Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

16 July 2014

I bet the last few weeks have been good times for the world’s flag industry: there has been a lot of demand. Just think of the World Cup, 4th of July in the US and Pride marches around the world. Then there are some more disturbing examples: Russian flags in the Crimean region and the various national flags the right-wing parties of many European nations have been busy waving recently.

I am not sure when it happened that flags became the property of many nationalist, anti-immigration movements. I don’t remember when it happened that the English, Finnish and Russian flags become so closely associated – at least in my mind – with exclusion and racism.

There is an obvious difference between healthy patriotism – carrying the flag to celebrate your nation – and this other way of carrying it that feels very uncomfortable for people who are not from your country.

It is unfortunate then that when you see the news on TV, it’s these guys dominating the agenda. It is not that often that flags in news stories are associated with something positive – or if this does happen it’s about lighter topics in the end of the broadcast, such as Mother’s Day, a graduation day at school or someone’s 80th birthday.

And that is the problem: as we so often see our flags in the wrong context, we gradually start thinking of them actually representing something we can’t approve of.

What I suggest is a counter-attack. We should reclaim our dear flags and start using them in more constructive ways. Something along the lines of what British prime minister David Cameron once asked when he said that the English flag should be reclaimed from the right-wing British National Party, emphasising that the flag belongs to the English people – to all of them.

I want to see Finnish flags symbolising that Finland is open to immigrants and foreign influences, Russian flags being pro gay rights and English flags celebrating the country’s multicultural heritage.

And let’s face it: it is actually ridiculous waving a flag to make a statement about closing borders when you consider that – certainly in the US – many of them are imported from China anyway.

Markus Hippi is a producer and presenter for Monocle 24.

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