Sunday 5 June 2022

Land of nope at the platinum jubilee

A buffet to party

I had deliberately avoided the Platinum Jubilee celebrations along with the patriotic fervour that seemed to describe an event that could barely be attended by the celebrant who had achieved the extraordinary feat of being on the throne for 70 years, apart from snatches of it on television.

However, I found myself invited to participate with a community that I have somewhat made my own, as my local church is the Manchester Cathedral, and we were enjoined to attend a platinum jubilee party after the Sung Eucharist where the Queen was to be toasted by the Bishop of Manchester.

The party was professionally catered, and we lined up for the buffet as we picked up cutlery, queuing around the table to choose whatever took our fancy to eat. After which, I found a place to sit before the Dean presented me with a song sheet that had Land of Hope and Glory and God Save the Queen.

Empire on the roam

My obvious lack of curiosity is probably the reason why I have not really reckoned on the words of Land of Hope and Glory; nothing could have prepared me for the utterly unapologetic imperialist import of the words of the song, and much as it is trotted out for nostalgic jingoism at any opportunity, is so totally anachronistic that any self-aware person would find themselves quite reticent to have those words leave their lips even if in state of inebriation.

Land of hope and glory, mother of the free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee,
Wider still and wider, shall thy bounds be set,
God who made thee mighty, make thee mightier,
God who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.

That is the chorus, the words by Arthur C. Benson (1902), music by Edward Elgar (1901) and it became one of the signature songs of the armed forces sweetheart Vera Lynn during WWII.

Let’s do it again

After we sang it the first time, the old ladies already distributing Union Jacks urged us to wave them with enthusiasm and then asked for the organist to go for an encore, so, we sang it again as those caught in the delirium of this nationalistic cannabis mist, almost began to dance like whirling dervishes, we could be as possessed as we are willing to allow ourselves.

But this song belongs nowhere in the 21st Century and definitely not in the UK of today, for very few have that hope for any glory in a life that meets the threshold of basic or comfortable. To those of us somewhat well-off, the cost-of-living crisis is just a blip, alright the pot of yoghurt I used to buy at the supermarket at 80p is now 90p, one banana costs 2p extra, I can see the cost of milk, eggs, pasta, cheese, beef cutlets and many more things go up, but they are all still affordable.

Wider is the berth

My rent is going up just as my energy bills are, and I am paying more tax, but I am part of the fortunate few that would weather this storm. Many more can't make ends meet, they are using food banks that might not be well-stocked, and they are even turning off their fridges and freezers to save on electricity, the consequence of which is food poisoning recorded in some children.

As the Victorian era came to an end ushering in the Edwardian era of Edward VII, the British Empire was at its height, the sun did not set on the realms of our monarchy and probably there was this idea that the bounds of the empire should grow wider and that the empire be mightier, but today, there is little to widen or magnify, we have shrunk into an outpost on the west of Mainland Europe, hanging on to the glory of the Commonwealth of Nations that is an association over which we have little or no influence.

Diminished through and through

Britannia did once rule the waves, but we can hardly put together a navy that rivals many of our peer nations. Unfortunately, we are failing to lay a grip on our current reality for a fictional Utopia of might and influence that none living today ever experienced. Yet, it is enough a distraction from the failings of Brexit, the lack of vision or purpose of Her Majesty's Government and once these 4 days of fun are over, we would be back to where we were 5 days ago, hungry, poor, destitute, and hopefully, not too hopeless.

I did participate, but I was not as enthused, our society is too unequal for the occasional patriotic activity to solve the deep problems that afflict our nation. At the time of the empire, we could rape the colonies for the benefit of the motherland, however, none of that is available anymore.

Our sovereign lady, the Queen though well-loved is in the twilight of her reign and life, the monarchy is on the wane and no passionate flag-waving is going to lift the flaggingly desperate situation that bedevils the Britannia that once ruled the waves.

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