By Katy Burgess
2012 was a patriotic year for Britain. The London Olympics opened with a spectacular ceremony, featuring James Bond and Mr Bean, which was broadcast to an estimated worldwide TV audience of 900 million. Meanwhile, the Royal Family was again in the spotlight during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, celebrated with a predictably rain-soaked Thames River Pageant. All of this fostered a novel feeling of patriotism. But what will 2013 and the future bring?
Looking to Europe and worldwide, patriotism is an interesting issue. By now, for most Britons, last year’s burst of patriotism has probably been more than a little dampened by the failure of the spring equinox to bring about any semblance of spring, and by the economic woes of the Chancellor’s recent budget. So is national pride something which we still need in everyday life? And is Britain unique in seeming to replace patriotism with pessimism for all but special occasions?
Take Germany, for example. At any time apart from the World Cup, the German flag flying is a rarer sight than in many other countries, given that patriotism still has problematic historical connotations which are hard to shake off. In other countries, such as Belgium, some people might identify themselves just as much by their region or language – Flemish, for example – as by their Belgian nationality.
If we take a country’s National Day as a potential indicator of its patriotism, then it’s significant that the Britain, along with Denmark, is one of the only countries not to have one, and individual holidays like St George’s , St David’s and St Andrew’s Day are celebrated relatively little.
America, on the other hand, is renowned for its patriotism and celebrates the Fourth of July with fireworks and festivities each year, as does France on Bastille Day, and Ireland on St Patrick’s Day.
So what does this say about the factors which contribute to the patriotism of a country, and more importantly, is any of this relevant to today’s global society?
Well, to answer the first question, one possibility is the influence of history. Countries like Australia, which only recently gained independence in 1901, or South Africa, which only established free democratic elections in 1994, often appear to be prouder of their national identity given its novelty and the political struggle involved in forming it. Britain, on the other hand, is a much older country and might not feel such a need to celebrate its national identity. Elsewhere, there are certain countries whose political ideologies promote patriotism – communist China, for example, or North Korea – and others, like much of Eastern Europe, whose national pride might be lacking because of the years spent under the control of another power, Soviet Russia.
And finally, with more and more migrants of different cultures crossing borders, and the world fast becoming a ‘global village’, is patriotism still relevant? Is it simply a pointless concept which could slip into nationalism, or an attitude of superiority which necessarily excludes other groups?
Personally, I think that the success of 2012 for Britain shows that, despite the stereotypically cynical British mindset, a bit of national pride too every now and then doesn’t do any harm.
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