Cynicism, baked into a piping hot humble pie with a flaky featherweight crust, doesn't taste anywhere near as bad as you might think when it's torpedoed back down your throat. I should know, I've been chomping on this particular pastry feast for the past week and a half. The Olympics, despite its corporate miasma, has actually become an event of serious historical import for the country, uniting practically everyone in an orgy of intense patriotic excitement. I've bloody loved it.
I loved it when I got caught at work watching the judo, bellowing 'GET IN' when Gibbons won her silver. I loved it when Danny Boyle knocked Tory noses out of joint with his hyperreal glorification of the NHS they are trashing. I loved it when Mo Farah dug in and surged over the line last Saturday, me holding the cat aloft like Simba himself as I got way too involved. I loved it when Kat Copeland won the rowing - I don't think I've ever seen someone so petrified by delight.
Well done Team GB and the Olympics; you’ve converted a bitter, twisted and sometimes embarrassed-to-be-British manchild
Even cycling, which usually leaves me a bit tepid, had me loving it, with unused Quadrophenia extra Bradley Wiggins haring triumphantly round the streets and the elfin Victoria Pendleton (call me) centrifuging around the velodrome as if her arse was on fire. Ennis and Jones, Henderson and Trott - their names now come under 'household', if they weren't before, and good for them. Seriously, it's ace. Well done Team GB and the Olympics; you’ve converted a bitter, twisted and sometimes embarrassed-to-be-British manchild.
There is always a but - many, in fact, if you're into certain pornography. To explain this 'but', I will, if I may, continue along the theme of tenuous food metaphors explored above. Picture the Olympics as an ice cream sundae, with its lacework of draped chocolate sauce, gossamer wafers and pillow-puffy waves of vanilla ice cream all representing the bloody scrummy games we've enjoyed so far. But, as you dig in, questing with that long fork, you discover a dark centre. Hang on - they're not chocolate balls. They taste funny - powdery. They smell funny, like twigs and earth and rustic morning fields. They're - they're pellets of rabbit shit! Right in the sundae! This has thoroughly tainted my dessert experience!
They're - they're pellets of rabbit shit! Right in the sundae!
For the literalists: the British national anthem is the rabbit shit in the Olympic sundae.
Before we go on, I reckon I should open the fire exit for those who, like Piers Morgan, equate unalloyed patriotism with bawling out some elitist paean like God Save the Queen. This stance is sugar free, non-bigoted and fairly benign, even if it is sententious. The extreme end is the kind of people who see being irrationally wary of Muslims or singing songs about German bombers as an expression of British pride. Either way, it’s utter bollocks. So, fair warning is served – you won’t like this. Onward.
First off, I object to the anthem in its very rudiments: I'm agnostic and I don't give fuck one about the royal family. In so far as I'd like an old lady to enjoy a long life I'll go along with it, but I don’t want her to 'reign over us', she doesn’t 'defend our laws' or really 'ever give us cause'. The only thing she ever gave me cause to do was vomit almost constantly over the Jubilee weekend as people I previously respected took it in turns to sycophantically spelunk into her rear. And trust me, whether we sing the line or not, the 'choicest gifts in store' will always be the royal family's.
Worst is the symbolism of the medal ceremonies. These medal-winning athletes are people of true dedication and talent, who have shown sacrifice, grit, pride and determination to reach the pinnacle of their sport. And after that they have to stand and honour that dreadful old outdated hymn to unearned privilege, antithetical to many of the things they stand for. The only thing the royal family has ever showed an aptitude for is the genetic lottery, winning that golden parturition where the midwife first cuts the cord and then pops a shiny great silver spoon in your gob. Put in a room with Jessica Ennis and the Queen, I'd only ever consider deferring to Ennis - and not just for the reason you think you mucky bugger. She'd have done something worthy of respect.
Perhaps the rabbit shit would be merely coffee-flavoured Revels to some
Y'know, I acknowledge that this is a bit extreme for some people - perhaps the rabbit shit would be merely coffee-flavoured Revels to some. In that case, let's move it on to lighter ground. It would help if the anthem itself wasn't such a fucking dirge, overwrought and drab. It sounds what it is: tired, threadbare and anachronistic. When you hear some of the other nations' anthems my own patriotism wavers like a savagely plucked guitar string.
La Marseillaise is punchy, bolshie and rebellious, while Russia's is soaring and naturalistic, celebrating the land and people (It also reminds me of Rocky IV, which can only be a good thing). The modern use of Deutschlandlied is catchy and spirited, and even the drippiest, most wincingly twee of the lot, the Star-Spangled Banner, lauds the people and inspirations of a nation in an upbeat fashion. Ours? We wish for an imaginary person to save someone who is in absolutely no need of rescue, metaphoric or literal, backed by a stale, condensed milk fart of a melody.
I can only assume a dearth of suitable replacements keeps this dusty old ditty in place. People rarely grasp the subversive intent of Blake's lyrics used in 'Jerusalem', brilliantly stirring as it is, and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ comes close, but with the god stuff and overall John Bull tone it still comes across as a bit too close in spirit to an Elizabeth II tea towel. Rule Britannia is better still, yet does give off a bit too much of an imperial, Amritsar vibe. Jerusalem is probably the best, but we’re stuck, basically.
Dizzee Rascal seemed to do a belting performance at the opening ceremony, let him do one
To conclude then, some sense. While researching this article (i.e. Googling stuff) I came across a similar piece from the redoubtable Peter Tatchell. It seems he likes to avoid puerile insults and gratuitous swearing, unlike myself, and puts the gist of my point very pithily:
"God Save the Queen is not about the British people and our magnificent achievements in the fields of science, arts and humanitarianism. There are no noble ideals like liberty and equality. Our anthem is all about slavish deference and idolatry – the veneration of aristocratic privilege, inherited status and monarchical rule. It promotes jingoism, war, imperial conquest and the British people's subservience to God and royalty."
Nice one Pete.
Someone needs to sort this out. Dizzee Rascal seemed to do a belting performance at the opening ceremony, let him do one. Or even Adele – Coldplay? - Sheeran? It’s that bad I reckon any member of the new beige must be able to produce something better than what we've got.
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