Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Oaths of Allegiance Contrary to our Political Culture
The idea seems to derive from the US practice(see picture) but, I would suggest, the culture over there is so much different. Americans are all immigrants originally and measures were taken by governments to maximise a sense of belonging to a new country- hence the reverence of the flag, constitution, offices like the presidency and the idea of nation itself. It all seems over the top to us when school kids recite their morning commitment to their country but there is a huge difference between them and us. Americans represent people who have travelled 3000 miles or more, often from desperate circumstances, in search of a dream of fulfilment, prosperity, peace and happiness. They genuinely believed and believe still in that dream; so do their children and so do new immigrants.
We, on the other hand, have a history stretching back over a thousand years and most of us feel we know we are English, Welsh, British or whatever. We also have that luxury of such a situation- the gift of self mockery; we laugh at our antiquated traditions and think them risible even when we secretly value them. The habit of satire is now so deeply ingrained that I doubt very much whether this oath idea will just end up as an expletive in the minds of participants. I can see the reluctant mass of school children, all colours and races, being shepherded into the school hall and the head trying hard to instil some dignity into what the kids have already decided is a farce. Lord Goldsmith is trying hard to solve a real problem but this idea is not part of the answer.
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