The Corner

Nationalism

No-one with any sense of history can fail to appreciate the dangers of nationalism gone toxic, yet a decent nationalism (or, if you prefer, patriotism, although the precise difference between the two is not always clear to me) can also be a largely benign, unifying force too, much needed, I reckon, in our insecure age (see the recent discussion on freakoutnomics). Check out this report from the Independent on what looks like something of a patriotic revival in Germany:

“When it came to the national anthem and its opening line “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”, so often accompanied by uncertainty and shoe-gazing, much of the 65,000-strong crowd rose to their feet and joined in, as did the national team. The VIP spectator Claudia Schiffer also seemed to capture the national mood, rejecting haute couture for the day in favour of a Germany football shirt and scarf. “At the opening game I was overwhelmed and I cried,” said Mrs Pelzer, sitting with her family outside a café in Ruedesheim-on-Rhine, the heart of the wine-growing region. Suddenly, Germans are waking up to the fact that it is normal to be patriotic. Since the Scond World War, most Germans have been wary of celebrating their nationality…The surge in patriotism has created a mini-retail phenomenon in sales of flags, face paints, T-shirts, wristbands and practically any merchandise in the national colours of black, red and gold. At Germany’s two main petrol station chains, “das Car Flag” has sold 80,000. They may not be as ubiquitous as the St George’s car flag, but German companies have suddenly realised if they can arrange delivery quickly enough they have a license to print money before the bubble bursts, if indeed it does. In Germany’s more racially diverse cities, parts of the Muslimpopulation have joined in, mainly in the form of young men flying the flag from their cars. The sight of a Muslim mother flying a Germany flag from her baby buggy is being interpreted as a small but significant victory for integration and a setback for Islamic fundamentalists who would rather that they did not join the party. The issue of national pride – the Patriotismus-Debatte – has become the main talking point in the German media, coming second only to the tournament itself in occupying column inches. Germany’s biggest-selling daily newspaper Bild has been characteristically bold, running the front page headline “Black, red, great” on two consecutive days last week. “Suddenly black, red and gold is flying from every car, whether it’s an old Polo or a new Porsche,” said Bild. “Suddenly a whole nation is smiling. Suddenly the world seems relaxed. Finally our repressed relationship to our own nationality is being blown away. Germany is a friendly country; and a country of joy,” it said in an editorial…The daily Die Welt newspaper considered the history of the flag. “One-and-a-half centuries after 1848, we have learnt to value and show the colours of our flag as a sign of our democratic nation.” The reference was to the use of the black, red and gold horizontal bars as the insignia of the failed democratic revolution of 1848. However, it dates back to decades earlier, to the Napoleonic Wars, when groups demanding independence from France adopted the colours. The design has always stood for democracy and was therefore rejected by dictatorial forces such as the monarchy, Bismarck or the Nazis. The current flag became the official national flag after the country’s first democratic republic was created after First World War, but the Nazis replaced it with the swastika.Since the Second World War black, red and gold has been used mostly by officialdom, flown for example above the restored German parliament in Berlin. But until now it has never been the ubiquitous feature of daily life as the St George’s cross becomes in the weeks before a big football tournament or England match.”

Perhaps this is just a temporary World Cup-induced phenomenon, but if not, signs of social cohesion (note the bit about Muslims waving the flag) such as this, look encouraging.

The Independent’s piece also contains some discussion of the German national anthem (one of the better such tunes, right up there with the old Russian imperial anthem), including the revelation that the always dodgy Berthold Brecht produced one of his own, the so-called “Children’s Hymn”, in 1949, about which the less said the better.

And while I’m on the topic of national anthems, the dirge better known  to us Brits as “God Save The Queen” just has got to go. “Rule Britannia” or, for the more mystically-inclined, “Jerusalem”, would be infinitely preferable…

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