At the height of the British Empire three quarters of the globe was pink. What a pretty sight it must have been. But it led indirectly to the Empire's downfall as the British spent themselves nearly to bankruptcy buying pinkwash (the price of which had
increased drastically due to someone buying it all up). In an effort to spare their coffers, the British decided to switch to fish paste to finish painting the globe. Schoolchildren everywhere rejoiced as their stinky sandwiches were commandeered, but the resultant plague of storks and sea birds which descended to eat the paste and pebble
dash the land their own shade of guano caused the British severe loss of face. If it hadn’t been for the biggest fish paste sandwich making operation since Jesus fed the 5000, those schoolchildren now glumly tucking back into their miserable fare would have been learning that three quarters of the globe was the colour of bird poo under the British. (Scurrilous stories abounded for years afterwards of ravenous storks, in a perversion of their true nature, snatching up babies and making off with them. Few of these tales were founded.)
The British Empire, alas, was not built to redecorate the globe. If it had been, though, I wonder if the place wouldn't have been nicer with everything the one shade. Take flags, for instance. People do seem to get carried away with their flags (literally, in the case of dead national heroes). But what if every nation had, say, a plain green flag? Football hooligans would look pretty stupid proudly displaying their green flag emblazoned chests, only to find a group of identically clad foe before them. 'You bitch, I told you I was
going to wear this!'. And picture the flag burner, zealously piling a conflagration with the green flag, only to have his neighbour whisper, 'Hold hard old fruit, that looks just like ours'. Yet flags are just pieces of material, surely? A symbol of nation. Well quite, no wonder countries seem to forget the welfare of their inhabitants when their symbol is a rectangle of material.
I can’t help but think of the wonderful scene in Lindsay Anderson's film masterpiece If... where Malcolm McDowell's character, Travis, is being harangued by one of the prefect types for his lax attitude. Indicating the badge on his blazer which signifies his membership of the Officer Training Corp, the prefect type says, 'I serve the nation'. To which McDowell, at his sneering, arrogant best, replies, 'What, you mean that bit of wool on your tit?!'.
'What, you mean that bit of wool on your tit?!' Fine words. Words to stand behind. Let me never find myself proudly hoisting a flag, for what is it but a 'bit of wool' on the nation's tit? A red, white and blue herring to blinker the populace. And pity the poor Americans who have to swear allegiance to theirs. No, I'll be proud of my country's achievements but the flag can go hang... if you take my drift. Let’s swear allegiance to humanity.
'Course; there’s always something for humans to squabble about in that way they have. India/Pakistan; Serb/Croat; Catholic/Protestant; Goo-lie/Alabastered (or whatever they call themselves). And I heard at the London meet that there is to be a new skin. Fellow researchers, an appeal: let's see this as an opportunity to water down the age old blood feud between the two old skins, not another opportunity to express the Golgafrinchan within. There is a limit to irony you know.