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UNDER TWO FLAGS




"Everywhere you go in England, you'll be confronting a different flag, and for wildly different reasons -- both the Queen's Golden Jubilee and the World Cup have conspired to happen at the same time, and the flag of St. George -- the English flag (World Cup), rather than the British one (Jubilee) -- is hanging off every other car and in every other house window. And strangely it feels good. We're all hankering after one thing -- the feeling of community that would come with a good England run in the World Cup Finals. The idea that for the length of time it takes to watch a match, you're all sharing the same hopes and aspirations as a country, as a genuine community -- we long for it because we don't usually get it (the feeling that is, not the World Cup -- we all know in our hearts we won't be bringing that home)."

By George Berger

COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


In my long gone youth, a band I was in used to delight in confronting audiences -- often heavily peppered with skinheads of dubious political leanings -- with a song called 'Burn The Flag'. It referred to the Union Jack, the British flag, as was made clear by the non-too poetic second half of the couplet: '…Britain is a slag'. At the time (being the late 70s / early 80s), the Union Jack appeared the sole reserve of the far-right tendencies, so it felt like a pretty noble polemic sentiment. And if annoying people was a hell of a lot of teenage fun, annoying other teenagers was brilliant.

Fast-forward to the present and everywhere you go in England, you'll be confronting a different flag, and for wildly different reasons -- both the Queen's Golden Jubilee and the World Cup have conspired to happen at the same time, and the flag of St. George -- the English flag (World Cup), rather than the British one (Jubilee) -- is hanging off every other car and in every other house window.

And strangely it feels good. We're all hankering after one thing -- the feeling of community that would come with a good England run in the World Cup Finals. The idea that for the length of time it takes to watch a match, you're all sharing the same hopes and aspirations as a country, as a genuine community -- we long for it because we don't usually get it (the feeling that is, not the World Cup -- we all know in our hearts we won't be bringing that home).

Yep, it feels pretty good. Our Philippine next-door neighbours are flying one, as are the local Indian and Chinese takeaways. We're not in our house, but the very fact I considered doing so speaks volumes about the times after reading the first paragraph of this column.

It's tempting to read too much into observations like these -- how I would dearly love to believe that as a nation we're celebrating our inclusivity and pretty much ignoring the feudal past still symbolized by the Monarchy. But hey, let's look on the bright side of life, whilst we can:

At least one flag appears to be in the process of being reclaimed from the idiots, and we can only hope and pray that events in Japan don't make this column look dreadfully naïve.

The other flag, however, seems to be still in the preserves of unionists, loyalists, wanky nostaglists and nazis. Perhaps it's time that we left them to their flag and just got on with what we could make ours? Perhaps now is the moment to reclaim one flag as a flag of decency and at the same time relinquish the other as the flag of the bigoted enemy. Maybe that's as good a compromise as we can reach?

But what about burning flags then? It's another sign of the times that parameters of the possible have narrowed in peoples' minds so much that suggesting that nation-states in themselves could be dismantled as a concept would these days be treated with ridicule. People may vote in polls for a song that includes 'imagine there's no countries', but they won't do it. So the romantic sighs with a heavy heart whilst the pragmatist settles for the idea that at least our communities can serve ourselves some kind of illusion of togetherness for the duration of our participation in a sporting tournament.

It's a lot better than nothing, believe me.

There remains the occasional Union Jack about, and these, I'd guess, are the people celebrating the Queen's Jubilee, but they're so far outnumbered that they barely feel relevant. And fuck 'em.

Living under two flags could indeed be the start of a new civil war in the long term. At least I hope so. Watch this space . . .

Meanwhile, for those with a still-open mind: 'Fuck Britain and fuck the queen and 'burn the flag, Britain is a slag' :-)

***

John Lydon -- what a pantomime dame he seems to be turning into -- how the mighty fall, eh? God save the queen, eh John? Like a drunk in a midnight choir . . . he tries, in his own way, to be free. But really . . . I never thought I'd hear myself patronizing him.

***

Before anyone mentions it, the Jubilee celebrations: if I had a party, I too could increase the people present by means of a plethora of famous rock stars in my garden and the greatest fireworks show ever. Only I care about my dogs, so the fireworks would be banned. And I'd manage more than a smirk, translated to a happy smile by the twisted loyalist serfs. They're all lizards you know ;-)

Let's go to war . . .


George Berger is a freelance writer, with punk rock dna. He has written for Sounds, Melody Maker and Amnesty International among others. He has also written 3 books, with one published thus far: Dance Before the Storm: the Official Story of The Levellers (Virgin Books 1999). George edits abisti. He lives where the mood takes him and funds allow.





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