John Walker's Electronic House

by on Jun.10, 2004, under The Rest

Stupid people are far better organised.

This fills me with great dread. As I drove back and forth the Bristol this week, I noticed more and more of these hideous UKIP posters and stickers all over the place. On the same journey, I’ve seen nothing for any other political parties, but for an open-topped New Labour bus shedding dangerous balloons all over Bristol’s already-dangerous-enough behemothic roads. How is this the case? How is it that the xenophobic, nationalistic hate-mongers are able to blanket advertise themselves, while the FAR richer major parties haven’t a sign to be seen? Advertising works, and this scares me very much.

However, this isn’t the only Stupidity Sign that’s been crammed into my face the last few days. The last thing anyone needs with this ludicrous miserable humidity (for goodness sakes, there was a major astronomical event this morning, and the Sun failed to be hidden behind the purple thunder clouds and inexplicable black acrid plumes of smoke expected for such occasions), is to see car after car sporting these pathetic plastic ‘England’ flags.

The Comic Relief meme of having plastic noses adorn the front bumpers of cars was fairly wretched. “I’ve given money to Comic Relief! Look! SEE!”. However, this latest money-for-no-one virus reaches new levels of tedious pointlessness.

I don’t care that you are supporting England. It doesn’t matter to me, nor anyone else in the universe. It will make no difference to the result of the football matches, it will provide no encouragement to the players in the team. It is a ridiculous, meaningless exercise in vacuous flag waving emptiness. The notion of supporting a team serves to add a level of enjoyment to one’s experience when watching a game. It has no other purpose. While people may use language and behave in a way that suggests otherwise, you share no part in the victory of the winning team. You merely celebrate a satisfactory conclusion to your emotional input. Attaching a semiotic stick to the door frame of your car can in no way enhance this. It is merely an exercise in shouting at other people.

People may wear the t-shirt of a favourite band to demonstrate their appreciation in a public form. I am not suggesting that an outward expression of support is necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. I am suggesting that decorating your car with a dozen cheap plastic St. George’s crosses is an act of public grossness.

Hang on. But this is England’s flag. Shouldn’t English people be free to fly it as much as they wish? Sure, it’s become associated with hooliganism and the BNP like to chuck it around, but can’t we reclaim it for what it used to mean? This is the flag of St. George, a heroic figure…

Ah, St. George. That famous English hero… No, wait, he was from Nicomedia, in present-day Turkey. Oops. So presumably, were St. George to attempt to visit Glastonbury today, he’d not get past immigration control on account of looking a bit Middle Eastern.

He seems to have been a pretty good guy – martyred in the 4th century (a beheading for him) for protesting against persecution. In, er, the Middle East. However, his adoption by England has not a great deal to be proud of. His patronage occurred during those glorious days of the Crusades, under the vile leadership of Richard I. His emblem, the red cross on a white background intended to be a sign of his martyrdom, became a symbol worn by England’s invading armies in 13th and 14th centuries. The martyr’s red cross, earned by George for fighting against his oppressors, became the banner of the oppression England spread around the world.

Ever since, the mark has been synonymous with the invasion of other nations in the name of “Christian mission”. It’s hard to find a single good thing to say about it. The Counter Reformation repopularised the myth of his dragon killing ways (Killing dragons, for goodness sakes. Cheers, Pretend George, thanks for killing off our best mythological creature. Maybe he’s responsible for the woeful lack of unicorns as well), as the church began invading areas of Africa, India and the Americas that had previously been dismissed as being populated by dragons. And so on and on, and on.

It would seem that the adoption of this literal semiotic flag by hooligans and extreme right-wing parties is only appropriate. How fitting that they should choose to present their blind hatred with this red cross, as that’s all it’s represented for the last 1700 years. England has no use for this flag. Perhaps if Turkey were to stop mass-slaughtering the Kurds living in their country, they could reappropriate the symbol for its long-forgotten meaning. However, as they are currently oppressing the world’s largest ethnic group without a homeland, it would seem a little inappropriate there as well.

But ranting requires a suggestion for positive action if it’s to be more than shouting at the wind. And this is my suggestion:

Get European flags, as tacky and plastic as you wish, and attach them to your cars. Subvert this senseless meme, in as peaceful a way as is possible. This forthcoming sporting event is the UEFA European Championship. So let’s satirise it in the best way possible – let’s support everyone taking part. And let’s stand against the UKIP where the major political parties aren’t. Let’s get organised.

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