In a previous post discussing what the 5-ring Circus (see pic) is revealing about us, I mentioned in passing the lessons about national identity.
Today I want to return to this part of the subject and talk about the striking split emerging between those who see the UK through the lens of Henry VIII, Mary Poppins and Beefeaters (and feel uncomfortable at any evolution of national identity from this) and those who see us as
Not my words but those of the Sun leader writers (yes, I know).
Of course, it helps that our multiracial Team GB demonstrate their prowess and determination in front of us and that as we look around (in the crowd, in the pub or in front of one of those really huge screens erected in public places) at our fellow supporters we can see the same kind of shared vibrant shared identity reflected back. And that we had such a uplfiting and novel Opening Ceremony to respond to and interact around.
But it is striking that this view of who we are is being so widely embraced as an agreed definition of who we are…
Sporting events are great for accelerating this kind of social change – remember how the Mexican Wave (la Ola) emerged from the 1986 Mexica World Cup and how other kinds of public phenomena can create widespread change (as I described in HERD) the cellotaphs (floral tributes to road accident victims) emerged from the death of Princess Diana.
Events like this bring people together and help them interact with people they wouldn't normally see and – as they do – they learn behaviour and feelings and opinions from those around them. Exposure to so many people so frequently and so strongly suggests to each of us that a. this what we now do b. this is what we now feel c. this is what we now think.
What we do, what we feel and what we think we take from those around us. Remember that line from Oscar Wilde?
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation
Our deeds, our feelings and our words can all become badges of membership and a challenge to them is often treated as a challenge to the tribe of which we are members [which also serves to explain the incredible bitterness of those who resist the new story]