The cloth flutters on its post in the evening breeze high above the gathered heads below. The waning rays of a hot tropical sun illuminate the patchwork of blue, red and white from behind, bestowing upon it a strange spiritual form in contradistinction to its humble origins as a piece of hand-stitched woven fabric in a small factory in a small English town in Buckinghamshire. The clink of the rope as it touches the flagpole tinkles over the air evoking melancholy in the hardest of hearts as for the very last time this hallowed cloth lowers into the hands of misty-eyed celebrants. No more shall it flutter imperiously over the ships and barracks of a faraway island nation whose once-proud Empress validated expansion and extraction as God’s dutiful servant.
Shall we see its like again? Upstart colonists burned it, European rivals shot at it, indigenous peoples did not recognise it. A flag is without honour except in its home, at the cricket club, at the village fête, above the village church tower or high over the Thames as Victoria Tower casts its long historical and physical shadow in the fading light of evening.
There are those for whom “This is England”. A symbol of majesty, might and military power with the power to make a sergeant major’s chest burst with pride or to keep a bootstrapped shaven-headed racist warm as he drapes it around his shoulders before kicking in the head a descendant of a country once raped for its diamonds, silver, tea and opium. But let not its history be forgotten or its colours deceive. For every symbolic moment of an Olympic gold medal won, there is a gold medallion stolen, along with the food from an Irish peasants mouth, the life of a Punjabi child at prayer, and the freedom of an African slave to dream.
Ah, the price of progress and of wealth accumulation. One cannot build a Liverpool, London or a Bristol without blood.
Red is its cross. It is the crucifixion of dreams, it is the blood-soaked stain of Empire. Blue is its background. It is the sea of drowned dreams and the bearer of pirate plunder. White is its virginity, declaring the innocence of its penetration into the moist interiors of foreign lands in order to dispossess and govern.
But, I hear you say, history was then, this is now. Rejoice, rejoice in our new- found freedom from tyranny and the taking back of sovereignty. We shall again ‘rule the waves’, albeit they are merely the ripples on the Serpentine or of the gentle wind flecked village pond in Hampshire. The naysayers are traitors betraying our imperial history! Our colonial friends will welcome us back as fully equal partners in
The Old Lie
The flag is folded, only to be draped upon the coffins of soldiers, sailors and airmen sent to death in piss soaked, rat-infested foreign fields to defend the interests of the Monarchy, the Aristocracy and the Mercantile class who cared not where their boots trod, or whose faces were squashed into the mud underneath. There was
We shall see it flying again today, this time raised as testament to arrogance, racism and naked class self-interest rooted in the mythology of national stories told again and again by Colonel Blimp and his third rate, self-obsessed, Etonian Prime Ministers.
Rule Fucking Britannia.