Thursday, 9 August 2007

Inventing symbols and editing history

In my readings of Kiberd I was struck by his perspicacious observation that nationalities are forged by inventing symbols and advancing a highly edited historical narrative of their own genesis. Of course this is precisely the objection to nationalist politics that those of us who advance civic arguments raise. Nationality is essentially a political contrivance and should therefore have no default claim to determine a state’s constitutional arrangements.

Two newspaper articles from the past two days have brought this observation to mind. The Osbourne bull was not invented to symbolise Spain. It was designed to sell sherry and has organically become a symbol Spanish identity. Catalan nationalists are therefore attacking those who consider themselves Spanish, rather than Spain itself, with their acts of petty vandalism on these hoardings. It is a classic example of provincial nationalist victim culture whereby the identity of the so-called nation is defined in terms of negating the metropolitan culture’s symbols and history, rather than by an assertion of anything authentic which can be claimed as the provincial identity’s own.

Meanwhile Sinn Fein continue the tradition of edited history with shameless hypocrisy. On Sunday Belfast will be treated to a “march for truth” which will feature MOPEing republicans wearing black ribbons. All this organised by a party which refuses to take responsibility for its own murderous campaign and many of whose leaders refuse to admit their erstwhile involvement in terrorism.

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