The Union Jack was always shameful to us. Rightly so. That flag was – and is – the symbol of empire and therefore nothing to be proud of. As children growing up in a little South Bucks village we knew as much, despite what the adults might try to teach us. Those unearthly, archaic crosses of three patron saints combined in one panel has fluttered over some of the worst atrocities ever committed by mankind against fellow human beings. We were aware of that. Watched it on our tv screens. Images of khaki-clad British soldiers were seen patrolling the sun-drenched streets of Aden – part of Yemen – while threatening the local population with their rifles. Even as a kid, you could see this was wrong, a misuse of power. Only later did I discover the British Army were stationed there to protect the oil interests of the privately-owned British Petroleum conglomerate and to help the Saudi royal household sow seeds of religious discontent amongst a growing pan-Arabic movement led by their shared arch-enemy, Nasser. Just as the British Army are there now for much the same reason, helping out their oil-producing Saudi allies as they blockade the old Aden port, destroy Yemen’s infrastructure and condemn hundreds of thousands of human beings to death by bombing, starvation and disease. With that in mind, can you possibly say that you are proud to be British or that you hold any reverence whatsoever for the Union Jack?
Growing up, I never could understand how The Who permitted themselves to use the Union Jack as a symbol of the band; although I got how Mary Quant and Swinging London might adopt it as a logo to increase brand awareness and increase sales. Maybe The Who wanted to make clear they weren’t American, I don’t know. The Jam used the same image a decade later, as did Oasis twenty years after that. Somehow, I cannot link youthful rebellion and the desire for freedom to think and act with such a profound image of conservative establishment authority. And I don’t think that I am alone in this anymore. At last, it is being recognised by a new generation as such. This modern anti-Brexit, pro-world generation is waking up to the awful overtones contained in those crosses, as did the German youth during the nineteen-seventies gain an understanding of what had been done in their name – and then conveniently glossed over by a previous generation – under the aegis of a black swastika emblazoned on a white circle set against a red background. If you think the Union Jack is cool – as it was considered during Blair’s Labour government, the same one that lied to a public supposedly represented by the saintly crosses in order to launch wars against the old anti-British-imperialist foes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria – then you are a fool. As a matter of fact, I could only take to the Who after they released ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Hah!
I watched the collapse of one empire – the British one, and now it looks as though I may be privy to the collapse of yet another empire, this time the American one.
If the Union Jack is the emblem par excellence of British imperialism, and nobody could possibly argue with that as a statement, then the Stars and Stripes, too, conveys the image of brutal military dictatorship and underhand espionage deployed to subjugate whole nations and peoples, those who have no desire to be ruled so. American governments, like their British counterparts use of the Union Jack, have had no compunction about raising the Star Spangled Banner above the heads of those whose lives they despise and whom they would control through the use of unbridled force and lies. And that’s just their own people. Look further abroad and you will discover a whole litany of dirty tricks and military might deployed against the better wishes of peoples around the globe, from Pyongyang to Kiev to Tehran and all the places in between. Full-spectrum dominance means just that, and when the cowardly American generals and politicians feel they can get away with it, they will plunder and utterly dismantle any person or persons or country that stand in their way. Just as the British taught them to do, and still would, if they could. Killing and torture, lying and subterfuge, are second nature within the American republic. Their only goal, like the British before them, is to cower humanity and rob the planet of all its resources while they bestride their imperial thrones and military hardware, lording it while saluting the imperial flag and looking over the remaining quivering mass of virtual human slaves.
Nota bene. Just as the Americans had to leave Vietnam, routed by a determined resistance movement prepared to fight back and develop its own ideology , so the British finally had to leave Aden/Yemen in nineteen sixty-seven, driven out by the organised resistance of the nation’s Arabs (although the current activity of the British government shows that old colonial sentiments continue to exist.) Like I said, my first images of British imperialism came by way of the tv screen when I was growing up; they, the politicians, the armed forces and the mainstream media are not prepared to make that same mistake again, showing virtually no footage of what is actually happening in present-day Yemen, and only occasionally providing an – extremely skewed – analysis of the situation. You – and they – have been warned.
All hail the flag!
This post was originally published as ALL HAIL THE FLAG on this blog 01/18