Two articles that recently appeared in Impact set me to thinking about the wider implications of things and how it is often easy (perhaps necessary?) to ignore the big picture for the sake of the argument.
The first, Chloe Wenman’s ‘A Divided Summer’, looked into corporate organisations jumping on the bandwagon of national patriotism and made some excellent, considered points. I completely agree that the corporate aspect of the Olympics was particularly unsavoury, no matter how necessary the funding was, but I don’t think that reflects the broader picture of how patriotism and nationalism are currently being used across the board for selfish gains, be they monetary or political.
When a country is in crisis, nationalism and the concept of ‘Britishness’ tends to find favour in the public psyche. Politicians inevitably seize on this as ‘popular’ territory and are determined to exploit it for their own ends, hence Ed Millaband’s ‘One Nation politics’ pledge and the Tories’ refrain, “We’re all in this together”.
The corporate aspect wasn’t pleasant and yet the mindless nationalism on display – the blatant, childish one-upmanship and increased insularity of thought – was worse. The idea that we can drag ourselves out of this economic mess by using some stern British fortitude is the political equivalent of pulling the covers over your head after a heavy night in Bodega and pretending that your course doesn’t exist.
This huge push for ‘Britishness’ is the hallmark of a set of politicians under pressure. Recession is back. More austerity is on the way. Coalition is faltering. The opposition still lacks a clear manifesto.
This brings me on to a piece on Democracy 2015 by Dylan Williams. I agree with Williams that it is an interesting political development, just not that “it can only cause fearful politicians to sit up, take notice, and re-engage with a disenfranchised public.”
This is unlikely to be true. Politicians across the spectrum will cling to patriotism, old political thought and count on voter tribalism to get them back into power. Unfortunately, that strategy is likely to work out perfectly for them.