I’m a big fan of John Oliver’s work on The Daily Show. Recently I ran across a reference to a podcast he does for the Times of London, and I downloaded a couple to my iPod, and listened to one in the car this morning, as I was driving up to the city.
I put on an episode in which Oliver and Andy Zaltzman talk about a proposal for a pledge of allegiance in Britain, as a way to boost national pride. John Oliver’s take on the idea:
John: There is no national pride in Britain any more, and with good reason. We’ve lost everything. We are the shell-shocked man walking away from the casino at five in the morning, rehearsing what he’s going tell his wife. We collectively have lost our shirts; there’s nothing left.
Andy: I’m sure this pledge of allegiance will achieve this far more effectively than such outdated and unproven methods as an all-around education, and specifically the proper teaching of history. Lord Goldsmith… said, “Yeah, I figure what this country’s errant youth need is some half-assed ******** like this. That’ll get them on the straight and narrow.” So good work, everyone involved!
John suggested another idea: swearing at the Queen.
We’d be good at it; it would be fun; it would engender a sense of community; and it would be an energetic piece of punctuation to start the day. Besides, it’s basically taking the Magna Carta to its natural conclusion. Turn to face the Queen, and say, “YOU %($*%^^) #*^!#@!!”
Apparently teachers have been among the most vocal critics of the proposal– which only proves that it isn’t necessary, because as John explains,
that is the last bastion of Britishness: sneering at things. That will be the last thing to go. The day that we can’t scoff at other nations, we’ve arranged for France to put a pillow over our face, and hold it there until the twitching stops. If their wrists are strong enough, that is. It’s like the fact that we mock Americans for whooping and cheering at things. We now ridicule the very concept of enthusiasm. That is how cynical we’ve become as a nation– we find positivity laughable….
National pride is un-British. The only time we can collectively justify facing a flag and listening to the national anthem is when we’ve just won an Olympic bronze medal in the women’s two-person dinghy….
Andy: I think the immigrants who are made to make these pledges might see the irony in pledging allegiance to a nation that was largely responsible for destabilizing the place they’ve just run away from.
After about ten minutes, I had to turn it off. I was laughing so hard, it was unsafe. I thought I was going to drive off the road.
[To the tune of Times Online, “The Bugle – Episode 21 – Swearing at the Queen,” from the album “The Bugle – Audio Newspaper For A Visual World”.]