Remembrance and Patriotism

Remembrance and Patriotism

Posted On: January 4, 2015
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What makes people proud to be British? What would they be willing to defend? In November 2011, I went to the remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph in central London. I wanted to find out why people have gone there and specifically what makes them proud to be British. The ceremonies have happened since the First World War on the anniversary of Armistice Day as an opportunity for the British and Commonwealth people to remember those who have given their lives in defence of our freedom and service of our country. Services happen all around the world but this particular one is the one which the Queen and the Royal family attend along with the government, the opposition, the Chiefs of staff of the military, the ambassadors from the Commonwealth nations, representatives from the civilian services such as police, fire and ambulance service.

It’s a hugely solemn event and deeply but quietly patriotic. I’ve been there many times as a spectator it’s always very moving, not least because there are so many people there who are remembering lost loved ones and old comrades. After a short religious service, sermon and laying of wreaths, the tone becomes much more upbeat as a huge parade of ex-servicemen passers-by with military bands.

My intention was to meet the people who had gone that to find out why drawn them to the event and, assuming there were British, what made them proud to be British. It was radically different to attending the Occupy  protest where I had found that the large majority of people were very keen to speak so as to get across their message. The opposite was true in this case. The large majority of people did not wish to make any comment on camera. There were different reasons for this. The majority were simply too embarrassed and surprised to be asked. About a 3rd were tourists from overseas who didn’t feel they had much to say. Some of the British people were fearful of expressing patriotism on camera for fear of a knock on the door from the thought police. Some were too upset to speak. A couple from Northern Ireland said it would be dangerous for them to be on camera. So the people you see in this film are a very small sample of those asked to speak.

The atmosphere changed enormously throughout. Initially the atmosphere was very solemn, respect for and subdued. There are a lot of tears and heavy hearts. For the 2nd part of when the parade passed by, the atmosphere really lightened and became quite joyful and celebratory with lots of laughter and applause.

It’s also really deep tribal experience in which the different parts of the nation come together almost like an alchemical meeting of the archetypes in a giant tribal cauldron.

Interviewees can speak for themselves on camera. What really struck me was that all the people I spoke to found it quite difficult to put into words what they were feeling. Though clearly all very emotionally and spiritually engaged in the ceremony. They weren’t just casual tourists. Nevertheless the words did not really flowed freely. From a Tantric or energetic point of view, it was clearly a large group experience centred on the heart with all that entails-love, compassion, pride, connection, patriotism as well as sadness, loss, bereavement and wounding. I could also fill some anger just below the surface. The kind of anger which I’ve experienced from being called to violent situations in psychiatric hospitals when there is a very big powerful man who is feeling very sensitive and vulnerable, but with painful wounds such as shame or humiliation opened. I could sense that if anybody messed about in the crowd, they would meet with the swift physical response.

This made me reflect on whether it was healthy that the modern ideology of anti-nationalism, anti-patriotism, political correctness and multiculturalism and the suppression of a healthy national identity and sense of belonging-whether that was a good thing? Given that experience is a very heart centred one, what does it mean to have that denied, made illegal and disrespected? Therein lies one of the wounding in our national consciousness. Perhaps one day, everybody will have a sense of global humanity and oneness with the universe in the heart but I expect that it will always be healthy and appropriate for people also to have a strong positive heart feeling about their country, community, tribe, family and much else besides. I believe that healthy patriotism is absolutely essential to our group well-being.