Friday, April 24, 2009

A new English anthem

A new English anthem to celebrate Englishness was performed for the first time on St George's Day. The chorus has the lines:

I am England, England is inside of me.

I am England, England is what I want her to be,

I am England, I am English, I am England to my core,

And wherever you may find me, you'll find England.

England Forever More!

The chorus wants to be patriotic ("I am England to my core"). Notice, though, that the composer sticks with liberal orthodoxy: we are to remain self-defining individuals, even in our national identity ("England is what I want her to be"). The emphasis is on England being subjective ("England is inside of me ... I am England") rather than something definite and objective, something external to my will which helps to shape who I am.

The problem is that no matter how patriotic sounding the lyrics are, the meaning of the words undercuts the significance of it all. If England is something I get to create myself, if England is little old me, if it's all just fleeting subjective preference, then what depth does it have? Does it really merit the rousing end line of "England forever more?" How can it be forever, if England is what I want it to be and I'm not going to be around forever? And how can Englishness unite people in any serious way if we all get to define our own England?

The rest of the anthem does suggest a few objective characteristics of being English, but again they aren't all that serious:

Hustle bustle, urban tussle, dancing through the crowds,

Or out in the country, a fresh place for me to breathe,

England my England is always home to me!

Fish and chips in paper, with mushy peas,

Balti chicken, naan bread and onion bhajis,

A cup of tea and toast, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding,

Tastes of our culture, tastes like England to me!

Swing low sweet chariot, God Save The Queen!

Land of hope and glory and of pleasant mountains green,

England's future, past and today live in our minds on St George's Day,

England, England, my country!

This part of the anthem has been described as banal. The focus on food doesn't sit well in what is supposed to be a rousing national anthem ("Fish and chips in paper, with mushy peas").

The one line I do think fitting is the second last: "England's future, past and today live in our minds on St George's Day".


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  3. Got a bit carried away with myself and used language I shouldn't have. Sorry about that.

  4. That anthem is just plain stupid. In all fairness to Mr. Hannagan, anyone who doesn't react with at least a twitch of angry violence needs to be checked for a pulse.

    Here, I've rewritten it:
    I am stupid, stupidity is inside of me.

    I am stupid, stupid is what I want to be,

    I am stupid, I am stupid, I am stupid to my core,

    And wherever you may find me, you'll find stupidity.

    Stupidity Forever More!
    The point of that was that if you replace the word "England" with something silly, you realize (if you haven't already) that the song says absolutely nothing. It's just a chant of "England, England, England!" as though that is something that moves the heart. Maybe for a heartless person it would seem that it might move the heart of someone who has one.

  5. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens/
    Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens/
    Brown paper packages tied up with strings/
    These are a few of my favorite things!

  6. So narcicissm defines the nation now?

    This reminds me of those attempts in the early to mid '90s in Australia to redefine symbols of national identity... there was the Bicentenary celebration of '88, and a new rock-style national anthem associated with that; there was the 'change the flag' movement and the Republican convention that came in the early Howard years. Perhaps this sort of thing is always associated with the dying years of political power of a party - they attempt to 'change' the nation in their image, unaware that the nation has already changed, and no longer supports them.

    The song is not even banal - it's anal.