Thursday, 23 August 2012

National Anthems

Every time an athlete wins a gold medal at the Olympic Games, the national anthem of their country is played. Those you win silver and bronze are not afforded this honour, although their national flag is raised flanking that of the winner. Although the gold medallist may sing along - or try to if they are in tears - it is only the tune that is played. We tend to overlook the fact that national anthems usually have words.

I was wondering about the words of the North Korean national anthem. Given that country's reputation for what looks to the West as mind-control, one might have expected the words of their national anthem to extol the almost god-like qualities of their leader. Not so. Along with the words of the national anthems of other countries that I have been reading, the North Korean national anthem is about the land and the people. It is an understandably patriotic song.

Surprisingly (perhaps) the most 'North Korean' national anthem (in the 'focusing-on-the-leader' sense) appears to be the British national anthem. It does not extol the land, the people or anything about the nation as such. Instead, it is a prayer asking for blessings on the monarch. The only rather oblique and dubious reference to the people of Britain comes in the line were the prayer asks that the monarch be allowed 'long to reign over us'.

Interestingly, after all the effort the British athletes put into getting to and competing at the London 2012 Olympics Games and after all the emotion the crowd and viewers expended as they watched these athletes take part, each time they won they played a tune and sang a song seeking blessings on their monarch rather than on themselves as a nation.

(Furthermore, being British is more complex thing than most British people - or people that think that they are British - actually realise. There is, in fact, a difference between being a British citizenship and British subject.)