Saturday, January 14, 2006

Fly Your Flag

This is a sort of follow up to this post. The starting point is the attitudes prevalent among some US conservatives and neo-conservatives. Here's a quiz on that very subject.* The dehumanising comparison is quite startling.** Words like vermin, sub-human, genocide, and sterilisation are all used by the LGF crowd, particularly with reference to Palestinians. It is, according to many LGF commentors, perfectly OK to kill these sub-humans and in large numbers if possible. There's no middle ground, if you're a Palestinian, you deserve to die. There's also a distinct impression, sometimes openly expressed, that many of them actually think the same about all Muslims (these observations are obviously generalisations based on the beliefs of a particular group of people).

Concerning the stampede at the Hajj, I saw this earlier today:
We could do a lot better than 345...
[just daydreamin']
Any idea how they'd react to a Muslim commenting on the September 11th attacks in that way? Outrage? Yes. Justified outrage? Yes. Apply the same principles to themselves? No. There are obvious differences but can you say the people at the Hajj deserved to die any more than the victims of that day? File under "it'd be funny if it wasn't so very, very disturbing".

An "us and them" ideology which dehumanises a race, religion or nationality based soley on that criteria is obviously an extremely distorted one. Innocent until proven guilty? No thanks, he's a Palestinian, he must be guilty. It is frighteningly hateful stuff.

Nationalism plays a part in this and US nationalism is a powerful force. That, of itself, isn't necessarily a bad thing. There are very many proud, flag respecting Americans who are horrified by these attitudes. The problem occurs when strong nationalistic feelings are hijacked and manipulated by extremists in order to fuel a belief in their ideology. When this happens, it tends to propagate a simplistic black and white world view and an ideology whose supporters maintain that their beliefs cannot be legitimately questioned. To question is to be a traitor, a heretic, or simply a non-person. Islamic fundamentalists use religion as the main method of instilling, nurturing and fortifying their extremist ideology. For the US Christian Right, religion plays a strong part but nationalism is also a driving force. Respect for the flag has itself become an almost religious ceremonial tradition. As a not at all scientific guide, you might want to compare those guidlines to the same for the Union Jack. (Again, I must stress that respect for the flag of your country is not necessarily a bad thing. See proviso earlier in the paragraph. It's the hijackers which are the concern.)

None of this is news; many governments, at various times throughout history, have attempted to unite their populations by instilling a strong sense of nationalism and patriotic duty in their citizens. That these convictions have sometimes been exploited by governments for their own ends is not news. The fact that this sort of stoking and manipulation of nationalism can develop into jingoism, and worse, is also not news.

As such, it would seem likely that the neo-con intelligentsia, obligatory oxymoron joke, know that they are playing with fire by co-opting and exploiting US nationalism in the way they do. It may well be an effective method of maintaining support for their short term goals but they take the risk that it will spiral out of their control. How do they put the hate back in the box when they're finished with it? Do they even want to? How long do they say the "war" on terror will last again? These questions are a serious concern.

It was with those questions in mind that I happened to read an article earlier today and then took to writing what turned out to be the longest introduction to a story I've ever written. Nearly there.

Gordon - I've got ideas and stuff and its my turn now - Brown was speaking today about Britishness. He wants the government to encourage more of it. He seems to be suggesting some sort of national British day where we all take the day off to wave our Union Jack in the streets or something. He said:
Instead of the BNP using it as a symbol of racial division, the flag should be a symbol of unity and part of a modern expression of patriotism too. All the United Kingdom should honour it, not ignore it. We should assert that the Union flag by definition is a flag for tolerance and inclusion.
A cynic would have highlighted the "by definition" (I'm a cynic, don't pretend you're shocked). As in "we can do no wrong"? The British, and by implication the government, are by definition tolerant and inclusive, no matter what they actually do? No thanks, if it's all the same to you. I prefer to judge tolerance and inclusiveness on the amount of tolerance and inclusiveness you display, not on whether you are displaying a flag which "by definition" represents it.

He also said:
And what is our equivalent of the national symbolism of a flag in the United States in every garden?
Not a hugely appealing prospect to be honest, Gordon. It'd probably make your job a whole lot easier though. Unite behind the flag and keep us great unwashed from asking too many awkward questions about the actions of the government? I can just imagine it actually: "I cannot believe that you would disrespect the flag of this great country by asking me that question. Perhaps you'd like to emmigrate if your opinion of your own country is so low. You might try Iran or North Korea, I'm sure they would be most welcoming."

Britishness Gordon? Arse off. How about earning some respect for yourself? You could start by not remaining silent when Blair took us to war based on an exaggerated threat to our own security. Robin Cook knew that at the time so I'm fairly sure you did too. Oh, too late, you let it happen without a single word of protest. That's a big hit to your respectometer rating.

How about kicking the lying toerag out of the house next door then? You can evict people with a lack of respect for their communities now, you know. Perhaps you should leave along with him, silent one.

* I looked up a few of the comments from this quiz to make sure they really are on LGF. One I couldn't find because the post had been removed. I found some of the others though and there's no doubt that comments like these are frequently made. Here's a screenshot of one of them (Qu. 10) for anyone who hasn't yet become aqainted with the LGF comment swarm.** I suspect that comment would be illegal in this country under the new religious hatred/incitement laws which are, ironically, being introduced to combat Islamic extremism.

** No links, no trolls. See post directly under this one if interested.

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