Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Piece of sheet

Here's something to offend those that I haven't managed to offend so far.
Back in my army days, during the days of the first Intifadah, we'd drive around the West Bank with Palestinian flags on top of every poll and wire; Israeli troops would get the locals to take them off, but come the next morning they'll be up there again. The flag was one of the Arab's main symbols back then, but it became so mostly because of the Israeli reaction to it, without which it would have been a useless piece of sheet hung dangerously off power lines.
Fifteen years go by, another flag vision comes in. With the now over Commonwealth Games, I got to see people wearing the Australian flag (yes, wearing it) for the first time. I mean, I saw it before on TV: First it was Layton Hewitt, that prime time example of respect and gamesmanship; then on the people rioting in Sydney to keep Australia for Australians (actually, not for genuine Australians, but for those who migrated to Australia from white Europe).
In all occasions it made me think what the flag means, and in all occasions the answer was the same: Not much, really.
A flag is a flag: A symbol, but nothing more than that. If people wish to see something special in symbols, good for them; if people like to die for the flag, good on them too; I prefer to see the things that the symbol is supposed to symbolize: values, people... These are the things that are worth fighting for.
But as it is, people tend to associate this halo to the flag as if it is the flag that is the essence of things as opposed to the things it's supposed to symbolize. In doing so, these people forget what their values really are, but sadly that's often the intention: there's nothing easier for our beloved leaders to do in order to divert the public's attention from their shortcomings than to stir some patriotism. And yes, I'm saying Howard's to blame for the Sydney riots: It starts with laws forcing schools to put a flag poll in every school otherwise they won't get a budget, and it moves on to racial riots; in the process we forget that the really important thing is the quality of education out children get.
I think that things other than people are worth just what they are made off: A flag is just a flag. It's a piece of sheet.

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