Leave it to Morrissey to launch the first counter offensive to the wave of national pride currently engulfing Britain. The former lead singer of The Smiths covered himself in false glory this week by asking “has England ever been quite so foul with patriotism?”, and pleading with his followers to “wake up”. He crowned his attack by comparing the current Olympic fever in Britain to the nationalism of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
Forgive me for betraying the leftist, republican principles you so excellently taught me, Morrissey, but I fear that, as ever, you might have missed the point.
Bashing the Royals is all very well. It is, in fact, the sworn duty of every British sceptic. But none of the British athletes we are all celebrating, aside from Zara Phillips, are in fact royals. While Liz, Charlie and co may well be enjoying the dressage, the Olympics are hardly the most high profile PR stunt pulled by the monarchy this year. Perhaps you missed the Jubilee celebrations, Morrissey, but I assure you, the patriotism was far fouler then. There was a flotilla on The Thames and everything.
Even the Jubilee did not quite merit comparisons with Nazism. The Queen is still a pogrom or two away from being a real tyrant, bless her. There is, indeed, something ironic in the fact that, despite all the “blustering jingoism” surrounding the country, it is Morrissey alone who has thus far indulged in that most British of patriotic endeavours: mentioning the war. Though we must cut him some slack. Perhaps he is simply annoyed that the Chinese, a nation of people he once dismissed as “a sub-species”, are winning so many medals.
Olympic Fever in London
After the endless cynicism which surrounded the build up to the Olympics – I stand as guilty as the next person – it is refreshing now to see the country simply enjoying the sport, and enjoying the party.
If anything, Morrissey should be revelling in the luxury of a Britain which does not judge its heroes on their blue blood or good Christian upbringing, but on their excellent individual hard work and achievements. He should be ecstatic that British pride is currently channelled through a group of people who represent the country far better than those in Whitehall ever manage to.
Jessica Ennis is the daughter of a Jamaican decorator and an English social worker. Mo Farah is a North Londoner of Somalian heritage and a practising Muslim. Bradley Wiggins is a sixties throwback who sports Paul Weller sideburns and owns a collection of vintage scooters. Andy Murray is a Scot who barely escaped with his life during the Dunblane school massacre of 1996.
These are just four of Britain’s gold medallists – the others have equally varied stories. The idea that the British right wing media is celebrating every single one of them on the same level, regardless of their heritage or lifestyle, is as wonderful as it is unique.
As for Morrissey’s coup de grace, the claim that the British people are “assumed to be undersized pigmies, scarcely able to formulate thought”, one simply despairs of the hypocrisy. You’re right, Morrissey, we can formulate thought. We can even formulate the thought that there is a distinct difference between pride in British athletes and xenophobic nationalism. Try and formulate it yourself, you might cheer up a bit.
If celebrating Chris Hoy and enjoying a largely successful international event in Britain is akin to blustering jingoism, then, please, tattoo “blustering jingoist” across my chest and forbid me from ever reading Marx again. But do it in ten minutes would you, I’m just watching the cycling...