I was confronted today with a dilemma, should I sit on the fence or should I have one of my fun rants? But I have an hour to kill, so in for a penny…in for a pound.
I have been called “unpatriotic” today after a private word with a fellow English born chap who I thought was rather broad minded and understood that such things as Football, Saints Days, The Queen and the delivery this morning of a free copy of The Sun newspaper throughout the UK would not be high on my agenda. Allow me to make myself very clear: I have never bought into football as a sport, organised religion or this tabloid arse wipe, I have taken money from The Sun and many of their contemporaries, offering my photographic services and studio hire to take yet another bunch of photographs of the young and delightfully dizzy Michelle Keegan, sporting yet another over revealing frock and trout pout. However, to be considered unpatriotic is not an insult, its a reflection of just how little is known about the word. I have been called worse. Probably by a lot who are reading this article. But I digress.
As they are around the globe, Saint’s Days are the bastion of Catholicism and for the promotion and selling of iconography, Guinness and daft hats. Not some more recent convoluted manner in which to secretly admit agreement with the UKIPs limp wrested manifesto, nor is it any reason to buy into this free pamphlet of hate and English-centric vitriol that landed on my porch floor this morning; putting centre stage our Royal Family, celebrity chefs, sports men and women, racist TV pundits and even Peppa Pig.
You would therefore forgive me for the following article to put my point across in a much more articulate manner; something I had wished I had done during this rather unnecessary and heated debate about if I have “love” for my birthplace [England], my open distrust in theological lifestyle and my distain in the growing number of George Cross festooned pubs, filled with groups of pissed up folk at 1pm in the afternoon, requiring Police intervention by 3pm like it was a Derby Day in Manchester. Don’t get me wrong, we all deserve to let our hair down and blow off some steam, but surely blind faith in some religious icon, football or drooling over a shot of a scantily clad Kelly Brooke could be considered just as damaging?
During this conversation, Patriotism, was a word used many, many times. It quickly became a barrage of escalating volume and unwrapped insults, so without falling headlong into a soliloquy, quoting and paraphrasing Rousseau, Marx or even Stalin, Patriotism was also being used in a blatant Christian context.
My rant is initially about why so many people are spending so much of their time going on, and on about “Englishness”, St George’s day (being an English only Bank Holiday) and the World Cup in Brazil. We have quite enough Bank Holidays this time of year thank you very much and yes, maybe the Irish, Welsh and Scots have a bit more of a gay old time celebrating their own Christian myth (or three) but lets face up to a few current facts – some [English] people amongst us are fighting for a single day of “celebration” of all things “English”.
What would that be? Exactly? To the point? In a nutshell?
According to today’s tabloid tirade “My England” is all about George Crosses, Football,The Queen, Churchill, David Beckham, Breasts, James Corden’s face looking gormlessly at me, Rita Ora’s kickers and Robbie ‘fucking’ Williams.
Well lets start with having a good look at the facts about “good old George”.
George (Saint) was from Turkey, Cappadocia to be exact. Anyone lucky enough to have taken a balloon ride at dawn over the Tatooine-like landscape of the fairy chimneys and terraced lakes will agree, it is not Lancashire. He moved to Palestine to become a Roman Soldier, however after a few campaigns of blood shed and organised take over bids, he became an “early Christian believer” and resigned his post as a Legionnaire.
Leading quickly on, he would be found and recorded protesting against the Pagan leader, Emperor Diocletian, he who led the first wave of persecution of the growing numbers of Christians in Rome.
Are you keeping up? Possibly this would be a good time to make a brew.
This impertinence and rebellious nature led George eventually and not surprisingly to imprisonment and torture. He was finally dragged through the crowded streets for his Christian beliefs and beheaded in 303 AD. According to unnamed more recent historians, this was on 23rd April. Alas, this is not as accurate as one would think. Being that the Gregorian Calendar was not introduced until 1582. So that throws that story into a cocked hat.
And while I am waxing about “clerical creative licence” the issue of the Dragon. Now I am going to accept that you all understand this to be a metaphor for his own inner turmoil of fighting The Devil out of his own life and lusty Mediterranean ardour – well you can’t have one with out the other now can you? So no virginal Damsels being saved from a 50ft Dragon. Sorry. However, there is a recorded story of George (aledgedly) traveling through Libya, where the locals had been for some time sacrificing young girls to please and satiate their loving god of the fresh water spring (the Men-folk had conjured up this spirit into the manifestation of a giant serpent like creature – enter your own psychological conclusion here….). So good old George fought the beast with only men overseeing the battle and the next unlucky girl, Princess Cleolinda was saved form here fate. Soon after this the people of Selene and Leptis Magna converted to Christianity. Now I am sure this is the Hollywood version and it took quite some time to convert many, many people from one belief system to another. But it has been done before and is still being done today.
So, lets fast forward to 1415 AD, over 1000 years after George’s alleged death, his reputation had grown through story telling and moralistic hyperbole whilst our good old boys were carving up the Asian nations in the name of Jesus and his Dad. The Crusades used the reputation on their return to Europe as a protector of soldiers and began wearing the red and white cross and their chest and back. Something which is still seen today. Something which will be seen quite a lot this weekend both in the Americas and down at your local.
George is not solely the acquired patron saint of England either. Canada, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania (yes, Romania), Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Rep. of Macedonia (nil point) all recognise this chap as a patron Saints.
He is also recognised as the Patron Saint of Archers, Cavalry, Riders, Saddlers and people suffering from Bubonic Plague, Leprosy and Syphilis.
So when questioned how “patriotic” English born folk are and how proud of being English, in an non-BNP/UKIP voting kind of way, think about who you are running up a flag for. A man who may have lived in a variety of millennia, ex-roman soldier, born again christian who has been used as a prophet of violence, Christian led genocide, equally celebrated in a number of nations that just so happen to be en-route through the Crusades and strangely those of our predecessors suffering from incurable diseases.
So I shall return to the earlier question. What is it so many wish to celebrate these days? Forgive my forthrightness of this media fuelled topic, but the only thing I see being celebrated this weekend is beer, tits, football, players in the game of football and people who like football.. And, argue if you will, religion.
My thoughts are thus: If we are to endure/enjoy a recognised holiday (mid week in the case of 2014 & 2015) to celebrate all things English then lets all stand and promote (on a united national scale/front) our small businesses, the struggling micro businesses fighting to get paid on time, those of us who are fighting our own battles on our own shores without the use of a patron saint, nor any assistance from our Government, even less from Banks and Building Societies. A full 24 hours of understanding just what is happening to our very own NHS and why people are needlessly dying from miss managed and unsupported departments, populated by exhausted workforces; what we have to look forward to if Cammy and his chums get their own way; what is happening to our rescue and police services, the wading through treacle Teachers have to endure each day (including their days off and so called holidays), the amount of abuse market traders have to put up with, especially with escalating rental costs of stalls due to council greed, but most of all, if you truly stand for all things English on this day….. accept that as a nation we are all tourists, foreigners with our own individual loves, points of view, demands and requests; skills and a voice – and only a minority will forever see this land as somewhere they can dress as a knight, shrouded in a George Cross, shit faced drunk on a week day singing “Rule Britannia”.
I am very happy to let them get on with it as long as no one gets hurt, but just like the religious connotation and reason for ANY Saints Day, I stand by my point, this should not become anything more than a day to keep struggling pubs open for one more week, florists selling out of red roses near the end of a very difficult month and keeping busy the poor sods having to taxi these bloated fools out of our towns and cities, back home after a night out with Stella.
Now maybe I have missed the point of having a patron saint and the right of some people to spend the day celebrating the national team kicking a ball about for £multi-million per day, and my lack of interest in religious dogma fuels my own personal zeitgeist. However, religion seems to be the chokehold on the whole story.
I am not writing to upset the apple cart of organised western religions, particularly Christianity which cannot take any questioning of their beliefs.
Douglas Adams was once quoted, “Religion doesn’t seem to work like that. It has certain ideas at the heart of it, which we call ‘sacred’ or ‘holy.’ What it means is: here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about. You’re just not. Why not? Because you’re not.
Why should it be that it’s perfectly legitimate to support the Conservative or Labour Party, The UKIPs or The Green Party; England or Brazil, this model of economics versus that, Apple instead of Windows – but to have an opinion about how the universe began, the existence of Triceratops in the Deep South of USA, about “who” created the universe – no, that’s holy. So, we’re used to not challenging religious ideas and it’s very interesting how much of an equal furore nationalism, patriotism, “Englishness” or just not giving a flying rats ass about the World Cup creates when it is discussed in the open.
Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it, because you’re not allowed to say these things, yet when you look at it rationally, there is no reason why those ideas shouldn’t be as open to debate as any other, except that we’ve agreed somehow between us that they shouldn’t be.
But if you don’t take my word for it, lets look to our western neighbours.
It was 1987, a reporter asked George Bush, Sr. at a White House journalist meeting whether he recognised the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists. Mr. Bush’s reply has become as infamous as his family. “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”
One Nation under God…lets just take a moment to absorb this comment….maybe dunk a few biscuits in your brew.
Fast forward 27 years and our own PM, David Cameron began fuelling sectarian division by bringing God into politics and Gove sending Bibles to every school in the UK. Proving that the “people in charge” are very much linked to an incredibly damaging social group.
Bush Sr’s bigotry was not an isolated mistake, called out in the heat of the moment and later retracted by a well scripted spin article. He stood by it in the face of repeated calls for clarification or withdrawal. Proving to many that he really meant it. This would obviously be seen as playing fast and loose with policy, party politics and manifesto, especially when he knew it could posed a threat to his re-election, or so any level headed intelligent person would think, but quite the contrary. Democrats as well as Republicans parade their religiousness if they want to get elected. Therefore, both parties invoke the “one nation under God” paradigm.
Perverse as it may sound to the non-believer of any religious construct, but as an atheist and a person happy in his belief that the world, the universe and the black stuff you get clogging your nostrils after spending a day on the Northern Line came about through millions of years of evolution.
And however we define atheism, it’s surely the kind of academic belief that a person is entitled to hold without being vilified as an unpatriotic, unelectable non-citizen. Nevertheless, it’s an undeniable fact that to own up to being an atheist is tantamount to introducing yourself as a heretic as much as it is a person not interested in the slightest about the World Cup is dubbed “unpatriotic”. And that all stems from the perception of me being part of some kind of weird, way-out unpatriotic minority.
With that in mind, I shall accept today as just another day, the 23rd April will be a day to avoid any pub with a national flag outside, the next two weeks I will be avoiding all pubs with a TV screen in it, and this weekend I will enjoy watching coverage from Le Mans 24hr race in France…now that’s a sport worth getting excited about.
Enjoy the sunshine. What ever you are doing.
Reference to Douglas Adams and Richard Dawkins