Musing about national anthems

I’m not a particularly jingoistic person. I’ve heard and seen too much damage done in the name of “national pride”. I’m not a particular lover of passports either, believing that they’ve become bureaucratic barriers over the years, rather than the leave-to-wander-unfettered that they originally represented.

Notwithstanding all that, I’ve held on to my passport and nationality of birth; I’d prefer to think of my stance as dignity rather than jingoism.

When I was growing up, I’d hear the national anthem regularly; every film I watched ended, for some reason, with the national anthem. I loved the tune and the words, probably even more so in knowing that it had been written by Tagore. I felt we’d lost something when the tradition died.

There are still some places where I hear national anthems, usually at sporting events. Too often, many in the audience don’t appear to know the words for their own national anthem, and tend to trivialise the occasions, especially when it’s the opponents’ anthem.

With all this in mind, I was strangely touched by this video, probably released to coincide with India turning 60 last week.

More than anything else, what the video did for me is to remind me that we can be dignified without being overly jingoistic. And for that I am grateful to the makers of the video, and to my sister for pointing it out to me.

7 thoughts on “Musing about national anthems”

  1. Spanish anthem does not have Lyrics. So we are in a debate, if the an anthem should have lyrics or not.

    My position is no. I do not want to have a another ocean between the English or the French and us, because the lyrics of the national anthems hurt someone. When not, it will portrait the Spanish people as giants. This case could be summited to Fraud for a good analysis of the “ego.”

    Limits should despair. It is not possible to live like kings in America and shot the people who want to get in.

    The same happen in Europe, it is not possible to continue living like the Africans do not exist.

    Anthems contribute to this distances. It is a small symbol of the wrong feelings.

    Mario Ruiz

  2. Mario, I found your observations most interesting. From a strictly semantic point of view, all three of the SHORTER OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY definitions of “anthem” denote a text set to music. This reinforces the American frame of reference, where “The Star-Spangled Banner” is associated EXCLUSIVELY with Francis Scott Key, the composer of the text. My guess is that it would be very easy to go to a sporting event in the United States at which NO ONE knew that the music for the anthem came from the “Anacreontick Song,” composed by John Stafford Smith, which was used to open every meeting of a British drinking club (PLUS CA CHANGE)!

    Technicalities aside, I think Spain is on to something good. Creating a situation conducive to silent meditation as far superior to conditioning a crowd to spit our words without any reflection. Key’s first stanza is only mildly jingoistic. However, as one reads further into the text, it gets downright offensive: “Then conquer we must, For our cause it is just, And this be our motto, ‘In God is our trust!'” I find in very hard to find any “dignity” in that language! It is closer to the concept of “honor” that Touchstone mocks in AS YOU LIKE IT!

  3. I said I wasn’t jingoistic. When I look at the English translation of the words to the Indian national anthem, I am more reminded of a psalm of David than I am of anything warlike or aggressive. Dignity. Not aggressive pride. Look up Wikipedia for Jana Gana Mana if you are interested.

    By the way, despite its peaceful mien, there’s still enough controversy about the anthem, as the article suggests.

  4. There was a piece on Radio 4 at about 1.30 yesterday which discussed the apparently growing schism in Belgium between the Waloons and the french speakers . Not only do the latter now tend to play the French national anthem but both groups have separate political parties, i.e. a waloon speaking socialist party and a french-speaking socialist party. Mario’s idea of a lyric-less anthem would surely help here.

  5. JP, this may just reflect my own feelings about religion; but I find little dignity in the Book of Psalms. Aggressive pride tends to rule the roost, which may be why the Davidic texts have inspired so many nationalist sympathies, regardless of nation! Much as I like Tagore, I appreciate why this particular text sparked so much controversy!

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