Olympics may reveal sport as last refuge for reluctant patriots
All those insects racing around with a spear or ball. Make sense of it by cheering for your team, writes DONALD CLARKE
ONE OF this writer’s core principles is about to be tested. Surgeons may poke all they like – on the search for tired clichés, perhaps – but they will find not a patriotic bone in my body. Put out fewer flags. Hold back on the anthems. The hollow affectations of national pride leave me cold.
Everybody else is a hypocrite and I’m the only one prepared to tell the truth.
When practised by the English, the Americans, the Serbians, the German or the Russians, patriotism (and nationalism – its bigger, nastier brother) strikes us as being just that little bit sinister.
Somewhere in the back of our brain we hear tanks being mustered, bayonets being screwed to barrels and preparations being made for annexation.
But our own domestic class of patriotism is absolutely charming. We’re great and everybody else is ghastly. That is, after all, how the Patriot Game is played.
Okay, there is a degree of exaggeration for effect at work here, but I have never had much time for flag-waving. This may have to do with my upbringing.
Northern Ireland during the 1970s offered few advertisements for the virtues of either class of nationalism (although many managed to grow up with their allegiances intact). Painting the pavements one colour or another doesn’t appear to have brought any great amount of harmony to the relevant communities.
The brandishing of flags in that part of the world has always seemed as much to do with annoying your neighbours as with celebrating your own heritage.
I have lived in the Republic for most of my life. It’s a decent enough place to be. The climate is milder than that of Borneo. You are less likely to be asked impertinent personal questions by strangers than you are in the United States of America.
Unlike in Spain, the national sport does not involve the slow torture of blameless ruminants.
But I feel no great pride when viewing the Tricolour or hearing Amhrán na bhFiann. From where is this atavistic surge of feeling supposed to emanate? The French have a better national anthem (than anyone). The Japanese flag is the real design classic. Celebrating something as diverse as an entire nation seems as pointless as celebrating weather or outer space.
There are as many malign layabouts living in the country (more probably) as there are heroes and innovators. Indeed, patriotism is at its most potent when diversity is suppressed.