Union Jack Summer: The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, a set on Flickr.
I have no great love for either the Royal Family or the Olympics, and, on this latter point, my articles should make clear where I stand — Our Olympic Hell: A Militarised, Corporate, Jingoistic Disgrace, Olympics Disaster: The G4S Security Scandal and Corporate Sponsors’ £600 Million Tax Avoidance and The Dark Side of the Olympics: Kettling Cyclists and Telling Fairytales About Our Heritage. You can also find some more photos here.
As for the Queen, I have long adored “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols — one of the greatest rock songs of all time, along with “Anarchy in the UK” — and I did dream of mounting a black sound system to a black bike with a black flag, pumping out the Pistols’ “God Save the Queen,” and cycling around every street party I could find in London on the Diamond Jubilee weekend.
That never came to pass, and in truth, although I find the existence of the Royal Family objectionable, some of the individuals involved work hard (the Queen and Princess Anne come to mind) and I also don’t trust any politicians to preside over the dissolution of the Royal Family and the disposal of their assets in a way that would benefit the majority of the people. More sensible, then, would be for their role to be scaled down enormously, as in other European countries, but there appears to be no hint of that on the horizon, and so we are stuck with something that looks like the divine right of kings (or queens), but is in fact a very expensive charade.
On the extended weekend of June 2-5, when we the people were granted two days off as holidays — or, in fact, just one extra day, as the government held the Whitsun bank holiday back for a week, in some pale and insulting imitation of Moses — I had little interest in the music show at Buckingham Palace, with its generally uninspired and uninspiring performers, and its dull commentators — Lenny Henry being an exception — and little interest in the patriotism that the BBC tried to graft onto the 1000-boat flotilla that took part in the River Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Sunday.
However, I did think it might make an interesting spectacle, and so my son Tyler and I cycled from Brockley to Bermondsey Wall, by the River Thames, for the end of the flotilla, as this was where all the boats were gathering afterwards. We saw very little, and it was one of the wettest experiences of my life, and certainly the wettest in my son’s life, but it was exhilarating, and bonding in the sense that I had never been with so many thoroughly soaked people, even if that was not the type of patriotic bonding that the organisers — and the wretched politicians — had in mind.
During that weekend, and in the weeks that followed, I also took photos of Jubilee-inspired behaviour — mainly decorated houses — and also of flags that related to the brief frenzy that attended England’s typically sluggish performance in the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship — with the intention of finally putting a photo set together, and the trigger has been the Olympic games, another frenzy of flag-waving whose jingoism and nationalism persistently appals me, and whose organisers have also taken corporate greed and coldness to new depths. I have added some photos I took of the Olympic screen in Potters Fields by City Hall to this set, to complete it, along with a few other photos taken yesterday, and while most of these photos are short of flags, they do share similarities with the Jubilee — through that familiar evocation of patriotism that I find so perpetually troubling.
In fact, of course, the athletes in the Olympics, though wearing flags and indicators of their nationality, are, first and foremost, driven individuals whose motives in many ways run counter to the point of nationalism, which is to create subservient beings whose individuality can be suppressed. There is, of course, a blurred line where, for example, six UK gold medallists on one day — Saturday — creates an illusion of national togetherness and achievement, and it is true that supportive crowds give athletes a home advantage, but it is never worth playing this card too aggressively, as nationalism is treacherous, most readily identifiable in situations of war, or other episodes involving violence, and the scapegoating of the “other.” Nationalism’s home may, indeed, be the battlefield rather than the sports stadium.
So while I too was thrilled by Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, I felt mostly for them as individuals who had worked incredibly hard, and for Jessica as a woman of mixed race, and as someone from Sheffield. For Mo Farah, my hope is that the achievement of this Somali-born Muslim might combat racism and Islamophobia.
Time will tell. For now, I remain concerned about three particular issues: firstly, that the corporate sponsors, who were planning to walk off with £600 million from the temporary tax haven that is the Olympics, will pay their taxes, after a successful 38 Degrees campaign to force them to do so, as this will help this lame government recoup some of the money it is otherwise extorting from taxpayers; and secondly, I hope that MPs and the people of Britain will call for a proper audit of the Games, whose ballooning budget appears to have been justified because politicians are ruthlessly disdainful about those who pick up the tab for their big gestures; we the taxpayers, in other words, and not the Tories’ chums, who make sure that all their income is immediately spirited away to tax havens.
Thirdly, I hope that the idiot butcher David Cameron and his fellow clowns and sadists in Downing Street and the Cabinet — and Boris Johnson in City Hall — don’t get to bask in any reflected glory as a result of the British athletes’ excellent performance. Labour certainly deserve thanks for investing in British sport, but the Tories deserve nothing. They remain the most wretched bunch of incompetents ever to have held office, and as soon as the Games are over, God help us, as the gloom and savagery of Tory Britain will be back with a vengeance.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Zilma Nunes wrote:
these pictures evoke the loneliness, abandonment, expressing sadness…I felt something strange..
Thanks, Zilma. I think that’s appropriate. I think nationalism, like materialism, is an unconscious attempt to placate an emptiness, but one that is bound to fail, as the only way to address the emptiness is through self-knowledge. “You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you,” as Bob Dylan sang in “Like A Rolling Stone.”
Andrew Brel wrote:
’…the idiot butcher David Cameron and his fellow clowns and sadists in Downing Street and the Cabinet.’ Sounds like the verse of a very good song. Could be titled “The Idiot Butcher and his fellow clowns.”
Excellent, Andrew, I’m happy to write it …!
Toia Tutta Jung wrote:
Great pictures, Andy. They tell a lot about today´s UK.
Zilma Nunes wrote:
The point is not about nationalism but the spirit of fraternity and the economic problems now…
Thanks, Toia. That’s very good to hear. And Zilma, you may be right. There are actually a lot of different things going on, I think. Some of it is traditional nationalism, some of it may well be the fraternity you mention. I hope so, as solidarity is certainly needed, given the gloomy state of Britain’s economy under George Osborne’s savage but counter-productive whip and the widespread indifference to it from people whose political engagement has been whittled away at by successive governments since Thatcher.
Mark Whalley wrote:
Andrew, you wrote about them being incompetent. Unfortunately, they know exactly what they are doing, it’s just not for the majority!!!
In the overall sense of intending to destroy civil society and the state provision of services, I agree, Mark, but they’re really quite stupid people, and arrogant with it, so they haven’t done their sums. Much of what they’re implementing will fail, and will end up costing more in the long term, but in the meantime these clowns will have inflicted misery on millions of people.
Mark Whalley wrote:
Couldn’t agree more Andy! But the monetarist ideology has been implemented since the 70′s & I hasten to add pushed through more by Tory governments since thatcher. The problem is if both majority parties are following the same ideologies it’s the whole system that needs changing and people to wake up that people in power (all successive governments) are lying to them. Sounds like the ragged trousered philanthropists again!
The problem this time it’s the regime that runs the financial institutions that are running the country, governments have been mouthpieces for their vested interests for years now. Getting us into the debit/credit scenario & shifting the tax burden onto the individual. It’s thanks to people like yourself that’ll (hopefully) educate the public that they have been taken for mugs for decades!
Well, thanks, Mark. I do my best. The thing is, it’s taken me years to understand quite what’s been going on, and I take an interest and am reasonably intellectually capable. The key, I think, is getting people to understand that politicians really do want to shift the burden for everything onto the individual, even though around two out of every three people – hard-working people – have seen the real value of their wages diminish since the 1970s and will not be able to afford to live with any comfort whatsoever in a country in which the government has abandoned all its responsibilities to the people as a whole. Credit was used to disguise this massively under New Labour, but now that the banks have stopped lending, sensible people have realised how they’ve been short-changed. What they now need to do is to understand that transferring the burden of everything onto the individual, a policy that the Tories don’t even really try to disguise, will end up placing all essential services – the health service, for example – out of the reach of all but the well-paid.
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