Olympics Song – Listen Here

So today is the opening of the Olympics. Hoorah! The nation is in a frenzy. Apparently.

All the hype aside, there’ll be some great sporting stories waiting to unfold. Enjoy it.

There’s a funny thing that happens at the Olympics though.

Groups of strangers who have worked tirelessly to achieve their dream stand at the threshold of it. And we are expected to hope that one of them achieves it simply because they’re British.

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the way international sport gets us to support “our” nation.

I’ve always been more at home with the socialist slogan of “the working class has no nation.”

Like I said at the Woody Guthrie Folk Club last night – prompting a small protest walkout! – if two people were going for a job and all you knew about them was that one was British, it would be seen as a bit sinister to hope the Brit got the job.

So why would we hope the Brit got the gold?

This song isn’t new but I don’t sing it in public often. I think last night may have been the first time.

It was inspired by walking into a friend’s living room just as an athletics race was starting on TV and he said to me: “Here watch this, our lad’s in the final.”

And being the awkward sod I am, I had to ask what he meant by “our” lad.

I don’t feel a particular kinship with Britain. I feel a kinship with fellow workers. And I feel a kinship with people who are nice to each other and have values that are loving, caring and egalitarian.

It has always seemed odd to me that we would root for a person based on no knowledge of them except their nationality.

Perhaps the Brit beats his wife but the Kenyan would never cross a picket line and is lovely to his mother?

Aren’t these human things why we root for one person over another? Wouldn’t it be those human aspects we’d seek out when looking for someone to support if it wasn’t for the flag?

How does nationality enter the equation?

So I wrote this song to question all of that everyday patriotism and present a different angle.

National unity sucks. Wave the flag for Britain? We’re all in it together? No we’re not. Anything that encourages me to unite behind the flag, even in sport, is alien to me.

I am a patriot but a class patriot. The kind based on nationality isn’t my bag.

[audio: wifebeater.mp3]

Wifebeater From England – Alun Parry by alunparry

#alun parry#olympics#patriotism#socialist#song

Comments

  1. brian - July 27, 2012 @ 10:20 am

    Alun you don’t half come over as a right miserable get,and i no your not you need to lighten up if i had a spare 3hours id love to discuss your beliefs but i havent

  2. Sandy - July 27, 2012 @ 10:32 am

    Dear Alun,

    Is there a gold medal for decent, intelligent common sense?
    I couldn’t agree more; it’s all ghastly racism when you think about it. The only reason I can find for following this jamboree is that there will be moments of sheer poetry that transcend it all. Moments not related to time or place or personality.

    So people walked out did they? A bit of controversy is definitely a good thing, especially when the nation starts going daft.

  3. mick goodman - July 27, 2012 @ 10:49 am

    hello alun

    people walked out last night.how dare they.what is it they say” nowt as blind as them who can-not see”.

  4. Reg Dyer - July 27, 2012 @ 11:12 am

    This must be one of the most perceptive and intelligent comments made in relation to the Olympics – a breath of fresh air. Well said Alun! By the way, you are likely to encounter the Olympic trade mark patrol by displaying the Olympic ring logo and using the words ‘Olympic Song’ on this page!

  5. Pete M - July 27, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

    Nice one Alun – any chance of you sending me an Mp3 to play on my show on community radio – Rebel Arts Radio. Check out these links to find out more about the show and/or email me
    Cheers
    Pete M
    http://www.mixcloud.com/RebelArtsRadio/

    http://www.facebook.com/rebelartsradio

    http://cambridge105.fm/

  6. alunparry - July 27, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

    Brian

    You don’t know me well enough. I *am* a miserable get :-)

    Although your post made me chuckle so now I don’t know what to believe :-)

    Thanks for your thoughts everyone, and Pete yes I’ll send you the mp3

    Al 8-)

  7. Louise Baldock - July 27, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

    Hi Alun
    Interesting thoughts, I can see where you are coming from but I don’t quite know if I agree with you. As with all competitive sports, people get their main enjoyment out of choosing who to support and then rooting for them. You could support individuals – who wouldn’t have wanted Usain Bolt to win 4 years ago for instance, but as with most sport, you generally get behind a team. And in the Olympics, the teams are based on the country of origin. It is no different to supporting Liverpool FC really, the lads might be racists, homophobes, thugs, or they might be lovely people, you still support the team, but perhaps you just don’t support the members within the team that you don’t approve of. Like me and Woody for instance at the Boro.
    I don’t think it is jingoistic to want to see team GB do well, it is just human nature. Cheers, Lou

  8. Steven Cox - July 27, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

    A bit of twister this one, Al. Obviously all nationalism is reactionary poison but sometimes there can be a progressive dynamic between nationalism and class. The Peasants Revolt and the Levellers phrased their demands around appealing to a mythic national covenant with the English people that the aristocracy broke. Orwell used the same arguments to frame a populist patriotism.

    Also how does your citizens of the world help us interact with national liberation struggles. I for one would not wish for a 0-0 draw if/when Israel play Palestine. Perhaps the traditional left anti nationalism that you display is a reflection of growing up in a country with a miserable imperialist past, and your attitudes to nationalism would be different if you were from former African colonies (ethnocentric anti nationalism?)

    I will still be waving a flag, although mine will be Cuban.

  9. Bob Williams-Findlay - July 27, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

    There are those who claim sport should be viewed as separate from “politics” – tell that to the global capitalist companies who are cashing in on the Olympics.

    I am proud of being part of the Celtic culture that runs through my family’s history, but politically I’m an Internationalist. I hate being called “British”, it’s a term I associate with Capitalism and Imperialism. The whole idea of “nationhood” is problematic in any case. I will not be flying the flag, I might be cheering people who merit support for their individual or team efforts. Thanks for the song, Alun.

  10. alunparry - July 27, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

    I’m loving that this has sparked some thoughts and debate. Job done I guess.

    I know someone on my Facebook mentioned the point about it being similar to supporting LFC, Lou.

    I think there are important differences though. LFC support is a choice in the way a nationality isn’t. My friends from Finland support Liverpool for instance.

    Similarly, the basis for supporting any LFC player is simply that he currently plays for Liverpool. And that can and does change. It’s not based on nationality which I think has far more potential for unpleasantness.

    And indeed, players from many different nations play for an individual club team and so in that basis is progressive. Which is probably why the likes of the BNP push the line that Liverpool FC should only have Liverpool people playing for it.

    Also, and I think this is the key difference, team LFC does not represent a political entity, whereas the nation state is, and so there is a weight of politics behind that.

    I think too that there isn’t really a team GB. That’s fairly artificial. They are in the main individual athletes competing individually.

    Steve, I appreciate your point re Israel v Palestine or supporting Cuba but both would be a political decision. You wouldn’t be supporting them because they are Cuban.

    Without the Cuban revolution to defend you wouldn’t be waving their flag. So it’s not based on nationality really.

    In terms of national liberation struggles, yes they have had a progressive role and so I see where you are coming from in terms of the point you make and the fact that we have all this historical baggage.

    But at the same time, national liberation movements are limited. They often stop once they are liberated from those occupying power.

    And what tends to happen then is nothing much changes on the ground, but the elites of the newly liberated people just take the positions of power previously denied them.

    Which is why life under the ANC is economically very similar for most black South Africans, as without socialism the economic apartheid remains.

    So who is looking forward to Macca tonight? :-)

  11. Dave F - July 27, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

    Well done Al. Can’t stand nationalism. Will never sing god save the queen or be proud to be British. ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel’!

  12. Pablo - July 27, 2012 @ 9:22 pm

    Very good points made here.
    I will add a nuance: what I most dislike about this sport nacionalism is that it is felt as something in which there is no choice: as Alun says, you can choose your football team, why couldn’t you choose which national team to suport (if any)?
    Any of you familiar with George Brassens’ “La mauvaise reputation”?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4j1RmzFFC4

  13. Pablo - July 27, 2012 @ 9:24 pm

    Sorry for that. I didn’t want it to be so intrusive. Alun, please, take the link out if you can.

  14. alunparry - July 27, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

    No it’s fine Pablo. Tell us more. What is the song about?

  15. brian langtry - July 28, 2012 @ 7:56 am

    Hi Alun,
    Love to hear the song but cannot get it to play from the link it seems to refuse to pass ‘buffering’? Whatever any sane person surely realises what a horrific abomination of power by the few hoisted on the many the whole caboodle is. Well done mate.
    The Dirty Thirty film editing is coming on a treat and Len and myself are looking forward to the launch in October. Hope you are well and great to hear you are still fired up!

  16. alunparry - July 28, 2012 @ 11:13 pm

    have embedded a soundcloud widget so hopefully that will work if the first one doesn’t? let’s know

  17. Frank - July 29, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    Here’s a link to the George Brassens lyrics and a translation:

    http://lyrics.wikia.com/Georges_Brassens:La_Mauvaise_R%C3%A9putation

    The website link I’ve given is for the choir I named when it was formed.

  18. John Blakeney - July 31, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

    nice one Alun………i completly disagree with your lyrics as per usual but i love your passion and commitment, i agree,that so much is wrong with the Olympic movement….those speeches about youth, peace and with nobel peace-prize winners carrying the flag, then with the final hand over to military soldiers whose very existance is to fight wars…that annoyed me….
    but as far as being british goes..we are what we are, and to pretend that nationhood thoughout the world and with its own unique history is somewhat tainted, is wrong..would you feel equally disgusted if a young brazilian girl waved her nations flag at Anfield..??
    anyway..hope to catch you in concert sometime soon……..i’m still in Blackpool and still waiting for “a tap on the shoulder” off an employer !!

  19. Pablo - August 1, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

    Well, Frank has provided the adequate link, so you probaly know by now what is the song about. When I posted, I was thinking mainly in that part about staying “in my cozy bed” on fourteenth of july (obviously, the national patriotic day in France). But I do think that the whole song is worth listening to. As many others by the same author.
    Good debate, here.

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