June 25th, 2013

Fair Trade

Hit Me With Your Rytham Stick

Our local council has recently announced that it will be making it illegal for council tenants to hang flags from their houses. The exact wording it this:

You must not hang or fix signs, banners, flags or other items on the outside of the property; out of windows or to balconies.

They go further on to say this will be implemented with a ‘common sense’ approach. Good news to those wanting to occasionally put up bunting, or a tasteful sign reading ‘Santa stop here’. I feel that this has veny much been aimed at those people who put up a large St Georges flag strung between two windows, which prompted me to write this post as I’ve been thinking about this trend for quite some time.
I utterly despise walking around and seeing these flags hanging from windows or balconies or what ever. One of the reasons is hat I find this kind of nationalism so very un-British. I may be wrong but it does strike me as a rather modern phenomenon which may be why I take an instant dislike to it, but when I see it it just *feels* wrong. I don’t know why there is this eye-rolling, knee jerk reaction inside me, but it’s undoubtedly there. On a primal level, I dislike seeing it. Maybe it’s because it represents unthinking loyalty? Maybe it’s this misappropriation by far right wing thugs and what that represents? It could be link to sport, which frustrates me as it feels like it trivialises the idea of heritage and national identity, while also making me feel some how unpatriotic because I don’t lie watching 22 millionaires destroy a lawn. (Thank you Charlie Boorman.) It could even just be me rallying against ideas of conformity.
But there is also a very rational part of my brain that dislikes the practice. In America the national flag is often proudly displayed not just on civic buildings but on peoples homes too. I have a few friends in the US who flay a flag in front of their houses. But there is a very, very important part of this practice. In the evening they take them down. They have other foreign traditions like washing and caring for their flag. And, perhaps most oddly at all, they tend to not have flags with bit’s added on, like the words Carlsberg or Gillette, both of which I have scene on flags dangling on the side of buildings. In short, they show respect to the flag.
This is probably because they have a tradition of reverence for their flag that we just don’t have in this country. As I’ve said, far as I’m aware hanging these things from a window is a relatively new thing and it seems to me to have been done in a rather slap-dash way. But the idea that taking a flag, hanging it on some washing line between two windows and then just leaving it there, forgetting about it as it slowly goes grey and moldy is in any way respectful to anything that that flag may represent is just stupid. I would go further; it shows an inherent disrespect for it. I’ve walked along streets, looking at these ghastly rags and been reminded of rotting heads on pikes or, due to my rather catholic upbringing, scenes of crucifixion. It’s felt like certain estates are where national flags go to die.
So yeah, stop with the fake pride and patriotism. A bit of washing line and a flag you got at the petrol station that was probably made in China do not strike me as good ways of showing your love for where you live.
On the other hand, who the hell do the council think they are!?