Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When is feeling for one's country genuine and valuable? How does it relate to happiness?

I'm afraid Bristol's Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Peter Abraham shows he is very seriously out of touch with both young people and the evidence by saying that getting children to swear allegiance to Crown and country could help combat unhappiness amongst them ('Children should swear allegiance', Bristol Evening Post, 12 May 2008). Yes there is clear evidence that children in our country are more unhappy than those in many other countries as the unicef table of childhood wellbeing demonstrates (see previous post here). The causes of this unhappiness seem to be many, varied and complex however and according to what children themselves say, relate to wide-ranging issues like climate change, terrorism, violence, poverty, traffic and gangs. The links to allegiance to Crown and country are tenuous at best and in any case unhappiness has roots that originate long before age 16 or 17, when Cllr Abraham wants allegiance sworn. So, does he know what he is talking about here??

There's also the issue of willingness to swear allegiance. What if people dont want to swear allegiance to the Crown because they are republicans?? Do people proposing this idea intend it to be compulsory? Those willing to swear allegiance are 'loyal' anyway, whilst those who are not willing but who are required to swear cannot be regarded as 'loyal' simply because they have said a few words or signed a piece of paper. And if those not willing to swear allegiance are given the choice to opt out should our society regard them as lesser citizens?? What is the value of feeling for one's country if its not one that has developed freely and naturally??

Strong view expressed on this issue in the comments following this newsblog. More on the issue here.