can be relatively easily summed up, to wit: incoming director of the ossified Proms thinks "hey, an audience free year might be the time to freshen up the schedule", reckoning the lack of red faced types in Union Flag waistcoats won't be around to miss it. Had there been an audience, I doubt it would have been an issue.

But no! Predictably the outriders of the conservation of white privilege, otherwise known as the Conservative and Unionist party of Great Britain, and their tame press, with depressing inevitability,. jumped on the channce to open up yet another front in their increasingly tedious culture war. The word "woke" got used a lot.

(as an aside, I was grimly amused to see an outbreak of outrage from these types last week when the National Trust, reasonably enough, mentioned that they were going to contextualise some of their homes and exhibits with information about how they were built {spoiler: slave money}. A common complaint seemed to be that by adding historical information they were, ah, "erasing history". Laugh? I nearly did)

Without wading too deeply into the argument about whether or not performing these songs sans lyrics is a good thing or not (I'm not sure my preferred option of replacing the Proms with a three-week Stereolab retrospective would be all that popular, so it's not really for me to say what people want to have a sing-sing to) I would like to ask these self-appointed guardians of our history and culture, dismayed as they are by perceiving it being assailed at every turn, precisely how much of the lyrics of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory they actually know.

I've got a tenner on one verse.

Because, much as with the National anthem, the purpose is to belt out a bit and then descend into an awkward muttering, because, as with the Marseillaise, to be fair, once you start getting into it a bit it all gets a bit bloodthirsty. In a sense, it's perfect for Middle England, full of fat blokes in their fifties who have somehow convinced themselves that they fought in World War Two despite being born in the Sixties. 

Culture Warriors often make the excuse that you can't judge the past by the standards of the present. (This particular fig leaf is a trifle historically illiterate, there was plenty of opposition to slavery at the time - it was a moral choice then as it is now), and, as such, the Victorian triumphalism of the songs should be left as it is, part of our history, part of our culture. It's an interesting argument, and one with which I have a degree of sympathy. It's not easy to face up to your past and admit that bad things happened, particularly when it wasn't you that actually committed them. But it is necessary.

It's not "erasing" or "altering" history, it's acknowledging history. Sing the songs, but acknowledge what lay behind them. As problematic statues should have explanatory plaques, as the National Trust should explain that the stately homes were built on the blood and death of nameless millions, Britain does need to face up to what it did. Acknowledge it, all of it, including the good bits and the bad. I only learned the good bits at school. The rest I had to find out myself, and I'm still learning, every day.

So, having fallen into the trap of engaging with HMG on the terms they would prefer, I'll make one last observation before I go about my day. You will have noted that our PM has been conspicuous by his absence during this summer of crisis. Didn't feel the need to pop up when the future of school pupils was put at risk, kept schtum when Priti Patel launched the distracting war on a few desperate people in dinghies (4200 total so far "invasion" fans). But he's been all over this, this is Prime Johnson territory, an essentially unserious argument for an essentially unserious man. We shouldn't be ashamed, he says, (which is a bit rich coming from a man who fucked his intern when his wife was having cancer treatment). An unshamable man with a lot to be ashamed about, given Johnson's fairly obvious projection of his personal brand onto rose-tinted British history it's unsurprising that this is the issue which caused him to break cover.


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