Britain’s Summer: A Juxtaposition of Sport & Politics – The Question of Nationalism

July 11, 2012 5:05 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

We may end up remembering 2012 for it’s grand summer of British national pride. We have already witnessed a notably jubilant Diamond Jubilee, and our patriotic fervour has now turned toward Britain’s sporting summer.

Euro 2012 has been followed by Wimbledon and very soon the much anticipated London Olympics will arrive. For sports fans, this is an exciting time, yet if we juxtapose current nationalist feeling with the general state of British politics, the question of nationalism becomes a strikingly more significant one than we might have first thought.

National sporting pride can be an incredibly useful tool for facilitating social cohesiveness and for demonstrating a good example to our young people. To watch the England football team shows children that people from different backgrounds, races and religious beliefs can all work together towards a common goal (no pun intended). In spite of these positives, nationalist feeling is also of particular significance at this time of recession and austerity. Unemployment figures currently make for extremely depressing reading, and many communities have lost their local nurseries and libraries, as the Coalition’s cuts continue to bite. In addition to this, the British weather seems intent on destroying our summer once again, with its torrential rain and flooding.

Against the backdrop of all this negativity, a feeling of national pride may be one of the few positive outlets for many people at this particular time. This is, of course, a double-edged sword. Whilst the recent outpouring of national fervour and flag waving may have its many positive aspects, these can unfortunately often work to obscure the negative side of this phenomenon. The country is in a terrible state and it doesn’t appear that things will get better any time soon. For many of us, the flag waving appears as a rather empty endeavour. How can one truly feel a sense of national pride at a time like this? Whilst we have much to be proud of and thankful for in Britain, we must stop and take a minute to think about the current state of affairs. Cameron said we were all in it together. If this were true, then this may justify a collective positive national feeling. But alas, we know that it is not true at all.

There are alternative ways for someone to demonstrate their national pride, and one such way would be to literally demonstrate it.

We should be fighting for all our hard-won post-war gains, in particular the NHS, which is currently under a continuing threat of privatisation by the Coalition.

It is stating the obvious to say that most people would prefer to watch the footy than get involved in grass-roots politics, as politics has no hope of ever matching the glamour of football. Our footballers are role models for our children, as well as many people’s working-class heroes. But these footballers are grossly overpaid and enjoy a lifestyle that most of us can only dream of. The money in football is out of control and the sport can be seen as an example of the capitalist system in microcosm; in England’s Premier League, there is a clear and sizeable gap between ‘the best’ and ‘the rest’. We can note here an interesting parallel with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Many people undoubtedly adore the Queen because she provides a semblance of stability in unstable times, but the Royal Family enjoys a privileged position, one born of inherited wealth. To acknowledge this fact is not to overlook the important work that the Royal Family has done, but it is something important to acknowledge nonetheless. When we wave our flags, we appear to conveniently forget all of the obscene inequalities in wealth. This applies in equal measure to both our footballers and to our Royal Family. It should be noted that at the time of the Silver Jubilee in 1977, we had the reactionary ‘God save the Queen’ from the Sex Pistols. Whether or not one approves of that band’s particular behaviour, lyrics or message, the salient point is that there was a prominent counter-culture in that decade. It is a depressing sign of the times that no such counter-culture seems to be in evidence today.


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This post was written by Joseph Daniels

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